Sep. 16, 2008

Shopping Urban

by Jane Shore

Flip-flopped, noosed in puka beads, my daughter
breezes through the store from headband to toe ring,
shooing me away from the bongs,
lace thongs, and studded dog collars.
And I don't want to see her in that black muscle tee
with SLUT stamped in gold glitter
shrink-wrapped over her breasts,
or those brown and chartreuse retro-plaid
hip-huggers ripped at the crotch.

There's not a shopper here a day over twenty
except me and another mother
parked in chairs at the dressing room entrance
beyond which we are forbidden to go.
We're human clothes racks.
Our daughters have trained us
to tamp down the least flicker of enthusiasm
for the nice dress with room to grow into,
an item they regard with sullen, nauseated,
eyeball-rolling disdain.

Waiting in the line for a dressing room,
my daughter checks her cleavage.
Her bellybutton's a Cyclops eye
peeking at other girls' armloads of clothes.
What if she's missed something—
that faux leopard hoodie? those coffee-wash flares?
Sinking under her stash of blouses,
she's a Shiva of tangled sleeves.

And where did she dig up that new tie-dyed
tank top I threw away in '69
and the purple wash 'n' wear psychedelic dress
I washed and wore
and lost on my Grand Tour of Europe
and my retired hippie Peace necklace
now recycled, revived, re-hip?

I thought they were gone—
like the tutus and tiaras and wands
when she morphed from ballerina
to fairy princess to mermaid to tomboy,
refusing to wear dresses ever again.
Gone, those pastel party dresses,
the sleeves, puffed water wings buoying her up
as she swam into waters over her head.

"Shopping Urban" by Jane Shore from A Yes-or-No Answer. © Houghton Mifflin, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the children's author and illustrator H.A. Rey, (books by this author) born Hans Augusto Reyersbach in Hamburg, Germany, in 1898. When Hans was a boy in Hamburg, he lived near a zoo, and he loved visiting the animals there — he would imitate their noises and paint them. And in Hamburg he met a young girl named Margret Elisabeth Waldstein, but then she left to go study art. Hans served in the army, he went to school for a while, and he supported himself by designing posters for the circus. But the economy in Germany was bad, so he went to Rio de Janeiro to help his brother-in-law sell bathtubs. Hans changed his name from Reyersbach to Rey because it was hard for Brazilians to pronounce. In Brazil, he met up with Margret, who was all grown up, and they fell in love and got married.

Hans and Margret Rey returned to Europe in 1935, but they were Jewish and they couldn't go back to Nazi Germany, so they settled in Paris. Hans drew some cartoons of a giraffe for a newspaper, and a French publisher liked them and he asked Hans to do some more work like that. So the Reys started writing a book called Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys (1942), one of its characters was a monkey named Curious George, and the Reys thought he was the best character and that he should have a book of his own. They were happy to be living in Paris, happy to be working on more children's books and translations of nursery rhymes, but in June of 1940, they discovered that Hitler was about to take control of Paris and that they were in huge danger. As fast as he could, Hans constructed two bicycles from spare parts he found, and on the morning of June 14, the Reys biked out of the city with some food, warm coats, and five manuscripts. One of those manuscripts was Curious George. The Nazis took control of Paris that afternoon, but the Reys were safely out of the city. They biked for four days until they reached the Spanish border, and then they sold their bikes for enough money to buy train tickets to Lisbon. Over the next few months, they made it from Lisbon to Brazil, and then eventually to New York City. Curious George was published in 1941, and the Reys wrote and illustrated six more stories about him — stories like Curious George Rides a Bike (1952) and Curious George Goes to the Hospital (1966).

It's the birthday of the novelist John Knowles, (books by this author) born in Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1926. Fairmont was a coal-mining town, and Knowles went to public school there. But then when he was 15, he went off to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, which was a prestigious prep school. At first, Knowles felt awkward around his elite New England classmates, but before long he loved Exeter. He attended a summer session there, and he was part of a secret society whose initiation rite was to jump out of a tree into the river. Knowles fell out of the tree and had to start the school year on crutches. After serving in the Air Force and attending Yale, he worked as a reporter for the Hartford Courant, and then as an assistant editor for Holiday magazine, and he wrote short stories on the side and started writing a novel based on his adolescence at Exeter. He used his memory of the secret society and the tree, and this novel became A Separate Peace (1959). It was a best-seller right away, and even though Knowles continued to write novels, none of them were as successful as A Separate Peace.

In A Separate Peace, John Knowles wrote: "It seemed clear that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart."

It was on this day in 1620 that the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England. The ship carried the crew plus 102 passengers. After the first winter in the New World, only 53 people were left, about half the original group.

It's the birthday of the railroad magnate James J. Hill, born in 1838 in Rockwood, Ontario.

And it's also the birthday of the poet Alfred Noyes, (books by this author) born in Wolverhampton, England, in 1880.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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