"Our Last Free Summer
original pastel by Judy Westergard
giclees available through FineArtAmerica.com
I love stories about rites of passage. An excerpt from Harry Crews’ memoir A Childhood took me back to the a mid-50’s August afternoon and MaryLee’s rec room where she, Karen, Joanie and I poured over the fall copy of the Sears Roebuck catalog. We started...always...with the latest in clothes for 11-year-old girls. Were they called fashions? back-to-school styles? I don’t remember. But I do remember our anticipation over what one outfit our mothers might allow us to select for that year’s “good school clothes.”
Then we got braver. “Let’s go to the ladies’ underwear section,” Joanie urged with a devilish grin. Karen and MaryLee, the more cautious half of our foursome, hesitated. But me? I was game for anything that today we’d call edgy. Girdles! Panties! We even used that naughty word -- brassieres! We rolled on the floor, gripping our boney 11-year-old ribs with laughter, trying hard to not spray grape Kool-Aid out our noses as we tried to hide our prepubescent morbid curiosity at what our futures might hold.
Now, half a century later, I look back at those four little girls as if I were looking at an old Kodak print. September came. Family changes, different schools, homework, the discovery of boys -- so much contributed to the eventual breakup of our little clan of four. But I’ll always remember with great fondness our last free summer.