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MAE JULIAN

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SEEING ROSS AGAIN

 

Dear Readers,

I debated long and hard before deciding to chuck my old feelings and write about this: Now, all of you promise to remember your most embarrassing moments of childhood, or young adulthood, so that you will not single me out as an oddball.

I went to my friend, (Opal) Gelaine Listenberger's retirement party in Indianapolis. I met my friend, Nancy Lee there, who drove up from Fort Wayne. I am a rather bizarre person and love to do outrageous things. I decided to wear this stunning enormous hat to make Ope (we have always called her "Ope" due to her first name being Opal), just die laughing.

This hat would have to be seen to be believed. It is absolutely huge. It is covered with white feathers, with huge red roses spotted around it. I got it on sale at a hefty price right after the Kentucky Derby. (Those hats are obscenely expensive). Well, anyway, I went to Ope's retirement party and got the expected reactions. Ope almost passed out, and people either stared or laughed. It is a wonderful hat. Little did I know that it would attract someone I hoped, out of a teen humiliating experience, I would never see again. I had only horrors of what he would say if he ever had the misfortune of running into me again.

It was a Sadie Hawkins Dance, as I remember it, at Elmhurst. Knowing that Ross Springer would probably never ask me out of his own accord; I summoned all my courage and asked him if he would take me. He agreed and I was aswoon! I was prepared for excuses and hem hawing, but he just said, "sure." I was SO excited. It hadn't occurred to me that I had no dress to wear. I guess I must have been a freshman. I was on cloud nine with excitement only girls of that age know. I presented my parents with the news. "What will you wear?" asked my mom. Well, I had not thought of that, but I guess I assumed that my parents might buy me something suitable for the big dance. Well, I quickly found out that the money was not available. My mother had not had a new pair of shoes in years; no one got anything new unless it was their birthday, and all of my clothes came from an older girl that my aunt knew, which had parents of means. I would get a package every once in a while, and it would contain clothes that were still too big for me, but I would be thrilled. I had to grow into them of course, but that was all right.

I had a sinking heart as my mother pulled out a dress that was too big for me, and not only that, it was ugly. It was silver, and had bows that drooped down off of each shoulder. It was huge around the waist, and too long. I looked at it with a sick heart and tried it on. My mother tried to show enthusiasm and told me we could take up the "slack" with a belt. My memory is that it was one of my brother's belts. I couldn't have looked jakier if I were on the Beverly Hillbillies. Ross picked me up that night and the humiliation was almost more than I could bear. He didn't gasp or act horrified, but that did little to assuage my shame. I remember distinctly getting to the Elmhurst gym where the dance was, and one of the girls from a more prominent family had on a beautiful red strapless dress with crinolines that were also red. She looked stunning and she was dancing and dipping and glowing. I hung my head in shame at my frumpy self.

I don't remember much of the dance, except that I spent a good share of it in the girl's bathroom, hiding. I can't tell you if I cried or wanted to, but I do remember hiding. I have to idea what Ross thought.

Well, back to Ope's reception last week. I looked up and here came this really friendly guy, whom I did not recognize, and he said, "A hat like that has to have a story to go with it!". I laughed and invited him to sit beside me. He introduced himself as Ross Springer. I almost died. I covered my face and almost died. He laughed, and I said...you don't recognize me do you? He admitted he didn't, and I told him I had lived on Old Trail Road. He immediately said my name. I was prepared for him to get up and leave, but he didn't. He stayed at my table and we talked and laughed. After the reception was over and we left, I thought what a great guy he is. Some people change a lot over the years, but Ross was the same friendly, good guy he always was. My memory went back to that horrible humiliating evening he had to spend with me, and I wondered what he thought about it. He didn't bring it up, of course, and neither did I. Now, I am wondering if I could be lucky enough that he could have forgotten it. "How could he forget that ugly duckling?" I thought. But maybe, just maybe, the years had taken the memory away.

Oh, those childhood memories. Will they forever haunt us? Will we forever be stigmatized by those awful moments? Or...maybe ...just maybe...the only one who remembers is the one who felt it.

I loved seeing Ross again. He has a beautiful wife. Her name is Rosie. She is Ope's friend and a nurse with whom she has worked in the Health Department in Indy. I want her to know that she has a prince of a guy. He has to be. He went out with me, in the world's ugliest dress, and never flinched. Whatta guy.

Send me your worst moments, so we can compare notes!

 

Love to my Waynedale friends,

Mae

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