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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

first awakening

Detroit's skyline from Windsor, Ontario (yeah, I know it isn't perfect with this post, but I don't have my own photo of Chicago or NYC at night)

When I was a young girl I was highly romantic. After watching movies I would act out the role of lead actress in front of the dresser mirror in my bedroom.

I didn't think the small Michigan town where I grew up was worthy of romance. My fantasies were in cities like Chicago or New York. In old movies I watched, everyone was rich, so city life took place in vast, glamorous apartments or penthouses, with skyline views through floor-to-ceiling walls of glass. Men wore tuxedoes and women wore evening gowns, even at home. And when they went out to clubs, the men wrapped mink coats around the women's shoulders.

Since my mom was from metro New York City, I also fantasized about her life before marrying my dad, the Baptist preacher, and wished she had played piano in a black satin dress at Carnegie instead of in a polyester dress at the Baptist church.

So when my oldest sister got married and lived in "Chicago" (it was really Skokie) in "an apartment" (I had never seen an apartment except in movies), you know what I was thinking: She had been transformed from an ordinary sister who wore simple straight skirts and cat-eye glasses, into Rita Hayworth (redhead, like my sister) in an evening gown; their apartment had a big, shiny, black grand piano, and there was a wall of easy-gliding drapes that opened with the push of a button looking out onto a fabulous Chicago skyline. And guess what, we were going to visit!

Well, after the five-hour drive, after Chicago skyscrapers and giant red neon Magikist lips, and on into the bland northern suburb of Skokie, when we walked up the short stairway and through the door to the modest, neat apartment with tweed furniture and four-foot windows with short insulating curtains looking out at a blonde brick neighborhood, as a shy nine-year-old you know I didn't give voice to my inner scream, "WHERE IS THE GRAND PIANO, WHERE ARE THE VASES OF ROSES, WHERE IS THE SEA OF TWINKLING CITY LIGHTS, AND WHERE THE HELL IS MY SISTER'S EVENING GOWN!"

35 comments:

VioletSky said...

Ah, the horror of dashed fantasies. Had I been your sister I would have dressed up for you.

Ginnie said...

Because I have no clue what or when my "first awakening" was, Ruth, you've really got me pondering my childhood! I do remember when you were 7 and came to my Little Sisters weekend my freshman year at Michigan. We flew kites, remember? But that was YOUR childhood, not mine. I didn't have your fantasies/bubbles to pop (no TV until I was in high school) BUT I must have had something that wasn't real in my head. I wonder what it was.

Until I figure it out, I'm having a good chuckle over your visit to Susan's apartment in Skokie...where I spent many a Sunday for almost a year!

Ruth said...

Sanna, so sweet! (But not in your waterproof boots?)

Ruth said...

Oh Boots! I had no idea you spent that much time at Susan's! I imagine your visions of Chicago were different from mine. And I wonder how differently I remember their apartment? I remember changing a diaper for the first time, when Mrs. M. was born.

Yes, I remember the weekend at Michigan, and the kite flying, but not very well I'm afraid. Wish it was clearer.

VioletSky said...

Just for you, I would break out the strappy sandals.

Anet said...

I love your inner scream, so funny!

Ruth said...

Sanna, they might be less dangerous for dancing than the floppy toe, bad shoe lace boots. Imagine that.

Ruth said...

You would never have seen it in my face, Anet, I was so meek.

Loring Wirbel said...

Standing in front of the mirror, acting out the lead roles - that is great!

As a child, I never thought positively or negatively about big cities, they were simply there. My dream was of sandstone formations and wide open spaces, since I'd visited Albuquerque several times. By high school, the experience with big cities meant downtown Detroit to go to concerts, hoping I'd make it back alive. So I was pleased to discover in college years I could go to NY or Chicago and take the subway and live to tell the tale.

Ruth said...

Loring, the extent of my narcissism as a kid astonishes me sometimes.

Yeah, if we'd known how scary some of those Detroit venues were we wouldn't have let Lesley go down there so often! But she always made it back fine too.

If you love sandstone formations in wide open places, you have to someday visit Cappadocia in Turkey, where there are 'fairy chimneys' that people carved into habitations.

Sharon said...

I visited enough of seedy Detroit bars from such a young age (mom looking for her drunken father) that I have never romanticized cities! Although having grown up in the woods Zoe is convinced that cities are the coolest of places and has her heart set on going to the Art Institute of Chicago. Maybe I need to make her sit through a bunch of "when I was young" stories.....like the time I went with a long time friend to his favorite club (late at night) only to find out that he got off on parking blocks away so that he could run through the worst dark alley's for the fun of the adrenaline rush of fear. He was a bit more adventurous than I was and the "club" ended up requiring a frisking and emptying of purses in order to enter. Luckily I was cool enough to know to wear black but unfortunately failed to raccoon paint my face or learn to body slam....... THAT was a night to remember! Then there was the time after graduation when I took a social service job and naively drove a very strung out prostitute home at 10 at night to a neighborhood where I was NOT welcome even in the light of day......okay, I could go on but I'm rambling, so I'll stop.

Damn, do you think Zoe will let me stalk her throughout college??? Maybe I can talk her into Boulder.......or give her an ultimatum: Chicago and I tail you, Boulder and you can go alone! :)

Ruth said...

Sharon, jeez. Frightening!

Also, you sound like my mom. She had stories she tried to tell me, and she discouraged my romance over city life. But I thought it was all about the pre-Christian world vs. the Christian one. I mean she demonized saxophones because they lived in the worldly world of jazz. I don't think she ever drove a prostitute home, but I can't be sure, because she wouldn't talk about that life, she was so ashamed of it.

There probably isn't anything better than personal experience to disenfranchise us from our illusions.

Hey, my grandma and grandpa went to the Art Institute, but I'm guessing back at the turn of the century it might not have been too dangerous.

Gwen Buchanan said...

great story Ruth...

...I'm still laughing!!!

Don't we all have great expectations...

Ruth said...

Gwen, what got me thinking about this is reading Margaret Atwood's "Cat's Eye," in which her character is growing up and seeing how her own family's reality is different than other families'. I would love to hear more stories about how people's expectations are met with reality.

Nautankey said...

That was really funny.I too once thought that I can get a good girl n get hooked once I land in mumbai/bangalore-more cosmopolitan and metro than my city.But sadly nothing of that sort happened there.I was searching for all those pretty girls in mumbai streets shown in bollywood movies. Sigh..movies you know they make us dream about so many things and then reality dashes all our hopes :)

Gwen Buchanan said...

way back when, it all felt natural, I never even knew we were poor... till I grew up...
sometimes a little isolation leaves our self-esteem intact...

Ruth said...

Hi Nautankey, just so long as we can keep smiling and telling our stories, we gain perspective and hopefully inspire someone else to keep going in spite of dashed hopes, right?

I think the world is way more interesting and adventurous as a result of disappointment and hardship.

Ruth said...

Gwen, it's so true. You must have had a rich childhood.

Sandy said...

Oh yes the fantasies!!! I spent most of my childhood living in fantasy and it was great. I wanna go back there in my mind.

I enjoyed this post, there is a commonality present there that we can all relate to!

Personally, I was always the heroine in old western movies. I would ride my horse into town and have all the cowboys swooning...

I would have gun fights in the streets and oh...did I look good in my western garb.

Sandy said...

ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

that banner!

I haven't visited your photo blog lately. I need to (after I get my shower for the day, I'm running so behind)

Drowsey Monkey said...

lol, I can relate.

I'm loving the new look here, btw. The banner is gorgeous and I love the colours :)

Ruth said...

Well Sandy, that's a lot of fun picturing that. So were you like Sharon Stone in "The Quick and the Dead"? She looked pretty good in those chaps too. I don't think I ever fantasized about a Western, too country, haha. But an old train between cities, now that works.

Glad you liked that banner yesterday, but I've changed it now, after finding collages on Picasa, which is just way too much fun for me.

Ruth said...

Hi Drowsey! So you fantasized as a kid?

Thank you, I'm glad you like the banner. You or your sister could go nuts with the Picasa collages.

shicat said...

Ruth,I had the same fantasies.When I was 8 I always wondered why my sister didn't just marry a movie star and move to Hollywood. I think I watched too much Bill Kenedy at the Movies or maybe Rita Bell. I am still watching these grand old movies and wishing,and wishing and wishing that I could have dated Cary Grant. ( I would have settled for a houseboat just to be with him, forget the mink!)

shicat said...

Ruth love the new header.

Bob Johnson said...

Lol, hey it brings back memories of me, I wanted so bad to have a cowboy outfit like Tommy Hunter, I know that's dating me. I remember one night after watching the show my Dad said he was going out to pick up something for me, I was so hoping it was a country outfit like Tommy's but he bought back a guitar, hey that will do,lol.

Ruth said...

Cathy! Well that's fun to have a like-minded soul in you. Cary Grant is the man. It's not enough to be good looking, it's the intelligence and sense of humor (and the intelligent sense of humor) that make a leading man drool-worthy. Plus the women who played against him had to have those same qualities, and that made their movies far better than some of the overly dramatic ones (even my favorite, "Rebecca").

Thanks, I'm glad you like the header.

Ruth said...

Well Bob, I had never heard of Tommy Hunter before, so thanks for that! Wow, 60 years of performing, and still going strong - on tourin 2009!

Loring Wirbel said...

OMG, the new header logo is fan-freaking-tastic! You should get some awards for web site design.

VioletSky said...

OMG the header really is lovely - it wasn't like this the last time I checked, so I was wondering....

mystic rose said...

how sweet it is to read about you as a girl! :)

Ruth said...

Hi Loring and Sanna, thank you! I'm glad you like it. So easy with Picasa.

Ruth said...

Hi Mystic. :) Thank you.

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