She lined the skirt in white satin, sewed epaulets with gold stars to the shoulders of the jacket, and looped white braid with tassels across the front. The outfit included white tights (baggy in the knees), white boots, and a white cardboard shako. My brother David convinced his High School JROTC to adopt me as their mascot, and I marched with them in the 4th of July parade. Our older brother, Lewis, in his I-just-inlisted-in-the-U.S-Army-uniform, watched from the curb.
At some point, Mama wrapped the drum majorette costume in tissue paper and buried it in her cedar chest, along with a pair of black suede I. Miller pumps, a purple velour cloche and the silk lingerie she’d worn on her first honeymoon. At some point later, that cedar chest went missing in our move from Minneapolis to Omaha.
Gone. Lost. Forever lost.
As are David, buried at Arlington,
and Lewis, buried in Alzheimer’s.
Which leaves me with only the photograph and a fantasy. That somewhere a beautiful woman, size 7 shoe, dances the samba in Momma’s pumps. Then she marries the dashing Argentine polo player and has a plump, dimpled baby girl who grows up marching to her own drum majorette.
Uncle Sam had a cabin on White Bear Lake. This photograph was taken there.
My guess is the cabin's gone by now.
Uncle Sam is in the photo, but I won't tell you which one he is.
See if you can guess.
His wife, my Aunt Fanny, is in the picture, too.
So is my Aunt Maddie, my Uncle Ben, my cousins Leon and Fern,
and two women whose names I don't remember.
They got out of Poland just a couple months before,
before it was too late,
so they're new at this independence concept.
Maybe you can guess which women are the refugees
and which woman is Fanny and which one is Maddie.
My mother is in the picture and so am I.
My name back then was Dolly. I remember that for sure.
My cousin Fern still calls me Dolly.
Makes me feel like I'm three again, wearing a seersucker sun suit.
We went to the cabin on White Bear Lake a lot in the summer,
and always on July 4th.
My cousin Leon and I usually dug around in the sand,
looking for pirate treasure which I'll tell you right now we never found
so there's no need to guess yes or no on that one.
Aunt Fanny brought her home-made fried chicken to White Bear Lake picnics.
Momma brought her home-made potato salad.
She always spelled potato with an e at the end.
Momma was 16 when she came to Duluth from Russia with no English and they
put her in the third grade where her 8-year old classmates already knew how to spell the names of vegetables. Momma saw the teacher print words on the blackboard like love, blue, write, shine, stone, alone, and the teacher said lots of words ended in a silent e, so that was Momma's explanation for why she spelled tomato with an e at the end, too.
Maybe the two Polish women will have the same problem.
Aunt Maddie brought her home-made deviled eggs to White Bear Lake on July 4th.
Maddie made the best deviled eggs, ever.
I never asked for the recipe while she was alive, and now it's too late.
Don't you hate it when that happens?
My guess is, yes. You hate it when that happens.
We've been invited to a picnic this July 4th and the hostess asked me to bring
(you guessed it)
I know they won't be as good as my Aunt Maddie's,
but since I'm still such a Doll-eeeeeeeeeee,
I'm guessing everyone will think they're the best deviled eggs, ever.
Poppa must have been at White Bear Lake, even though he's not in the photo.
Maybe he climbed that ladder and is up in the tree, reading.
Or maybe he took the picture.
Your guess is as good as mine.
Ozzie Nogg 2016