Golden Lucy's Spiral Journal

Going on 87...Savoring and Surviving the Senior Years

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Remembering Alice

I saw Alice in Wonderland at the bagel shop yesterday. She was perfect: about 8 years old, long blond hair tied in a big bow, sky-blue dress and crisp white pinafore with a finely embroidered "A" on the right corner of a scalloped lace hem...Voluminous fluffy petticoats, long white stockings and dainty, strapped black slippers.

Alice was escorted by an apparently prosperous and preeningly proud papa. She was chatting with her mother on a purple cell phone. I craned my neck and strained my ears to hear every word. (The bagel shop is small so I succeeded.) Alice was returning home after starring in a matinee performance of a Lewis Carroll Anthology at the local arts center. "Alice" reported her performance had been stellar. Everyone thought she was fabulous. How nice for her.

Imagine. An 84 year old woman jealous of an 8 year old. Well, not exactly jealous, but certainly wistful. I was remembering when I tried to be Alice. It all started when my Aunt Hannah took me to a pre-Disney performance of Alice in Wonderland at the Taft Theater in Cincinnati. I was about 10 years old and I'd never been to a live performance of a play. I was therefore deeply grateful to my Aunt Hannah and transported by the play and the exquisite Alice.

About a year later I was inexplicably invited to a Halloween costume party. I say inexplicably because at 11 or 12 years and 5 feet tall I was poor, shy and weighed 140 pounds. Even at a time when anorexia was not the fashion norm I was hardly the social butterfly. In any case, I was invited to the party and inspired by the costume of the play I'd attended, decided to dress as Alice in Wonderland.

I appropriated my mother's apron to make a skirt. I found a scarf and, Ta-Da! fashioned a sash and bow. Then, Voila! I dug up a something-or-other to use as a bow for my hair. Just picture it. Luckily we didn't have a full-length mirror and I set out for the party in my truly bizarre "Alice" costume. None of the other guests even suspected who I was supposed to be, nor being interested enough, asked. I sat, as usual, quiet and unobtrusive---imagined I think, by others to be a dull gypsy or eccentric fat lady.

Sitting unobtrusively was not unfamiliar to me. However what happened next was truly traumatic. The boys at the party decided that we should play Post Office. One at a time, the boys would shut themselves in a dark closet and call one of the girls in for a kiss. I thought this sounded like fun and waited expectantly for my name to be called. It never was. Even the more unattractive, unpopular boys chose to go unkissed rather than call my name. I was mortified--but at some level not surprised. After all, I wasn't Alice and I certainly wasn't in Wonderland.

I spent decades proving those boys wrong. I became attractive, successful and confident---at least to others. But my real Alice didn't truly emerge until I gave all that up and embraced the lovely, inquisitive child I'd always been. How sad nobody recognized her when I was young. It would have saved me a lot of pointless anxiety. But then, on the other hand, perhaps Alice wouldn't have grown up to be me.


  • At 7:08 PM, Blogger Bev Sykes said…

    what a bittersweet entry...I loved the triumphant ending. I understand sitting in the corner waiting, in vain, for the call to join the fun that never comes.


  • At 8:46 PM, Blogger kenju said…

    Bittersweet, indeed, and it is true that you would not be who you are today had it not been for your early experiences. I'm so glad you proved them wrong!

  • At 9:33 PM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said…

    A sad yet wonderful story....Children can be so very cruel sometimes...I'm not sure what that is because if one is a sensitive person one is that when you are a child, too? The need to be one of the crowd can certainly bring out the cruelness in just about anybody, I guess....So glad you survived that Lucy and also so glad you survived that Flu, too! I was worried about you because I knew you hadn't gone away after all....So, I'm glad you are back with us, my dear.

  • At 9:48 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    Hope you are feeling much better! I have been to a party or two like that. The parties I WASN'T invited to were better for me.

    So, you're from Cincinnati? I'm going there next weekend.

  • At 3:57 AM, Blogger Mike ( ex scientia, veritas ) said…

    I'm soooo glad you're feeling better. I missed you. This post was wonderful and a good lesson. Everyone can look back to an experience like this; you were wise in gain perspective and learning from your experience. It's never wise to let other people define us. Excellent post, Lucyd! :)

  • At 4:54 AM, Anonymous claude said…

    How great to have you back!
    Loved this post, Lucy. Your story brought tears to my eyes because it feels like my story as a little girl. Sad and lonely. But the end is soooo right! You wouldn't be what you are now if you hadn't accepted yourself for what you are. Same feelings for me. Isn't life wonderful, though?

  • At 6:07 AM, Anonymous Lucy said…

    We missed you. What wonderful post.. very familiar to me too..,in ways i'm not sure i could ever blog about it - but i probably should.

    I hope your feeling better.

  • At 8:19 AM, Blogger Joy Des Jardins said…

    What an incredibly beautiful post Lucy. What an exquisite piece of your past...though at the time, I'm sure you didn't think so. How lucky we are to have you as our Alice now. I missed glad you're back.

  • At 10:34 AM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said…

    I was a fat girl in the third grade. I posted about this a long time ago, but your story reminded me of it. One particularly cruel boy called me Moose. I was also quite tomboyish and loved playing kickball, four square and arm wrestlling. I loved to jump rope and won the trophy for Hotisies that year.
    I was determined to lose weight. I went to the doctor (I also had asthma and allergies) and while I was there, I asked about how I could lose weight.
    He gave me a booklet called, Through the Looking Glass. It pictured a fat Alice looking in the mirror on the front cover and a thin Alice stepping out of the mirror on the back cover.
    My mother couldn't believe that I stuck to that diet. I am a girl who ate nine Enlish muffin pizzas on my ninth birthday. I could EAT!
    Not only did I stay on that diet, but I lost 16 pounds. That's a lot of weight for a third grader!
    I recently saw a photo of that kid that called me Moose (which he kept calling me all the way until I graduated high school and even called me that at our class reunion). He is now a realtor and a FAT one at that!!
    What goes around comes around!!!! :)
    I am so glad you found that your nature was delightful and deserving to be embraced, but I'm also glad you proved to yourself that you were and are an attractive female. Hot momma!

  • At 10:34 AM, Blogger Chancy said…

    Ok Lucy

    You didn't have to make me cry before the day is half over did you?

    I feel for the little Alice that you were but what is more important, the grown up beautiful Alice you have become is truly wonderful.

    Quote from Alice in Wonderland :)

    `"I quite agree with you,' said the Duchess; `and the moral of that is--Be what you would seem to be--or if you'd like it put more simply--Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'

    `I think I should understand that better,' Alice said very politely, `if I had it written down: but I can't quite follow it as you say it.'

    `That's nothing to what I could say if I chose,' the Duchess replied, in a pleased tone."

  • At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Maria said…

    So you get the flu. Don't post. Then come back with this most beautiful of writings.

    So many little girls with dashed dreams of beauty and rescues by handsome princes. It is surprising that we reach adulthood with even a little self-esteem.

    I once blamed half of life's problems on my small feet. After all Cinderella did quite well with that glass slipper. Took me quite awhile to realize that you have to buy your own shoes, earn your own way, and not look for the Prince to solve your problems.

    But back to Alice. From now on I will see the beautiful, inquisitive child that you were when I think of Wonderland.

  • At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Terri said…

    First of all, Lucy...I did miss you and was hoping you were alright. So I was glad to read your comment on my blog that you're now okay. Stay well!
    I have to say this is one of the most poignant and meaningful posts I've read of yours. Wonderful writing with such emotion. Childhood can be a very cruel time, as your story proved. But you overcame it, rose above it...and became the wonderful person you are today. Thanks for sharing this. I enjoyed it immensely.

  • At 6:42 AM, Anonymous naomi dagen bloom said…

    thanks for the trip, lucy-- from hidden bud to full flower. delicious to read and relate to in a personal way. seems other commenters, like me, knew themselves as not-most-popular little girls. you made me think how sitting aside led to my becoming the person i like to be today. you too!

  • At 10:31 AM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said…

    Happy Tuesday, dear "Alice." :)

  • At 2:01 PM, Blogger Rain said…

    I think it's good to go through some years where we seem to be little dweebs and not attractive. It teaches us compassion and appreciation for things and when we want to change it, we work for that. I never wanted my kids to experience that pain as I had but in the end, I am glad they also did. They became much nicer people for it

  • At 2:02 PM, Blogger Sky said…

    ohhhhh. lucy! what a magnificent post. and yes, you would never have been the glorious person you are without the young child who went through all her trauma. this was such a tender post...thanks for sharing.

  • At 3:54 PM, Blogger Endment said…

    What a strong and moving story - I am glad you were motivated to strength rather than to giving up...
    You are a very talented writer. Thank you for sharing this story

  • At 4:49 PM, Blogger MrsDoF said…

    Golly, Lucy, you sure do know how to tell a great story!

    When I was young and doing school and church plays, it seemed I was either the Narrator or a guy. I can remember being a soldier (with tri-corner hat) for the Revolutionary War, and a Roman guard in the Easter pageant.
    With my nose and short hair and tomboy attitude, maybe it all fit.

    However, when nearly 30, and my youngest son was 7 months old, we were Mary and the Baby Jesus for the Christmas play.
    Never did I believe I would ever get to be Mary!
    He's 21 years old now, and 6'2"tall, and some folks still asked if he's the one who was the baby Jesus.
    It may never happen for me again, but at least I have the memory of that one evening on stage.

  • At 8:29 PM, Anonymous momma said…

    Always a tom boy, always big, always unhappy with my looks. In High school I had the male lead of Sam in "On Top Of Old Smokey" I have always been one of the guys with most male friends. So when I finally figured out I was indeed female, strikingly tall, and not too shabby in the looks department I finally climb out of my shell. So like many women and a few man I have known the sad part is in childhood but it makes you a fuller, richer adult.

  • At 7:29 PM, Blogger Mildred Garfield said…

    Hi Lucy

    Glad that you are feeling better and over that awful flu.
    While you were out of commission with the flu my hard drive died and had to be sent away for repair!!

    It seemed like forever until it got back tome!!

    Your "Alice" story was very moving. I think many of us had those experiences when we were growing up.

    My parents took good care of me but in those days they had to work hard to survive and did what they could but did not build confidence in their children. I was never told that I was pretty or smart etc. etc.

    From what I see today, parents not only give children material things but also instill confidence in them.

    What do you think?

  • At 8:19 AM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said…

    Are you still feeling poorly Lycy? I hope not. But if you are, please take really good care of yourself my dear...! Just checking in to say I was thinking about you...

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  • At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Simply Coll said…

    What a wonderful story. I am always so impressed by your words. My sister and I were once in an Alice in Wonderland play. My sister was Tweedle Dee and I was Tweedle Dum. :-)

  • At 8:22 PM, Anonymous joared said…

    This is a heartbreaking event no parent wants to have their child experience, but cannot prevent. I'll bet there aren't many, including me, who haven't experienced some truly emotionally painful childhood experience which means we identify so clearly with yours.

    I think you're quite right, that such experiences contribute to making us the person we become - hopefully, warm, caring, compassionate, determined that others not experience those feelings we've had, for any reason.

    Sorry to hear you were "under the weather a bit" for awhile. Surely am glad you're back!

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