Claudette St.Onge © 2001-3, all rights reserved
To someone passing by in the hallway, the chatter and laughter might have seemed that of a flock of beautiful happy birds. It was filled with the joy of the moment and with the glowing celebration of life; harmless and innocent, and appealing in its gaiety.
Inside the room some women were having a Sunday afternoon’s get-together, and it was the time of the week when they showed off their prettiest plumage. No peacock ever spread a fan half so fair. All were in their Sunday best, and the new spring ‘La Mode’ was an ultra feminine display of dresses with a fullness created by wearing bouffant petticoats and crinolines beneath voluminous skirts. It was a fashion of lace and bows, of soft looking fabrics and either bright or pastel colors that would attract and hold the gaze of the beholder. No men were present, and for the afternoon this small gentle part of the world was an entirely feminine domain.
Five of the women sat in the parlor talking in an animated manner as they discussed a recent local divorce. But within an adjoining room could be heard the softer more instructional sounding voices of two other women. And if one listened very carefully, a quieter, much smaller voice might be heard now and then. Soon a woman still in her twenties came out of the adjoining room, stopping near the entrance as she called for the group’s attention.
"Hey, girls! Here’s Maryanne, the newest member of our Sunday gossip session."
She half turned back towards the doorway she had just passed through. There was a temporary halt in the conversation of the parlor as all eyes turned towards the other room. Slowly a small child emerged, a woman’s guiding hand on the child’s back. She bent down to Maryanne’s ear and said a few words of encouragement and the child continued on to slowly enter the parlor with a shy smile.
A soft eruption of feminine squeals and agreeable comments took place within the group as the child looked about, not afraid, but a bit puzzled. Some of the women left their seats to take a closer look at Maryanne. To the child it soon became a kaleidoscope of smiling faces within a swirl of colorful dresses and petticoats, hugs and kisses. The excitement level of the renewed conversation (now concerned solely with the little girl) rose in pitch and volume, a combination of laughter, suggestions, and gentle approval and encouragement to the smiling little girl.
A woman in her forties lifted Maryanne to a seat on the couch next to her. She smiled at the women as they spoke to her, telling her how nice she looked and how pretty her dress was. The little girl was soon being lifted onto the laps of a number of the women, and primped, tickled, hugged and kissed. In the child’s memory the afternoon would live as an experience of happy and affectionate approval, details dimming somewhat with the passing years, but still remembered at least in part by that portion of the human mind that treasures love and happiness. She remained the center of attention for the rest of the afternoon, being rewarded with a little dish of ice cream for being such a nice little girl.
Eventually one woman in particular kept Maryanne on her lap, her young mother that smiled with shining eyes at the little girl and talked in a soft and loving voice while she primped her child’s dress.
It was a typical Sunday afternoon for the time and place: 1952 in an upper-middle class American home. There was just one slight particular that made it somewhat different. Four year old Maryanne Beliveau was really four year old Timmy Beliveau.
A FEMININE IMPERATIVE
It takes a "special breed of cat" to be able to write books for children. But following her divorce, Marie Beliveau found out that she did indeed have such a talent. She was able to make a very comfortable living for herself with her own books and as a consultant for children’s school textbooks.
Marie and her only child, a little nine year old boy, lived in a large house in a charming section of a small New England town. At first she had tried to raise Timmy like any other little boy. But she would often pause in her work and look over at him as he played on the floor and study him. He had such delicate features for a boy. It was almost as if he had started to develop as a girl, and then, just before being born, had become a boy.
He was so cute! It wasn’t long before she began to wonder what he would be like if he was a girl. Soon she stopped getting his hair cut. It was such pretty golden hair. Towards the end of the school year she received two separate letters from teachers advising her to get him a haircut since its length was causing some of the other boys to tease him. She tore up both notes. The next year at school brought more letters, and Timmy confessed he had a little fight with a boy that had picked on him. When this school year finished, she received a phone call from the principal telling her that Timmy would not be allowed in school in September without first getting his hair cut.
She knew her ideas about Timmy were silly. After all, he ran around outside with the other boys, got the usual amount of boyish dirt on himself, and showed a normal interest in the things boys like. But still… Soon she began to consider the idea of dressing him up just to see what he’d look like as a girl. But Timmy always answered her with a definite "No", whenever she half seriously asked him if he’d like to be a girl.
Only once…five years ago…had she actually put him in a pretty little dress, supposedly just as part of a Sunday afternoon’s fun. It seemed so long ago. The pressure of her work kept her from exploring the idea any further, but those occasional pauses and glances at him kept it in her mind. That was due in part, no doubt, not only because of Timmy’s delicate appearance, but also to the fact that she had really wanted a girl when she was pregnant. But her writing schedule made such demands on her that she simply tried to be as affectionate to him as she could to make sure they had a good mother / child relationship.
A day came shortly after Timmy started his 1957 summer vacation when Marie received a very good offer from a publishing company to work at a daily schedule of her choosing in the editing, production and consulting of a series of children’s books the company wanted to market. It was something that would require her to commit herself for a specified amount of time at the start….away from home. She’d be gone a month while she studied and worked on the books in the company’s New York City office.
The problem was what to do with Timmy. She couldn’t take him with her, and her choices of who she could leave him with were extremely limited. Her own folks were far away in Florida, quite elderly, and lived in a small apartment. But that left only one other person she could leave him with: her sister Corinne.
Corinne Beliveau was an altogether different type of woman. Both she and her sister were pretty women, both were divorced and had gone back to legally using their maiden name. But all resemblance stopped there. Where Marie was affectionate with children, Corinne kept them at a distance, especially boys for whom she had an almost loathsome regard. Girls were alright, as long as they had been taught to be proper little ladies. Marie enjoyed her work. Corinne wouldn’t work, nor did she have to, thanks to a lop-sided property settlement and a huge amount of alimony she received from her ex-husband, a highly successful plastic surgeon with a wandering eye. Marie’s friends were from all levels of society. Corinne’s friends all came from the "upper crust".
Her main interest in life seemed to be keeping herself in the most fashionable clothes, and generally behaving like a social butterfly, a snobbish butterfly. She had decided on a life style she wanted and stuck to it with little if any variation. Her days and nights were filled with the country club, soirees and cocktail parties, and generally being seen in the better circles of society. She had one maid that came in two or three times a week to help her keep her home immaculate, a lovely old Victorian house just a few doors away from her sister’s, and filled with antiques which were her only other interest.
Marie sighed, not looking forward to asking her to take care of Timmy for a month, but seeing no other choice. She called her up and asked her if she could stop over for a few minutes during the afternoon. Corinne reluctantly said she’d be there at two o’clock sharp, and Marie knew she meant it to the minute. Corinne was punctual in the extreme.
At precisely 1:59 Corinne parked her 1952 Lincoln Continental in Marie’s driveway, and at 2:00 sharp knocked on the door.
Marie greeted her at the door and Corinne, looking stylish as ever, entered quietly, having a deep suspicion that she was about to be asked a favor, a favor she would most likely find distasteful to her life style and inconvenient to her daily plans. They went into Marie’s small library and she closed the door for privacy. She hadn’t told Timmy she was going away for a month yet, and she thought it best to get things nailed down before she did so.
She looked over at the flawless way Corinne wore her sheath dress, a perfect fit, no doubt obtained with the additional skills of her own seamstress. Most of Corinne’s outfits had a tailored appearance to them. Frills weren’t important to her. Line, drape, and fit were everything.
Corinne observed her sister coolly. Marie always followed the herd when it came to fashion. She dressed in such ultra feminine style. Soft fabrics with pretty prints and full skirts with petticoats poufing them out. Sometimes Corinne found it hard to believe they were sisters.
Marie took a deep breath and began to tell Corinne about her situation. Corinne sat there, smoking a cigarette and not saying anything. It was just as she had thought…a favor was needed. Finally, Marie paused and then asked, "So what do you think? Can Timmy stay with you for the month?"
Corinne didn’t answer right away. She uncrossed her shapely legs and leaned forward slightly as she stubbed out the cigarette in an ashtray.
Then she looked at Marie.
"Do you remember a conversation we had about two months ago?" asked Corinne. "You were talking about Timmy then also. You were curious what he’d look like as a girl. You said you often wished he’d been a girl."
"Yes," answered Marie, "but what has that got to do with this?"
"Marie, you know my feelings about children," said Corinne. "They just don’t fit into my life. Especially little boys. I know you love little Timmy, but really, dear, little boys are such horrid creatures. Always getting dirty, loud and clumsy and generally poorly behaved; frequently an embarrassment when you take them out anywhere.
"Now I realize how important this contract offer is to you, and you are my sister. So this is what I’ll do." Marie leaned forward, beginning to feel that perhaps her sister was about to relent in her usual "rules" for her own life.
"I’ll let Timmy stay with me for one month, and at the end of that time when you return, you’ll find out what kind of girl he could have been."
"What do you mean?" asked Marie, a little puzzled.
"I mean," replied Corinne, "that as soon as he moves in with me he starts to dress and behave like a girl. I simply can’t have a boy living in my house for a month. I’ll train him to be a nice young lady. And that’s the only way he gets to stay with me. That’s final. Take it or leave it."
"Oh, Corinne!" said Marie. "You couldn’t do that to him….for an entire month?!"
"Why not? asked her sister. "Who knows, after a little while he may even begin to like it. And I think you’ll find his behavior will be definitely improved when you return." Marie didn’t say anything for a few moments, thinking about how Timmy would look as a girl.
"But don’t you think it might be bad for him?" said Marie.
"Bad for him?!" exclaimed Corinne. "My dear sister, let me remind you of a couple of basic facts of life: women are better than men, and little girls are better than little boys. You’ll be able to see just how nice a little girl I can turn him into when you get back. And if your conscience bothers you, you can always put him back into his disgusting jeans and tee shirts."
Again Marie fell silent for a bit. She thought of her curiosity that had been growing on the idea of Timmy dressed as a girl. Perhaps it wouldn’t really be that bad for him.
"Corinne, there’s something else that bothers me," she began.
"Oh? What is it?"
"Well…it’s the difference in our manner," replied Marie. "I’ve always been so affectionate with him. But I can’t for the life of me see you showing him much affection. He might begin to feel unwanted or even unloved."
"Oh, Marie! He’s a child! He’s a lot more flexible than you realize. And as regards affection, well yes, I would be demanding in my training of him, but I’d also give him compliments and rewards for being a nice little girl. I’m not completely made out of ice, despite what you may think of me. Who knows? As a little girl he may even bring out an affectionate side of me that I didn’t know I had. I do like little girls, as long as they’re well behaved."
"Well," sighed Marie, "I suppose we could try it, and if things don’t work out, I’ll come home and try to make other arrangements."
"There’s just two other things you have to agree to," said Corinne.
"What’s that?" asked Timmy’s mother.
"First," replied Corinne, "you don’t have to tell him what I’m going to do, but I do want you to tell him that he has to make a big change when he comes to live with me, that you know what the change is, and that you want him to do it. Second, if he acts naughty or refuses to obey me or is rude, I want your permission right now to be able to spank him with my hairbrush, and I want you to tell him that, too."
"Oh, my God!" said Marie. "Spank my little Timmy with a hairbrush?!"
"Don’t get so upset," said Corinne. "Most likely it will never happen. I would imagine after the gentle affectionate way you’ve treated him, just the threat of such a spanking would keep him in line."
Marie again fell silent as she thought about it all. One thing was clear: she had no option. There really wasn’t anyone else she could leave him with.
"Well…alright," she said at last.
"Good. That’s settled," said Corinne. "Now call him in here and let’s give him an idea of what’s in store, and how you want him to promise to do as I say. I want you to tell him that you think it will be good for him, and also that you agree that I should spank him if he’s naughty."
Marie nodded slowly, got up just as slowly, and went to the door. She knew Timmy was probably playing with his Lincoln Logs on the floor outside her library.
"Timmy….come in here, honey. There’s something we have to tell you."
When they all left the library Timmy was puzzled. He wondered what they had meant by a "big change". His Auntiie was the same as she always was, just saying ‘hello’ and then usually ignoring him. But this time she had also asked him if he understood what his mommy was telling him. He had nodded his head, but still felt puzzled about it all. He wished his mommy didn’t have to go away for a month. Timmy was actually nine years and six months old, and as Corinne looked at him, she made a mental note that a girls size ten dress would probably fit him.
She picked up her purse, made a sort of mechanical smile at Timmy and said goodbye to her sister.
"I’ll pick him up on the morning after tomorrow," she said. "And don’t worry. Everything will go fine."
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