It was 1967, I was 8 years old, and
it was early January, just after Christmas ... I was still home for Christmas
break from school, and as usual was playing with my older sister (age 13) and my
younger sister (age 4) as we always did under my oldest sister's leading and
direction: she was the school teacher and we (my younger sister and I) were her
female students, or she was the fashion designer and we were her female models,
or she was the mother and we were the daughters, and these were always played
with me in full girl's clothing (all stuff that used to be my older sister's
when she was younger, but were now stored by my mom in our basement in one of
two large steamer trunks under the steps, or in one of three large garment bags
that hung behind her sewing area)... I cannot remember which make-believe game
we were playing this day, but my sister had me dressed up as a girl and i can
exactly remember the
outfit because I so clearly remember being caught and embarrassed in it.
We had been in the basement for over an hour playing some make-believe dress-up game ... I was wearing pastel blue nylon panties, white stretch-lace tights, an off-white full slip (stretch top/bodice that flared below the waist with a 1"
lace trim on the hem), a formal, ivory-satin Christmas party dress that had been hers when she was 8 or 9 (it was smooth satin jumper style tank sleeves, zipped up the back to a hook behind my neck, satin sash-belt that snapped in
back with a fixed bow, wide flair skirt from the waist down to 2" below my knees and lined with 2 layers - one of taffeta lace and one of stiff netting - with sheer, see-through lace long-sleeves that had elastic at the wrists in a
lacey ruffle), and black patent-leather buckle shoes ... I had fairly long hair for the mid-'60's that completely covered my ears by 2" and long bangs in front over my eyebrows ... she had pulled both sides up into pigtails in rubber bands and tied white ribbons in bows on each pigtail, and had the bangs combed straight down with a part down the middle and a white plastic hairband across the top of the bangs where they met the part ... I was also wearing just a little bit of lipstick and a small touch of blush on my cheeks, and had on bright pink nail polish.
My mom came home around 1pm in the afternoon with 4 or 5 ladies from church who with her that morning at a ladies' bread bake at the church ... we had been in the basement most of the time, but had gone up to the kitchen to get some hot cocoa (it was January and the east coast, and very cold and snowy out that day) when we heard them come in the front door, kicking snow off their boots and laughing and talking and taking off coats and hats and such... my mom had seen me dressed by my sister all the time, but I was sitting at the kitchen table, and they were in the front hall in front of the stairs, so I couldn't run upstairs to my room, so my mom called out something like, "Hey kids, I'm home, where are you?" and my sister answered, "We're in the kitchen mom, we'll be right there" when I panicked and tried to decide what to do next ... my sister gave me a friendly look and said I should head right away for the door to the
basement steps and change downstairs, but it happened so quickly: no sooner had I taken a few steps into the back hallway then I was face-to-face with 3 of the ladies heading toward me on their way to the kitchen with loaves of bread and some trays and empty coffee pots.
I froze and was looking right up at a kindly woman's smiling face who said something like, "Hi there my dear, don't you look lovely . . . can you help me carry these into the kitchen for your mommie?" and she put 3 stacked trays in my arms and turned me around gently and gave a little pat on my shoulder to head back the way i had come from ... I walked back into the kitchen, 3 ladies behind me, they were still gabbing and laughing, and I could hear my mom and 1-2 other ladies in the front hall to the right hanging up coats in the closet ... I looked at my older sister as I entered the kitchen and she just smiled wide at me, and my younger sister just sat there at the table drinking her cocoa ... I knew the woman behind me was Mrs. Thomas (my Sunday school teacher in 1st grade), and behind her was Mrs. Sarallano, who hadn't really seen me face-to-face yet (she was the children's choir director and I sang for her), and behind her was Mrs.. Crossman (I was friends with her son Kyle and had been to her house many times)...
Soon, Mrs.. Thomas was doting on my sisters with comments of how cute we looked and how nice our dresses were .... I hoped they might not make the connection that I was her younger brother dressed up, who knows what I was thinking or
hoping for ... but for the first 5 seconds, Mrs. Thomas simply addressed the 3 of us as "you girls" and such ... but then Mrs.. Sarallano got into the kitchen and said hi to sandy and then looked at me kind of perplexed, and asked, "So my
sweet, what's your name?" ... I had no idea what to say, I mean this was the lady who was my choir director ... then Mrs.. Crossman came in and also said hi to Sandy and then looked over at Deanna and gave her a pat on the head, and then turned and also seemed not to know me right away and said, "Hello dear, and who's this?" again leaving me frozen still. .
But as I stood by the sink holding the trays, I then heard my mom and the other 2 ladies come in the kitchen door ... I think I had a very quick hope that my mom would see me dressed (something she'd seen for years) and perhaps she'd
cover me with a quick "Okay kids, out of the kitchen" or something and then I could leave fast and get undressed and back into my own clothes ... but it went the exact opposite ... she came in and said something like: "Oh, Ii see you kids have been playing dress-up again, and don't you all look so pretty..."
Within a few seconds, Mrs.. sarallano and Mrs.. Crossman both got wide-eyed and smiled and said things like, "Oh my goodness, is that you Danny?" and "My, oh my, I cannot believe that's you Danny." Then Mrs.. Thomas jumped in with how cute all 3 of us looked in our pretty dresses, and there was no distinguishing of any individuals, just talk of "us" as a group of 3 kids .... but my mom came over and stood behind me, put her arms on my shoulders and I guess made eye
contact with my older sister first and said, "Ladies, you know Sandy, she's 13 and that's her sister Deanna at the table, she's 4, and this is my son Danny, he's 8, and he loves to play dress-up with his sisters." Well, the ladies quickly gathered around me and said things like, "Sandy, you have done an amazing job dressing your brother up like this," and so the comments went, and kept coming as they noted things like "Look at your pretty lace tights" and "Your hair is so cute..."
And then Mrs.. Sarallano asked me point blank questions like: "Do you like wearing such pretty clothes, young man?" followed with Mrs.. Thomas saying, "Well, of course he does, he certainly doesn't look like anyone forced him into that
dress" ... and Mrs.. Crossman then said the most humiliating thing to me: "Danny, I don't know what to say, but Kyle will not believe me when I tell him how I've seen you here today...". she was going to tell my friend Kyle???
My mom made some extra and unnecessary comments like, "Oh he's let his sister dress him up for years, it's one of their favorite games to play together" and "Sandy loves dressing Danny, and Danny, this is one of your favorite
outfits, isn't it?" To which I could only look up at my mother, nod and say "yes" ... Mrs.. Crossman then commented: "So, you have been dressing up with your sisters like this all the time?" and I don't know why, but I blurted out another "Yes, I think it's really fun" (or something like that), to which they all laughed, and which triggered in me (for whatever reason) tears and major blushing with embarrassment and mixed emotions ... I must've looked like such a cry-baby little girl ... and of course I buried my face in my mom's stomach, wrapping my arms around her legs, as she rubbed my back and did a gentle "There, there, it's okay" ...
Well, next it was one of the ladies saying: "Well, let's let the kids finish their cocoa" and my mom picked me up and sat me on one of the bar stools at the breakfast counter ... my legs just barely reached the first rung and my dress
had ridden up just a bit when I sat and the lace and netting lining showed out a few inches beneath the hem of the dress, to which I got a few more comments about "cross your legs like a good little girl" and "pull your dress down
dear, your slip's are showing..."
I was so mortified to be in the kitchen with these women who knew me, Mrs. Thomas, my teacher, Mrs.. Sarallano, my choir director, and Mrs.. Crossman, Kyle's mom ... I sat in the kitchen with my mom, these 4-5 ladies, and my two
sisters for about 45 minutes, and then saw them to the door and got patted on the head, and told several more times how cute I was, but the dread came in hearing them all say things like whether i would ever come to church in a
pretty dress, or come to choir practice in this lovely outfit, and Mrs.. Crossman asking me if Kyle would like to have me come over sometime dressed like this so he could see me ...
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