Grandma handed me a pair of dainty white gloves and tucked a wayward curl behind my ear. Â â€œI just donâ€™t understand why your hair isnâ€™t as nice as your cousinâ€™s,â€ she clucked with the staccato timing frustration warrants.Â I shrugged in response, which once again dislodged the fat sausage curl, and placed the white bonnet on my head.Â I knew my brothers were going to give me all kinds of grief for dressing like a miniature womanâ€”I was only eight, after allâ€”but I had long ago resigned myself to Grandmaâ€™s antiquated sense of fashion.Â What else could I do?Â Besides, it was hard to physically â€œget into itâ€ with my brothers while wearing a dress.Â Not that I didnâ€™t try.
Grandma gave me one more disparaging frown and said, â€œGo.â€ Â I walked-skipped from her house to my parentâ€™s house.Â The gravel road did no favors to my patent leather Sunday shoes, but the other choice was to go through the horse pasture.Â If Grandma thought I looked less than perfect standing in her kitchen, knowing Iâ€™d climbed a fence and traversed horse apples would surely send her into a Sabbath-negating apoplectic fervor.
Arriving home, I smelled the delicious aromas of coffee, bacon, eggs, and toast.Â Grandma usually served me cold cereal, so I savored the salty scents ripening on the kitchen counter landscaped with unwashed dishes.
As expected, my brothers took one look at me and burst into laughter.Â â€œOooooâ€¦look at Gail!â€Â They each thrust out a hip and a pinky finger and walked towards me with exaggerated femininity.Â I set my jaw and squinted my eyes. Â â€œLeave me alone,â€ I growled.Â Circling like a pack of wolves, my brothers pulled my curls, tugged at my metal-mesh purse, and made jokes about all things girlie. Â Â I took it for as long as my eight-year old mind could, and then I started pushing back.Â We tussled a bit, making just enough noise to draw my motherâ€™s attention.Â â€œKnock it off.Â If youâ€™ve got so much energy you can stack wood when we get home.Â Now get in the car.Â Itâ€™s time for church.â€
The usual car seating arrangement was thus: Dad drove, Mom was in the passenger seat, and my little brother sat between them.Â In the back one brother took a window seat, I got the middle, and my other brother took the other window seat.Â In those days childrenâ€™s car seats had yet to be invented, and if there were seat belts I donâ€™t remember them.Â My brotherâ€™s pointy elbows locked me firmly into place!Â In fact, I suspect if I was at risk of going out the window it would be at their hands, and not because of a collision. Â While my parents feigned ignorance, my brothers and I continued our skirmish in the back seat.Â Only we were much quieter than we were at home.Â None of us wanted to stack firewood on a Sunday afternoon.
By time we walked into church I had taken on a scruffy look.Â My hat was askew, my curls dangled at gravity defying odd angles, my white gloves were no longer all that white, and my dress was wrinkled.Â We slide, en masse, into a pew.Â Grandma was already thereâ€”in her usual back pewâ€”and waggled a finger at me.Â â€œWhy canâ€™t you stay clean like your cousin?â€Â I shrugged in response.Â Didnâ€™t she know about brothers?