Thursday, June 30, 2022

Bikini strings and coconut oil


“You don’t want pubic hair, believe me,” said April, angry she had razored her crotch just to lie next to a glorified pond with a 12-year-old. “Why the rush?”

“Because...” Ashley paused for once. “Tina says I can’t hang out with her on the weekends until I get some. She says the weekend is when the women go out.”

“I see. And how does she know? She inspect you every Friday?”

“Gross! No, she just knows when I’m lying. My mom doesn’t, but Tina does.”

“Yeah, I think your mom does, too. But I really think you need to stop hanging out with Tina.”

April woke to someone standing over her towel.

“Earth to April.”


He sounded like Ashley’s cousin Brian, but the skinny skateboarder was now a Ken doll in red surfer shorts. Only with much better hair.

“Hey,” she finally managed, shielding her eyes from his sexy stomach and kicking herself for never preparing properly. All those times she headed to the beach, telling herself today was when one of the boys would talk to her why did she always think to shave her toes, but never about what to say?

“Having fun?”

She shrugged.

“Let’s get out of here.”

April slid her feet into Noreen’s flip flops with the plastic daisies on top.

“Those look like my mom’s!”

Yep, that’s why boys never stopped at her towel — she didn’t even own proper beach shoes, let alone a bikini.

“Can I come?” Ashley asked, but she knew the answer.

“Nah, Ash,” Brian said. “I need you to stay and watch the others. You’re the oldest now.”

She sighed. “Bye, April.”

April wanted to say, “Don’t worry. Soon the boys will all be coming to your towel, believe me,” but her voice was snagged on Brian's shark tooth necklace.

“So, arcade or golf? No bowling until dark,” Brian asked in his car.

April shrugged.

“I say golf, it’s outside.” He put the key in the ignition, but didn’t turn it. “Wanna drive?”

April shook her head.

“Right,” he said with a smirk-smile as he pulled a shirt from the back seat. “Girls don’t drive sticks.”

“I can. I learned on a stick,” she said, finally able to form full sentences once he buttoned his shirt.

“Guess you’re more fun that I remember,” he said, flashing a smile that finally reached his eyes.


“You got a boyfriend?” he asked at the second hole.

“Not really.” She didn’t know what to call the boy who was still waiting for a kiss, after waiting six months for her to hug him.

Brian laughed. “He know that?”

She stared at the carpet grass, wondering what she would have let Seth do by now if he had a chest like Brian’s.

“What do you do when you’re not in school? Party?”

“No, I don’t drink.”

“Yeah, me neither,” he said, surprising April enough that she let herself imagine all those tanned muscles next to her at the beach, finally making the other girls jealous of her.

“Yeah, it gives you a gut,” he said, slapping his stomach. “Me, I like to smoke. Not just cigarettes, if you know what I mean.”

April pretended she was planning her next shot.

“I don’t have anything to smoke right now, but my friends do. I’m meeting them later at the club.”

April whacked her ball as hard as she could, sending it into the side of a windmill and off the course.

“Whoa, girl!” Brian laughed, whistling as he watched the ball until it landed, then trotted off to get it.

When they returned their clubs, he handed her the scorecard, though he had stopped keeping track after the windmill.

“Here. It’ll be a memento of our day.”

His face seemed sincere, until she found the sneer hiding in his eyes.

“Hey, are you guys coming up for dinner?” said Ashley, panting as she ran up to them. “Mom promised we’re playing Trivial Pursuit tonight. If you play on my team, April, I might finally win!”

April turned to Brian, who was already walking away.

“You coming?” he said over his shoulder, heading straight to a slim girl standing against the bowling alley. Making sure April was watching, he leaned next to the girl’s ear.

She was wearing a sweatshirt and shorts, but April knew what was underneath: a string bikini and coconut oil.

The same strings were tied around the neck of a girl April sat next to on a crowded bus home from the beach one day. It was the closest April had ever been to those mysterious creatures who usually only swam by in blurs of tiny dresses and tanned skin, legs only covered by their sandal straps, arms only covered by a dusting of blonde hair. 

April didn’t know their arms even had hair until that girl on the bus. The girl who smelled like coconut, and made her feel like the girls in the locker room who laughed at her underwear — like she didn’t know how to be a girl anymore. 

That it didn’t matter now how fast she ran or how good her grades were. All that mattered was how cute she and her outfit looked. Because she wasn’t supposed climb trees or ride bikes anymore; was supposed to just stand around, making fun of girls like her.

April watched as the girl handed Brian cigarettes and lighter from her pocket. As Brian pulled one of the cigarettes out with his mouth, the look crawling over the girls face was a creature April never let out of its cage.

Brian looked at April as he lit his cigarette, then pulled the girl’s waist toward him to return the pack and lighter. When he unzipped her sweatshirt later, April knew he’d find skin that wanted to be touched, breasts that wanted him to untie those bikini strings.

So of course he was with her instead of April. Her breasts liked to stay hidden, and never smelled of coconut.

“C’mon,” Ashley said, pulling her arm. “If we hurry we can get some of the good chips!”

“OK, I’ll play with you on one condition: You get your mom to take us shopping before we go to the lake tomorrow.”


“Deal!” Ashley squealed. “But why? You don’t have to buy sunglasses, you can borrow mine.”


“I want to get a pair of these dorky flip-flops,” said April, deciding she was never taking a razor to her feet again.

Friday, June 10, 2022

My mother the surfer: A week alone in Waikiki, riding the waves at seventeen.

Practicing in her fathers wetsuit.
In 1961, my mother spent a week of her summer break by herself in Hawaii for her 17th birthday.

That was cool. And brave.

But even more brave and cool? She spent her days on the island surfing.

“When I finished six weeks of summer school, I went to Hawaii for a week,” my mother wrote to her grandmother in Michigan that September.

I was alone, I stayed at the Royal Manor at Waikiki. I really enjoyed myself there. The water is warm and the most beautiful colors. It ranges from a light green to a deep blue. 

The weather was nice while I was there, not hot and sticky. I swam every day. I board surfed a few times, and I stood up about three times. The waves weren’t big and they weren’t fast, just slow and small and easy to catch.”

I recently found this letter in my grandmother’s things, which also include all of my mother’s school report cards and dental examination records. I don’t know how my grandmother ended up with a letter my mother mailed to Michigan from Los Angeles, but I’m so glad she saved it so I could discover another cool thing about my mother.

I already knew she was far more brave and adventurous than me. At 20, she ditched the friends she was touring Europe with to hitchhike alone with a “beautiful, quiet” stranger who became my father.

I love the story of how my parents met, but I might love even more learning that my mother was a surfer, able even as a teenager to conquer the waves I was too chicken to face.

Like my mother, I grew up by the ocean. Unlike her, I preferred to keep my feet on the sand, loving to just watch the water and those with the courage to surf it.

But now watching surfers will be even cooler, because I will see my mother out there, riding the waves with them.


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Cages: Chapter Four: The boy she should have kissed.

 “Can we go?”
“I haven’t finished my coffee.”

“Then drink it.”

“I can’t. It’s hot.” Ignoring the eye roll, her mother asks, “Did you have a good time last night?”

April shrugs.

“Do you like Randy?” 
April shrugs again, wanting to grab the coffee and scald her tongue so she couldn’t talk.

“I just want to make sure... I mean, I think he has really good taste, but you’re too young for anything … uh, physical.”

“Do you mean sex?! Mom, please! I don’t like Randy that way AT ALL,” April gasps with horror while her mother laughs with relief. “Besides, I'm not doing anything like that until college.”

Evelyn smiles, happy to change the subject. “So you’re still thinking of going to college?

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

Another eye roll ignored. Or maybe she doesn’t even see them anymore.
“Good, because I started college funds for you and Hannah. The accounts earn more interest than the bank, but I know they are safe because your grandmother picked them out.”

“How much do we need?”

“I don’t know,” her mother says before finally sipping her coffee, though April caught the look of concern. “I’m just glad you want to go. And, of course, that you want to wait on that other thing.”

April won’t admit it, but her mother had good reason to dread that first date. This was a girl who announced suddenly in the fifth-grade that she was going steady with two boys.

“They both asked me,” she said with a grin. “And I like them both.” To herself she said, I’ll decide who I like more after my birthday.

The first boy was Bart. He lived with his grandmother, a waitress at the diner near the laundromat. The second was Mike, who lived with his parents in one of those big houses near the bluffs that so many people, including her mother, were still very angry about.


Bart’s gift was a book, and not just any book: One of the Black Stallion series she collected. He picked out a title already on her shelf, but she just added the new one, carefully making room right next to the other copy.

Mike’s gift was a gold necklace with a tiny heart. April didn’t wear jewelry, but found it awful exciting. Especially when she found the $18 Mervyn’s price tag inside the box.


Her mother frowned. “You can’t keep it.”

“But he’s rich. He can afford it!”


“That’s not the point. It’s inappropriate. You’re too young,” said Evelyn, though after calling Mike’s mom, the necklace stayed. April never wore it, but she loved looking at it, always carefully returning the heart to the center before closing the lid again.



After a week of recesses with each boy, April chose Mike. But it wasn’t because he had more money, it was because he was more fun. All Bart wanted to do was sit and hold hands, and April couldn’t stand spending her recess silent and still. So she picked the boy who talked and played tetherball.

Soon after choosing Mike she was invited to his house. His neighborhood felt like another planet: No hills or trees, just shiny streets lined with bright white sidewalks in front of shiny houses with bright green lawns. And once inside she felt even more alien, trying not to get dirt on their impossibly white carpet and pretending to find his wooden gun collection interesting until finally asking if they could play outside.

Where she felt like herself again while riding bikes, especially when his broke and she knew how to fix it, smiling proudly after putting the slipped chain back onto the gear wheel. But then Mike looked strange, his cheeks turning bright red as they heard his father announce to his wife, “April fixed Mikey’s bike!”


April never wanted to show Mike where she lived, but his parents insisted on picking her up for the school carnival. She waited for them across the street, pretending to be getting the mail.

“What are you doing out here?” Mike’s dad said when their nice sedan pulled up. She wanted to just jump in, but he asked, “Which is yours?” 


They were all smiling at the house behind her. April considered pretending it was hers, but didn’t have a lie ready if her neighbors came out. So she waved toward her own while looking at the asphalt, not wanting to see their faces struggle to keep smiling.

Her house didn’t seem to bother Mike, because he was a gallant as ever that day, buying her a hot dog before winning her a stuffed panda. But soon something did bother him.


That day he invited her to watch his baseball team, and after the game they sat under a tree, both too shy to say anything as April pulled at the grass. Finally, knowing her father was coming, Mike asked, “Can I kiss you? I mean, on the cheek?”

The red rushed up April’s neck as she dropped her head, feeling each second of silence like a pinprick until her father walked up.

It wasn’t that April didn’t want Mike to kiss her. In the car she regretted her silence, deeply curious about what it would have been like to have him lean over and kiss her. 

And now she regrets even more that her first kiss wasn’t given to that sweet boy who took down his poster of Daisy Duke before she came into his room. No, it was taken by a boy who stranded her in a parking lot.

Next week at school, Mike stopped spending recesses with April. When she finally found him playing Dungeons and Dragons in the library, he refused to come outside with her instead. That weekend, he had a friend break up with her.

Thinking the call was a prank, April hung up on the other boy twice before he could blurt out that he was calling for Mike. Who still liked her, but now liked Shayna more. 

April nodded at the phone. Not only was Shayna pretty and sweet, word on the playground was she would “do things” with boys. April wasn’t at all sure what those things were, but figured Shayna would definitely let a boy kiss her on the cheek.

At first it stung knowing Mike preferred a girl who was better at brushing her hair than fixing his bike. But soon all April felt was relief, glad to leave kisses, and all those other “things,” tucked safely in the box with her necklace.

And the next boy? She didn’t want to open it for him, either. But he came along after everything else was gone.

Chapter three

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

My Grandmother’s Journals: June, 1997

Grandma, left, chaperoning teens in June of 1961.
In tiny notebooks, my grandmother wrote each day when she woke, where she ate breakfast, any movie she went to see, any mail and calls she received, then what she 
read and watched on TV before bed, where she seemed to struggle to sleep most nights. 

In 1997, she turned 82 while living alone in a mobile home park in Santa Cruz, Calif., but I wouldn't describe her as lonely. She was an extremely independent and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet. (I wrote more about her life in an earlier post.) 
Close to her home was the famous surfing spot called Pleasure Point, and she loved walking on the cliffs above the ocean and watching the surfers. When she died at 97 in 2013, I took her ashes to those waves with a friend of hers and we each dropped some at the sand. A moment after I dropped mine, a surfer emerged from the water where I stood.
That was cool. 

In June of 1997, my grandmother was recovering from her latest visit to Europe while watching a lot of tennis and golf. She was also not only checking her blood pressure multiple times a day, but driving to different places to check it on different machines.

Sunday, June 1, 1997
Up 7. Tea, cereal, strawberries and banana.
Washed car, watered lawns.
Yard work, took fern apart.
Worked until 9 o’clock.
Drug Emporium, BP.
Not as hot.
Tennis, Hingis won, Seles over Mary Pierce. Crowd does wave “For Mary.”
TV: “Red Dwarf” til 10.
Retired but no sleep, up for soup and toast at 12.
Tuesday, June 3, 1997
Tea, cereal. Vote 26th Street.
Money for girls: Check to H, deposit to Justine’s. ATM removed “Balance Inquiry.”
TV: Tennis.
Ate liver.
To Live Oak, BP 128/70.
Taped Karaoke. Two hours.

Wednesday, June 4, 1997
Up 8:30. Showered, hair, etc.
Late to Vibol’s. Monie is two months late, says Vibol wants child.
To Gottschalk’s, got blue/white umbrella stand.
Home, lunch, talked to neighbors.
Wrote letter to Prudy. To mailbox.
To OSH, got philodendron for blue/white vase.
Walked, knees hurt.
Thursday, June 5, 1997
Ate tea, sausage here.
Some yard work. Larry found picture.
Got another plant, indoor this time. Put other outside.
Got blue/white bowl for violet, one for other plant.
Ate chicken san at KFC.
BP at Drug Emporium, low also. Why? Only change was knee warmers?

Friday, June 6, 1997
Mailed birthday card + money to H. Also note to Justine.
Up late. To post office.
Checked BP at Longs early. 133/76.
To corner.
Home, tennis.
Wrote Andra/Lutz, Mina.
Bed 6 p.m., no sleep til a.m.
Saturday, June 7, 1997 
No real sleep. Why?
Up 8:30. Yunnan tea, 1/2 muffin.
Longs, BP low. 108?
Home, tennis. Hingis lost, had cramps? In interview said no problem, Iva played better.
Got gas, checked New Leaf for Yunnan tea.
Called Watsonville Food, no.
Pruned jasmine, cut limbs. 2 hours.
Watched Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance.
Sunday, June 8, 1997
To Vibol’s.
Searched for Yunnan tea. Longs, mall.
To show, “Breakdown.” Very exciting, suspenseful.
Caught last 1/2 hour of “Lost World.”
New Leaf for tea, woman tried to locate wholesaler.
Home, 60 Minutes. 
Bed, but sleep late. Up three times.

Monday, June 9, 1997
H birthday.
Up 9. To Longs, BP.
To Vibol's. Talked with Clifton?
Looked more for tea, not found. Way of Life will try order. Got Chamomile.
Dinner at Live Oak.
Justine called at 4, returned call at 4:30. Finally talked 6 or so.
Bed after Cybill.

Tuesday, June 10, 1997
Had chamomile tea last night, slept good.
Up 9. Ate cereal, Yunnan tea.
Longs for BP. First 145, second 113. Got TV Guide.
To library, checked for herbs, San Jose herb markets.
Checked Bass tickets to “Phantom of Opera,” $67.50 downstairs, $50 balcony.
TV: Taped “White Ghost.” Not great!
No sleep until 2 a.m.
Called Justine at 1 a.m.

Wednesday, June 11, 1997
Awake 7:30, up 9:40. 
Breakfast McDonald’s. Took BP before and after.
Walked on cliff.
Ate sandwich at Vibol’s, he not there. Dave came by.
Way of Life called, tea in! 3.83 - 25 bags.
Wrote Justine.
Longs, checked BP, OK.
To post office, mailed letters.
Home, worked on plants.
TV: Baseball, Dodgers 10, Astros 5.
Thursday, June 12, 1997
Slept til 9:30. Shower, hair.
To Vibol’s, he cooked liver - onion, ginger. Needs garlic?
TV: Golf, Tiger not good.
BP at Mid-County, 188. 
Same at Longs, got dinners, new leg warmers, brown.
To bank, got GTE stock shares. Read market wrong, still thinking. May sell.
Slept good, took tea.

Friday, June 13, 1997
Fertilized lawn?
Up 7:30, laundromat.
Longs, BP machine off.
Got card from odd man, Phil. Working on Bebe’s roof.
TV: Golf, Tiger Woods back on track.
4:30, machine at Longs still down, checked at Drug Emporium.

Saturday, June 14, 1997
Up 9:15, tea. To Longs, BP working.
Got paper, to Vibol’s, home.
Ironed clothes.
Golf most of day. Cold, rained in early am.
Read papers, mended “apple” boy.
Golf held because of rain.
Watched some “Fanny,” old French movie, read some.
Watched MTV awards for 15 mins or so. Mike Meyers spoofed Lord of the Dance.
Monday, June 16, 1997
Breakfast here, cut more Jasmine.
Longs, BP, Albertson’s, Vibol’s.
Mail: Fone bill.
Talked to neighbor, made comment about Bebe.
Worked on branches until almost ill.
Rested and ate. Watered lawn, fertilized again.
Seems $180 was taken with pickpocket.
TV: News, Miss Marple, crossword.
Wrote Mimi.

Tuesday, June 17, 1997
Up 9. Very relaxed.
Ants in kitchen, grease.
To post office, mailed letter, got stamps.
Used toilet at Mid-County.
To Lucky, got 3 frozen dinners.
No BP at Live Oak today.
Walked on cliff.
Mail: From Mimi (Jazzy) and Andra with phone cards. Called Justine with one that had 9 mins on it. 
Worked in yard. 
Justine called 11:30. No sleep until 3 a.m.

Thursday, June 19, 1997
Eye Exam.
Up 9:15. Tea, applesauce.
Longs for BP.
Vibol's, library. Got Sentinel.
To doctor for exam,  no change in lenses. Should pass test. Drove home carefully.
Longs, took pix of pier accident. Sent to Justine with ticket (Phantom).
Got “Caught” video at Wherehouse.
Dodgers v. Giants.
Friday, June 20, 1997
Up 9ish. Tea. Ants here.
Longs, high BP.
To Vibol’s.  Seagulls got my car, hood.
Home, washed car. 
Ran “Caught.” Good, well-made.
Changed clothes again. To Wherehouse, returned tape.
To Drug Emporium, BP 137.
To post office, closed at 4:30!
To 17th Street, also now close at 4:30!
To Albertson’s, got macaroni & soup.
Hot, watered lawn.

Saturday, June 21, 1997
Not much sleep. Even took Melatonin, nothing.
BP OK, Vibol’s. 
To post office, $1 each letter.
Dodgers won 11-0.
Slept a bit after eating.
Walked on West Cliff. 
Bed early.
Sunday, June 22, 1997
Good sleep.
Tea, cereal. Longs, BP.
To Vibol’s, Clayton in. Second granddaughter born Thursday.  6 1/4 lbs.
Home. Worked on chain for bathroom basin. 
Also made new garters for brown knee warmers.
TV: Part of Dodgers, X-Files, some news.
Larry wants to re-sod lawn?
Monday, June 23, 1997 
Awake 8, up 9. Tea, toast.
Longs, then Vibol’s. Talked Pol Pot.
Vacuumed bedroom, walls, etc.
Lunch at Kmart, chicken sandwich.
To show, “My Best Friend's Wedding.” Funny, liked Rupert Everett. Had good lines.
Tuesday, June 24, 1997
Up 9:30. To Vibol’s til 11:30.
To Longs, then other BP. Good.
To Bank, got $200. T-Bill deposit!
Mail: Got package I mailed from England.
Took book to Larry. He not doing good!
TV: Law & Order.
Brian Keith shot himself. Cancer, emphysema.

Wednesday, June 25, 1997
Awake 6:30, up 8:30. Tea, cereal, fruit here.
Smog check. Now no coupon. Passed.
To Vibol’s.
Home 12:15. Unpacked package from London.
To Longs. BP, pix of DMV check.
Made tuna.
TV: News, baseball, Law & Order. 
No sleep.

Friday, June 27, 1997
Awake 7:45, up 9. Ironed blouses.
Longs, checked BP. Got TV Guide.
To Vibol’s. Clayton in.
To Burger King, got fish to go.
Read papers, watered lawn, talked to Larry.
News, bed early.
Saturday, June 28, 1997
Awake 4, up 9:30. Longs, BP 161.
Breakfast: tea, egg, poached.
To Vibol’s.
To show, “Citizen Ruth.”
Took pix of sunset, S.C. beaches. People many.
McDonald’s: Got chicken sandwich, sundae.
Dodgers lost again.
Sunday, June 29, 1997
Up 10:30. Carla called. [Carla, pictured above, was one of my mother’s high school friends.]
To Vibol’s, Longs. BP 159.
Planted new plant.
TV: ST Voyager, 60 Minutes. News full of Hong Kong.
Taped ballet.
Monday, June 30, 1997
Awake to rain. Accidents on 101.
TV: Wimbledon, Seles lost a close one. Wet, slippery grass.
Longs for BP. To Vibol’s.
Home, wrote Justine.
Papers, crossword, up 12 to 4.
TV: Oldies: Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, Odd Couple, Mr. Ed.