Monday, July 31, 2017


May 6, 1962
     Last night the cove looked like Fort Lauderdale in the spring.  Half the teenage population of the South Shore converged on the beach, swarming through our yard like a migration of lemmings.  This morning, when I saw the havoc they have left in their wake, I rather regretted that they hadn’t, like lemmings, continued on out to sea.
     Instead of the thirty young people Vonnie expected, there must have been a hundred, most of whom she had never seen before.  She had appointed a delegation of “bouncers,” but they were hard put to keep up with the avalanche of teenagers.  One group, turned away, bent the antenna on my car, and when Tim attempted to straighten it today, it snapped off.
    The ash can provided for empties was soon filled.  I have no quarrel with the kids who then dropped their beer bottles in the sand, but I wonder at the heedlessness of those who deliberately smashed them.  One joker threw a full quart bottle into the fire; it exploded and showered the crowd with flying pieces of glass.  A girl was severely cut.
     Vonnie had said the party would break up at eleven, the tradition being to head for the Shack, but at eleven-thirty the grapevine was still at work.  Group after group paraded past our window toward the Mecca on the beach: Turtle-necked Lady Killers, Man-stalking Beach Frequenters, Beer-sipping Whippersnappers, Night-prowling Morning Sleepers, Blanket-toting Lovebirds.  Observing cynically from their nest:  a pair of Heavy-lidded Party-Poopers.
     Ed went down to break things up.  Vonnie was very good, he said.  She kicked sand into the fire and circulated through the mob, announcing that it was time to go.  Within half an hour, everyone was gone, or so we thought.  When Ed left at six, there were two or three boys still on the beach who had been partying all night.  We wondered what kind of parents had so little interest in their children’s whereabouts, but then the answer hit us.  The parents assumed their children were staying overnight with friends, accepting their word for it as we do with Tim.  Tim and his pals might be doing the same thing, for all we know.   How often, lately, I find myself “wishing away” these anxiety-laden years.
October 19, 1962
     Nancy Burns goes to Emmanuel College, which is next door to the building where Vonnie sees her psychiatrist.  As we were getting out of the car, she said she wished she could find her friend, but she didn’t know where to look.  Then we heard someone call to us.
     "Nancy!"  Vonnie screamed, and the two of them hugged each other, practically crying with joy.  We had been parking weekly within a few yards of Nancy’s dorm.
     After our appointment the girls met outside and went to the dorm for a talk while I killed time in the local drugstore.  Nancy loves college, Vonnie reported later.
        “She thinks I should go, but the trouble is, I don’t see how I can bring up my marks enough.  I

wish I hadn’t let them slip.  How is it you can do something like that to yourself and then later on

wish so much you hadn’t.”
     “Why did you let them slip?”
     “It was my social life.  My social life was more important to me than my studies.  I just didn’t care about anything else.”
     Vonnie said Dr. Meiss asked her what sort of man she would like to marry.
    “I said I wanted someone like my father, someone who would love me and be kind, generous, thoughtful, intelligent, ambitious.  She said, `What do you mean by ambitious?’  What does anyone mean by ambitious?  I felt like saying, `If you don’t know what ambitious means, you’d better go back to school.’”
     Dr. Meiss asked Vonnie if she thought her father was perfect.  I said, “Well, nobody’s perfect, of course, but I think he’s a perfect husband.”  She’s always asking me what makes me think you and Daddy get along so well.  I say, `I don’t think, I know.’”
     These psychiatrists and their textbook solutions.  The fact that Ed and I don’t loathe each other must be a disappointment.
November 9, 1962
     I’m calling it quits with the shrink.  I don’t believe she has had the slightest influence on Vonnie.
     “Mummy, I don’t want to see her anymore,” Vonnie said after our last appointment. "She just doesn't understand our family at all.  I can’t stand the way she magnifies things.  I told her a while ago that it made me feel rebellious when you got mad at me for getting into trouble, but when Daddy spoke to me quietly, I felt sorry for what I had done.  She keeps coming back to that again and again.  I keep telling her it wasn’t that important, but she has the idea I went out and got into trouble because you made me feel rebellious.
     “I said to her today, `You don’t understand me at all, you don’t understand what my mother and father are like or anything about us!’  She said, `It takes time,’ and I said, `Well, I’ve been coming here for two months and you still don’t understand us.”
     I think we’ve given her a fair trial, and it’s been a waste of time and money. Ed agrees.
     It’s too bad Vonnie didn’t get along as well with Dr. Meiss as she does with her guidance teacher.
     “I talked to him for 45 minutes today, and it was such fun, Mummy!  I can tell he likes me a lot, he really appreciates my personality, and he’s always laughing at my jokes.  He asked me what I planned to do after I got out of Junior College and I said I was thinking of going to modeling school.  I felt sort of foolish when I said it, so I looked at him like this.”  She fluttered her lashes and crossed her eyes in a half-demure, half crazy-as-a-coot manner.
      “Mr. McCallum laughed and laughed and he said, `You know what I think you should be, Vonnie?’  I said, `An actress,’ and he said, `How did you know?’  I said, `My mother’s been telling me that for years.  She thinks I’m the Lucille Ball type.’  He said he thought you were absolutely right.”

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