"Go on upstairs, take a bath and change your clothes. Dinner's almost ready and it's Lum and Abner night. Honestly, Virginia Min, I think you have more dirt on you than skin. Come on." Mother walked up our carpeted stairs and marched me into the bathroom.
Dusk in August in St. Louis in 1933. It was hot. It was sticky. I welcomed a cool bath, even if it meant soap.
"I thought you said you were playing at Ray and Walt's house. I saw their older sister and she said you left after lunch." Mother helped me unbutton my gingham dress, blue and green with thin red stripe and a white Peter-Pan collar. I liked that dress. It hid the dirt.
"I saw Gladys Pinkley and played with her this afternoon." I was in my little slip and getting nervous now. I turned and faced my mom. I didn't know what to say to her. I didn't know how she would react.
"Gladys Pinkley? You never played with her before, Min. I didn't think you even liked her, the way you spoke of her." Mother sat on the commode and stared at me suspiciously. I shuffled my feet. "Aren't you going to take your socks off?"
"I will." My heart beat so that I felt it shake the room. "Gladys ain't so bad--"
"Isn't so bad. We had fun." I bent down and slowly untied my shoes. Mother turned on the faucet to the tub. Sweat from dread poured down my cheek.
"Well," Mother said as stood. I swear she looked twenty feet taller in that little bathroom. "It's about time you found some girls to play with. You can't be a tomboy forever. You're growing up."
I looked up at her, my heart on my mouth. She would never approve. I wondered if I was going to hell for keeping this from her. I wondered if Gladys' older sister found out what we used. I wondered if Gladys was getting a thrashing as I stood in my slip in the bathroom.
"Well? What are you waiting for?" She looked as if she grew another two or three feet.
"Um." I didn't know what to do so I cross my arms in front of me. Mother's jaw dropped open and she coughed. It looked to me like she was laughing but I was too scared to be sure.
"Ok, Min. Wash your hair and you make sure you scrub." She handed me a wash rag and closed the door. I locked it behind her. Then I listened to her walk down the stairs. It was only then that I took off my shoes, my socks and my underthings.
I stepped into the tub and put the washrag under the running water with the soap, hoping to get more bubbles. I scrubbed and scrubbed that rag with soap and I got a decent lather that day.
"Min, hurry up. I have to go," said my little brother Kenny.
"I just got in here," I growled. He was ruining my special time.
I could hear him whine all the way down the stairs.
I sat back in that wonderful clawfoot tub. Today was the day that everything changed. With a deep, contented sigh, I let my feet float up and admired my painted red toenails.