FROM POSH TO PUDDLE (A LEGACY STORY)
I am constantly amazed that there is nothing new under the sun. Prejudice comes in all kinds of packages. When I heard about this one it really made me laugh, then cry. It took me back more than fifty years to a time when “The Dime Store Lost It’s Sparkle” for me at almost the same age as my granddaughter in this story learned that ‘all that glitters is not gold: or even friendly for that matter.’
My oldest daughter Trula Dee, is a humdinger. She is often called ‘Queenie’, the ‘Lioness’, and is always acknowledged as a formidable woman. True to her gender she is very protective: like a mother hen. I was reminded of that old saying, “Mad as an old wet hen” when she relayed this incident to me.
This was the picture that forever identified her as “The Lioness”.
A true “Daddy’s girl“, he instilled in her the protection of your children above everything.
My daughter and her family work very hard and live in an affluent community. With five children to provide for and a variety of amazing medical challenges through the years, she and her husband still made time to have some recreation and vacations for the family. Private and personal time always was rare, so when my daughter had the opportunity to get away with her daughter, she snapped it up.
Thank God for time shares and for friends who can’t always use them when they’re available. This was the case when my daughter had the chance to take her young daughter Aspen to Florida for a few days. Just the two of them, for some mother-daughter bonding.
This trip was important to a little girl who had been a total surprise to her family when they thought they had ‘finished‘ after the birth of the fourth boy. The boys were the fulfillment of my ‘tom-boy’ daughter’s life long dream to have a family of boys: only boys.
It took only the birth of a little girl to rewrite history and give the family it’s focus. Adored by her brothers, the dominant force in her daddy’s life, she turned her gung-ho, tomboy-mother into a woman in shock. A more girly-girl she could not have given birth to and my daughter’s life was turned completely upside down.
The trip was to be a way for the two’ girls’ to get away together and just do ‘girl things’ . Aspen was still in grade school but asserting her ‘girly’ tendancies with dolls and nail polish: she and her mother were trying to find a balance in the otherwise sports dominated, testosterone filled family. On this trip, they would get to go to the beaches, nearby amusement and entertainment places, and in general be “Florida Girls” for a few days. Both fancied themselves as Sun Goddesses so this would be a perfect mother daughter bonding experience.
During their days of indulgence, they happened upon a special area of the community they were staying in. Without a doubt it was oozing with luxurious opportunities. The shops were unique and high-end so my daughter thought it would be fun to see them and maybe to find a small memento: Much like Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s when she bought the small silver cocktail toothpick which,’ cost “the earth” but she could say was purchased at her visit to Tiffany’s’.
Always a good looking woman and with her mane of highlighted blond hair, Trula was undoubtedly every bit the “Lioness” as she entered an exclusive boutique with her young daughter. One would have imagined she had frequented many of these places, but in fact, at this point in her career and life, this was way above the usual shopping she would have indulged.
Aspen was well tanned and in the expected and usual beach garb, yet there remains the question of whether a trained and sophisticated employee’s eye could have identified them as “simply tourists.” Without the jewels and couture’ outfits which the other patrons wore, they might have been easily identifiable as ‘just looking’..
Mother and Daughter Still Smiling
As life would have it, at that moment after just entering the establishment, my young granddaughter had a gut-grinding gurgle signaling the need to go to the bathroom. This was not just a need to urinate, but the need to’ urinate now.’ When her body calls no one can ignore it. Walking on the beach had moved things into play and there was no denying she had to go: now.
My daughter responded swiftly, advancing to the nearest counter where the beautifully coiffed’ sales person looked at her empty hands and disdainfully responded to the request for the bathroom as being “impossible”. ‘No public bathroom facilities were available’ she haughtily announced..
With Midwestern patience and plain spoken practice, my daughter explained to her that this was an ’emergency,not just a request’. She assured her that her young daughter needed to immediately go to a bathroom. The lady, who apparently relished in being ‘snooty,’ informed her there were no public restrooms in any of the shops in ‘this restricted shopping area’ and they would have to travel on down the boardwalk to an area provided for such needs.
By now Aspen’s squirm had turned to agonizing, doubled-over pain, and she was crying. Though begging her mother to get her into a bathroom, there now was no place or time to go there.
A last appeal in louder tones, was made by my daughter to the unaffected sales person who no longer made eye contact, looking past her at the potential sales customers. That was when it happened.
“Ohhh Mom” was heard and then there was utter silence. Splashed onto the floor of the swank, marble and glass, boutique was an unusually large, yellow liquid, puddle. Silence endured. Aspen’s shorts and legs were glistening with tell-tale streams of liquid.
My daughter was more angry than anything else. This could have all been avoided with a little common decency and compassion. And realizing how traumatized her normally shy daughter was going to be, my daughter rose to the occasion by doing the only right thing a mother in her position could do.
Fixing her eyes on the ‘well heeled clientele’ waiting near the counter, and then at the shocked and haughty sales lady, Trula said in a steely, calm voice, “I told you it was an emergency. Normally, I would at this point offer to clean this up and accommodate you for the accident that occurred, but your refusal to show a little compassion and make an exception for an emergency was wrong. So …. you can just clean it up yourself.”
I wasn not there, but I can imagine the Lioness with her head high and an arm around her eight year old daughter’s shoulders, walking out of that boutique. Her face would have been red , but I would guess it to be from indignation, not embarrassment. Her only concern would have been the ability of her daughter to process the events and not be harmed by the circumstances.
When my daughter relayed the story to me I could not help but flash back to a time in my childhood in Oklahoma when I saw another little girl, trapped by social prejudice and segregation of race, be forced into a similar situation. That young girl too, was not allowed to go into a bathroom. It was marked ‘white’s only’ when the ‘Colored‘ bathroom was labeled, ‘Out of Order’ (as it always was in that store.)
Whether or not my daughter and granddaughter would have been escorted to a bathroom ‘if the chauffeur was waiting and she was bejeweled,‘ I will never know. I do know, however, when social discrimination becomes a part of personnel training to the extent that compassion is not factored in, you get what you give: and you deserve it.
I also wish to note that in my life time, it would appear many things have not changed. It is still an ‘us and them’ mentality: and until we become a society of ‘we,’these stories will play out in different ways; with different prejudices as the catalysts. In years to come, my grandchildren will still be explaining prejudice to their children.
What kind of legacy is that?