When I was almost 21 and “legal” to finally tilt back the actual alcohol proof of my “long tall one” moniker, I was 9 months pregnant with my first daughter. Since becoming both a new wife and almost mother, the “long tall one” changed to “caution baby on broad” (yes I was the broad, along with my backside). It was okay with me, as there wasn’t anything I wanted more than a tiny warm bundle of ten toes and fingers which accompanied a button nose. It was ironic however, during that same period before I became documented in the eyes of the world, as a real grown-up, I also met the life I passed up for motherhood. You see, in those days you didn’t get to bite both sides of the candied apple unless you were irresponsible to the core.
Just before leaving for maternity leave, one of the older women at my job, joined into a conversation I was having. She was what my father referred to as “put away wet” and frankly, I think of her whenever I use that expression. She had lines in her face that had obviously taken up residency after a short visit, and real red hair, which had seen better days – the flame faded almost as much as her eyes. Her name was “Loretta,” and she was the only Loretta I have ever known, so again, she became the standard for that name to this day. When the Beatles belted out “Sweet Loretta,” I laughingly wonder how they knew her, because indeed she did get it when she could. You see, Loretta had been a real Playboy Bunny. Our brief conversation was never repeated, but it changed something in me that day, and frankly at almost 200 pounds of me and baby, there was already a whole lotta changing going on.
My generation was really the last one, where girls were told they didn’t need college; they needed a wedding ring and a family. I know I thought about more, I wanted to be a lawyer like Perry Mason, at the last moment saving the day by finding the secret evidence. But the evidence found me instead. I was to marry a Mr. Dad liked him, birth 3 daughters in the town where I was born, and live in a house only a few miles from my parents. 50 years later, my case would be closed. Loretta however lived a life I could only imagine. The key here as I saw it, was she had “lived,” and as she remembered stories over coffee, her key shined gold and had a bunny on it.
A single Loretta lived in Chicago, at the same age I was that day; she had poured her curved measurements into a green satin bunny suit, flipped up a powder puff tail and checked her cuffs and reputation at the door every night. Each tale that day unfolded life into her eyes and color to her face. She even sat at an angle on her chair, and laughed saying once you learned the “Bunny Dip,” you never sat or bent down the same way again. That wasn’t just an idle comment either, because she lifted her shirt and showed us the scars on her sides where years of green satin envy left their mark on a young girl, who paid more than her dues for this late in life show and tell experience. I remembered her later that night, when I saw stretch marks across my own extended stomach, which kept me from dipping at all, gracefully or otherwise.
I realized then, in my not yet valid adult intelligence, there is a price for any dream, regardless of how it appears to someone outside of our lives and it marks us. Whether we set up home in an average hutch or run fast as a bunny to something we think is better. There are lasting scars and disappointments along the way, which help determine if we measure up.
Over the years, as a divorced and working mother in high level jobs and top business clients, I was able to touch some of the magical green satin and glitter that Loretta poured into my imagination so many years before. I’d be a liar if I didn’t say it was wonderful! Dean Martin, who still melts my heart with every song, said it best, “Ain’t that a kick in the head.” The rush of excitement, boosted with an ego driven adrenaline dip, into an unknown arena of fun and debauchery has no better definition. However, that being said, even dipping your foot into the deep end of the pool, the end result is not to get too wet, have a good time and maybe, just maybe meet up with the lifeguard for dinner. No matter which direction we end up going, none of us really ever want to end up going it alone. When it is all said and done, we are just looking for some bunny to love if we admit it or not.
My years have faded, much like Loretta’s curves and red hair, and so have my stretch marks and the what if dreams on my road not taken. I often wonder what happened to that Playboy Rabbit, long past being a Bunny, who went home alone for as long as I knew her and I hope she eventually found love to keep her feet warm at night. Personally, I have failed more than I want to admit on that mission myself, but having my daughters and now grandchildren in my life, I do know a taste of that illusive love, and have had it snuggled up in my lap, covered in dirt, bubbles and glitter depending on the moment and have wiped everything from cookie crumbs to blood away, with the loving hand of patience. I too have been put away wet more than once, but it had nothing to do with thrills, usually from chills after being peed on, splashed on or had inclement weather attack, as I protected my keep.
Regardless the curves given to Loretta and me in this life, I think we stayed the course and ended up with a life we knew best even if it wasn’t always hopping down the bunny trail.
Check out my new book, “My Life Has Been A Waist”