Please Note: This is a true story, but I have changed the names to protect the privacy of the people involved.
My friend Sara, who was almost 7 years old, was visiting and we were decorating our own fancy paper to write letters on…She loved to come over to my house to make holiday cards and write letters, bake cookies for people, and wrap presents…and do all manner of girly things like try on hats from my collection, sample perfumes, make her own jewelry, learn to sew, and one of her favorites, of course, dress up and experiment with clothes and hairstyles.
She has very long brown wavy hair. She lives with her dad and he is not the best hairstylist! In fact, he was going to cut her pretty hair off just so he wouldn’t have to detangle it. My father did that to me when I was about her age and it nearly caused my mother to leave him. They had a terrible long fight. I was certainly traumatized by the experience, but that is another story. I have always identified the experience with being scalped!
To avoid such a mishap in this little girl’s life I offered to teach Sara to take care of her own hair. She should learn to do this and she should understand that it is beautiful and her own unique asset. I showed her pictures of Dorothy Lamour too, so that she could see how one lady had kept her long brown hair as her trademark over her entire life. Their hair is very similar.
Sara thought Dorothy Lamour was very glamorous! I think it is good to introduce little girls to appropriate role models. Dororthy Lamour is one of my personal favorites! Keep in mind, this is Lady Violette speaking, and I like classic vintage style, so I identify feminine beauty with the actresses in old black and white movies. Do you not agree with me that they are quintessentially more glamorous than Mily Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan?
Sometimes Sara spends a weekend at my house. If so, in the evening, we wash her hair, comb it out, part it down the middle and let it air dry in it’s natural wavy patterns. It is thick and about three feet long. Isn’t she lucky? While her hair is drying we do crafts or watch a movie. She generally picks out the movies. Her favorites are The Adams Family movies, especially The Adams Family Values, which I also think is hilarious. My favorite scene is the one in Morticia and Gomez’s Favorite Bistro when Angelica Houston burns up the floor dancing the tango. Morticia also has long beautiful dark hair!
Sara likes to go into my closet and pick out something to wear. I like to just stand back and watch to see what what happens. One of her typical selections was a long white cotton and lace Victorian Style nightgown, a set of two very long flapper necklaces hanging down the front, and a pair of vintage purple satin high heels that were treacherously high and too long. All in all, the effect was mesmerizing! Especially because she later fell asleep in this delightful ensemble while reading a book in a big armchair with her feet, in the violet ballroom dancing shoes, propped up on a giant overstuffed footstool! A version of Sleeping Beauty!
Sara’s father doesn’t like me. He is not really a friend of mine, she is my friend. I met her through an adult girlfriend whose husband knows her father. When I heard about the situation my girlfriend and I decided to help this little girl out. Her father is an investment specialist of some kind. Young and apparently successful financially. He seems very rushed and very wound up all the time.
Apparently he was married to her mother, but that didn’t work out and he ended up taking the daughter when she was a baby! He has raised her, but he lacks skills in The Feminine Arts! He doesn’t see this as a problem. When women are around his daughter, they do! She is not learning the basic skills women learn from other women which they need in order to survive and succeed in this world. Her dad pooh poohs these skills saying they are valueless and she doesn’t need them. He says, “I’m teaching her other things, she won’t need those!” He implies that he means that he will eventually be teaching her to play the stock market and manage real estate, and plan corporate take overs and other things like that.
When I met Sara, at age seven, she had not learned any of that yet! Nor could she have cared less. I asked her where her dad worked and what he did and she didn’t know! She had never gone to work with him or anything. My girlfriend and I asked him if she might spend a weekend with us sometime, hanging out, baking cookies and the like. He emphasized that she didn’t need to learn that kind of thing, but he thought that would be okay. The fact is, and we know it, he sees us as willing to “babysit” his daughter for free so he agreed to let her come. The first time I picked her up on a Friday afternoon for an overnight, I had to search him down to return her on Sunday night at 10PM! I had offered to have her over for one night, but he left her and disappeared for the entire weekend. He didn’t call to check in and he didn’t return my calls – until he was ready! This was okay because she was safe, and she was not any trouble, but it was not the arrangement. I was having her over for her sake, not to help him out with childcare. However, his behavior made the fact that she needed it all the more apparent. He had such a sense of entitlement! He just expected I would entertain his little girl and take good care of her until he decided to show up to reclaim her. He didn’t call to check on her and see if she was happy or wanted to come home! Shockingly, he expected me to pay for everything too. She came with no spending money and no overnight supplies, or clothes, no hairbrush, not even a toothbrush. She just arrived. Remember, she was just a seven year old.
She was in desperate need of attention. She had not had a bath or shower for at least 3 or 4 days. Her long hair was dirty and tangled, her dress was wrinkled and limp and she had been wearing the same shoes, socks and underwear all week. Her fingernails needed trimming and filing. She looked bedraggled. Like a little waif! But she was really excited! This was like going to heaven for her.
I got her to my house, suggested she take a shower and we wash her hair and made that a part of getting ready to bake for the evening. I said we needed to be really clean for the baking process. That worked. I could tell she felt much better afterward. She was shy and self-conscious earlier. I could see that she felt insecure about looking so bedraggled.
My grown up girl friend who had introduced us came over after work and we did end up baking cookies that night. That good wholesome old fashioned activity that totally grounds you! We had a blast! And there was nothing cuter that seeing seven year old Sara standing on a wooden kitchen step stool, with an apron on, mixing cookie dough and happy as can be. She was laughing and cracking jokes and turned out to be hilarious. This was the first time in her life that she had ever baked! No one had ever done it with her before. Now, in my book, that is child deprivation! She loved doing dishes too! She hadn’t ever done that either! Somebody she has never seen comes into their apartment and cleans when she is at school and her father is at work. Wow!
That weekend in addition to hair washing and styling, and baking, we also watched movies, including The Adams Family, Adams Family Values, and Les Miserables, which she loved. We did our nails, and tried on vintage hats, and made homemade cards and stationary with rubber stamps. She had never done any of these things! She also accidentally spilled almost an entire bottle of Violetta de Parma eau de toilette all over herself not realizing you only need a tiny dab to smell good!
By Sunday afternoon, Sara had been with me almost 48 hours. We still had not heard from her father. He was a full day late in arranging to get her back and he hadn’t even called. She was not a bit worried. In fact, honestly, she probably was happy about it! I, luckily, was able to hang out with her and had nothing else scheduled. We were crafting with rubber stamps and I suggested we make some of our home made greeting cards for some people we mutually knew – a couple of grownup women friends of mine who were aware of this little girl’s situation and would be appropriately delighted to receive a card she made. She was all for this idea and we mutually decided to put some of the cookies we had made in little bags for them as well! Everybody likes to receive a gift of homemade cookies, right? This project took us the rest of the afternoon…
We were drawing and writing on cards when, suddenly, Sara looked up at me and asked me, “How do you spell Gorgeous?”
And I spelled it out ” G_O_R_G_E_O_U_S” slowly and clearly.
Then as she finished writing it, she said, innocently, “I don’t know how to spell it, I just am it!”
And she was right! Next card please!
She diligently thought of people who might want them and made cards and packages of cookies for another four hours! I taught her how to tie several kinds of bows.
Then we tackled her long hair again. We brushed it a hundred strokes and I braided it for her and I explained that it would not get tangled if you slept with it in braids and that doing so had the additional benefit of making it really wavy and pretty when you took them out in the morning! She decided she would try sleeping with her hair in braids that night.
She had been with me since 4PM Friday afternoon and her father finally called back at 10PM on Sunday evening! He wanted to know if he should come and get her? (Or what?) I said, “Yes!” really fast , not giving him a chance to suggest an alternative. He arrived about an hour later. By now she had been with me for 55 hours! It had been supposed to be a Friday night overnight with a Saturday afternoon end! He had not even checked in! I had left several messages on his service.
Of course she was very excited to show him what we had done when he arrived. She dragged him into the kitchen showing him two plates of home made from scratch cookies sitting on the counter. She made him try them. She took him into the dining room and showed him the rubber stamping projects. She showed him the notecards and the cookie packages, now tied up with pretty little ribbon bows that I had helped her to make. She showed him the movies we had rented and watched. And she showed him my box of nail polish colors and her brightly painted toes and fingernails. She told him, but she really didn’t need to, that she was wearing violet perfume. She fluttered about giving him the full report of our girls retreat weekend and a full tour of my home. I might note she gave the tour as if it were now her home as well!
She made her dad wait in the living room while she went into the bedroom to put something on to surprise him. I wondered what that was going to be! When she came out she was wearing a vintage hat from I.Magnin! She had decided to model my 1950’s Italian Straw and Velvet Turned -Upside Down-Flower-Pot-Hat with furry pipe cleaner vines and velvet leaves, trimmed in a large pink silk rose! She came running out saying “This is my favorite one! This is my favorite one!” and laughing at how cute and funny she thought it was! And she added, “It is from Paris! And Ladies used to wear hats like this! ” She was bubbling over…
She was delighted and she was delightful! I was delighted too. We girls had had a great time!
Perry is his name, and he was not. He said, “That’s very funny, but it’s getting late and you should get your things together and we should go. Im sure Violette has other things to do.” (It’s getting late? What things? Where was he yesterday? He hadn’t sent her with anything! And I suddenly might have other things I needed or wanted to do with my time? Wow! Again!)
We had put her clothes through the laundry so she was wearing them clean when she left. And we had packed up her cookie and card gifts for people in a shopping bag with handles. And I had given her a few goodies to take home. She went off to get them.
Perry turned around to me and said, “Well, I see you have her wearing nail polish and perfume! Don’t you think it is a little early for that? As if I won’t have enough trouble with her doing that at the normal time they do those things when she is about 12 or 13! ”
I said, “That’s too late, It is normal to do it at this age for fun and to learn how. It’s just for fun, anyway.”
He replied, “Well, She’s my daughter and that is not how I am going to raise her. She won’t be needing any of that stuff with what I am going to teach her……..
I said, “She will be best off if she gets exposed to both…”
He, “Her mother was like that and it was not a good thing!”
I wondered, “Was her mother a female female, who enjoyed being a girl? And then, perhaps, got married to Perry here, and got exposed to all his wonderful ideas and had a lot of conflicts and it didn’t work out? And he was very resentful, so he was taking it all out on Sara in this restrictive way? ” I could only surmise this, but it is, to be honest, what it looked like …
Anyway, he clearly hated people (especially women) like me!
They said goodbye, she gave me an enormous hug, I said I hoped we could do this again as I had had a great time, and they went home.
Perry never thanked me.
But he did allow Sara to come back as often as I was able to have her visit. And he always left her way over the agreed 24 hour time. I knew that would happen, as did my friends, so we tried to schedule her visits when having her for a whole weekend would not conflict with anything else. He never sent her with any supplies or provisions, spending money or gifts. He did send her to an expensive private school. He would drop her off there, in his black Mercedes, and leave her there all day, first for the school day, then with the after school daycare service, until they closed. He would pick her up, right at closing every day – about 6PM. She told me they would often eat dinner at Wendy’s or Jack in the Box. Then they would go home, to their apartment, he would sit right down to work on his computer. She told me that, the minute after they entered the apartment door, he took off his coat, threw it over a chair, walked to the dining room table, pulled his computer out of it’s case, sat down, turned it on, plugged himself in, and checked out. She would do her homework, and get herself ready for bed. She said they didn’t talk much because he was always on his computer. She said he was very involved in it and she found it really hard to get his attention to ask a question or have a discussion. So, she left him alone and tool care of herself. Eventually, she would go off to bed and he would still be up, working (or whatever he did) on his computer. She told me nobody ever came over.
This was one very lonely little girl and I vowed to have her over as regularly as I could to try to break her monotony and offer her some other other influences. I just wanted her to see there is other stuff out there!
About a year later, when she was eight, Sara gave me a beautiful snapshot of herself, at the beach, sitting on the sand in her little black tank bathing suit with her long wavy brown hair falling around her shoulders all the way to the sand itself! She looked like a little Ondine. in the picture! And her hair looked just as clean and long and beautiful as Dorothy Lamour’s. It is a really beautiful picture and I love it. Of course I have kept it.
Sara would be able to visit, and stay for entire weekends, because her father would dump her off to get rid of her. Sadly, he only saw us as a convenient and free childcare service. I say “we” because my sons were often involved. I was not going to say no if I could fit it into the rest of my life and make such a huge positive difference in someone else’s. I did this because I enjoyed doing it and I liked her. Of course she did not have a pet, so our dog Meko became the animal friend in her life. She loved him.
I eventually taught Sara to knit which she really enjoyed. Once she took it up there was no stopping her and she became quite proficient at figuring out more and more challenging knitting techniques on her own. She was a smart little girl. When I sent her home with knitting Perry was not enthused about it. He told me, “Knitting is a totally nerdy thing to do and a complete waste of time.” He would never finance knitting projects for her though he could well afford to. I provided her supplies and in spite of his attitude she became a dedicated knitter and worked at it almost every day. She was eventually making herself cute tams and scarves and leg warmers. And she loved to crochet lace edgings. This was just the creative outlet she needed and I’m sure it helped her deal with the stress of her home life. She had a lot of time to practice her knitting. And she was very focused. I have no doubt she will be a lifetime knitter.
I hung out with Sara quite regularly about once a month over the next five years. She was interested in the things any normal 11 to 12 year old girl is interested in. The last time I saw her we ran into each other at a Starbuck’s. She was with a girl friend from her school. She still had her lovely long brown hair. We talked quite a while. I did not get any indication that she was playing the stock market yet or interested in studying to do so. She did say she would like to take dance lessons. The friend she was with was doing that and she wanted to go too. Perry has not let her do that. He has reasons he thinks it is not a good idea. She also said she wished she had a bike. He had reasons not to get her one as well. I asked if she would like to get together and walk around Green Lake. She said yes, she would, and I said I would call soon to set up a time.
So a couple of weeks later I called her father’s office to arrange it. The weather was getting nice and I thought she might like to go to the lake with me and take a good long walk, have lunch, talk and catch up. I got one of Perry’s employees. I explained who I was and why I was calling. We had talked before, making arrangements for Sara’s pick up and delivery. She told me, “Perry sold the business. They’re gone.” I asked if there was a way I could get ahold of them. She said, “I talk to him now and then, I’ll tell him you called.” I said,”Okay.”
I asked who bought the business. She told me. It was one of the employees who has been there many years. A couple of weeks passed and I didn’t get a call back so I called the new owner and I asked her if she knew where they had gone.
She told me, “He moved, to the Cayman Islands and he took his daughter with him.” That was all she knew.
I haven’t received any return calls and I would be very surprised if I ever did.
I could only assume Sara was now living in the Grand Caymans with her father and, at age 12, (that preteen age he was so worried about! ), among other reasons, he has shunted her off there to get her as far away from all those things she won’t need to know anything about (like those damned Feminine Arts!) given all the practical life skills he is going to be teaching her….
I’d bet she didn’t know she would be moving there when we ran into each other that last time at Starbuck’s! Had she known she would have told me! I bet he surprised her with that news very close to departure time! Knowing him she wouldn’t even have had time to pack any belongings! I hope she’s okay…
But I am confident from what I saw at our last meeting, that, Dorothy Lamour and Lady Violette have had enough of a chance to have made a permanent impact! Sara is growing up to be a lovely young lady who, in spite of, Perry, has chosen to be gorgeous because she likes to be and she can tell that it is to her own best interest.
Perry emphasizes that he is an Investment Specialist and he values his financial prowess. I was investing in something else, her as a friend and as a person. I feel that the time I spent with her and the things we did together were worthwhile. I was making my kind of investment in her future.
I know my investment will pay off and Sara, in the long term, is going to be gorgeous!