Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Purse Named Google

Purses seem like such an older generation thing. Dig deep enough into your mother's, and you could find just about anything from calamine lotion to extra mittens to plastic silverware – and of course the list of “emergency” phone numbers. Youth doesn’t need all the junk our mothers and grandmothers lugged around “just in case.” (The cellphone, which is also a camera, fits in a pocket; credit card in another pocket; combs are for coifs, not for today’s hip-without-appearing-to-work-at-it hair). Of course, I’m not Youth... so I’ve struck a balance: the purse with all its crap follows me around but stays in the car.

These days the bag I reach into when I need something is Google. My brain is the pocket containing bare essentials, the Internet is the big purse holding the rest. Can’t think who said that quote you want to use? Need a recipe for pupusas? Forgot that “old saw” your gramma used to say? Looking for the lyrics to some obscure song? Need a building plan for a storage shed? It’s all in the purse named Google (or Dogpile or AltaVista or MetaCrawler).

I wonder how long it will be before my brain follows me around but stays in the car.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Fire in the Woodshed

Birdsfoot Trefoil photographed by

My mother once told me I had a great-uncle who played fiddle at barn dances, and that he had a red mustache. The growth on his upper lip was the first red hair anyone could remember in our family; it found its way to her head and then to mine.

To be a redhead early in the last century was not considered a blessing, and during her school years, my mother had to endure a lot of hair-inspired taunts:

“Carrot top!”
“Red-head, red-head, fire in the woodshed!”

Maybe the teasing toughened her, because years later - during the era of black cars - Ma bought a cream-colored Chevy convertible with red leather top and upholstery. It caused quite a stir, but no more so than that red hair flying in the breeze as she drove.

And then I arrived, equally cursed. For some reason, kids my own age pretty much ignored my carrot top, but my mother's generation still seemed to enjoy exclaiming, "Oh! A RED-head!" when they would meet us. One Easter my mother dressed me in pink, provoking a neighbor woman to call out for all the world to hear, “Don’t you know you should never dress that child in pink?! She’s a red-head !”

As I got older, things got a little easier thanks to Charles Shultz. “The Little Red-headed Girl” in Peanuts was the object of Charlie Brown’s affections. She never had any other name, but boyfriends in my youth called me by hers.

My landlady back in 1975 was ninety years old, white haired and deaf. (The latter characteristic, by the way, is a desirable quality in a landlady). She had moved to the house we then rented in the winter of 1919, bringing herself and her belongings by sleigh. One day she beckoned me to her side of the house and then upstairs to her bedroom, opened a dresser drawer, and produced a cardboard box containing a beautiful long braid of red hair. She had cut it off in the 1920s (as was the fashion), and she laughed and said that her husband didn’t speak to her for a week afterwards!

These days there are redheads everywhere you look. None of them quite match the glorious natural auburn and gold mix that was once mine (and my mother’s), but the bottled option does offer some exotic shades of purple and blood which would have certainly interested me in my teens.

Why the rush to red? I’m betting it's because women recognize that Charles Schultz and my landlady's husband are not unusual: boys have always loved red hair. “Red-head, red-head, fire in the woodshed!” You bet!!!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Okay, which one of them is Eve...?