'Puttin' on the Ritz'

One of my mother's favourite stories

told to four young daughters

while driving to Grandma's house 

passing the miles away with riveting entertainment 

she, sitting in the front, angled round to the back seat

where we, all feet and elbows, are absolutely agog.


'It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in midsummer.

My girlfriends and I dressed up

to stroll the promenade by the river.

What you might call 'cruising' today, crudely.

I wore a new lipstick so red it made my hair even blacker.

I had drenched my pumps in white polish.

But, most of all, I wore my first pair of white kid gloves -

a huge expense for a nurse-in-training!

I thought I looked nice.'

(a raised eyebrow ...)

'I did look nice!

I was nineteen.


Well, we met some fellows we knew

with a new guy!

All of them really turned out too …

pressed suits, white collars and bow ties.

Ha!Ha! Even their shoes shone.

So they had been busy that morning.


Well, they stopped to chat

and, of course, to introduce the new chap.

Oh my! He was gorgeous!

I was smitten.

I made my eyes shiny and my voice real sultry

like in the movies.

I extended my little white-gloved hand …'

(She always acted this part out.)

'saying graciously, 'So pleased to meet you Mr. -------------


And a huge glob of gull poo plopped right into my palm!

Bull's eye!'


We all gasped right on cue.

'What happened then? Did everybody laugh?

'Was the guy Daddy?

'Oh – yeee-uck!'


We were practically crawling into her mouth

even though we'd heard this story dozens of times.

She always had a fresh word, or a new shape to her mobile lips -

a gasping little breath.

'Well, I don't clearly remember much after the shit hit.

Except the guy gave a whoop of laughter

and pulled out a huge hankie to wipe off my glove.

I wanted to die.

I couldn't look at him.

And his face just vanished from my memory.

I don't remember his name.

Whoever he was, he was a really decent chap.

No, it wasn't your father.

Although I still think he was one of 'the boys'.

He doesn't remember the incident, so he says.


At this point she always threw a sideways glance at Daddy

his attention split between the road and the narrative

enjoying the story as much as we kids were.


And then the finale, the summing up.

It never varied either.

'I learned a lot that day.

It doesn't pay to pretend.'

Here, she would swing right around to face us full front

no matter where the story was told.

'Girls, always be your own honest selves.

Clothes are just cloth hanging on  bones.

No kind of make-up is prettier than a real smile.

Stand tall. Think positive.

Brush your teeth and NEVER CHEW GUM!

You look like a cow chewing its cud!'

(This 'cud bit' kept me off gum for life)


Then, the secondary BIG ENDING

hitting the ball out of the park -

'Work your worth from the inside out!'

And we would rock back like a single unit

Square our shoulders - throw up our heads -

breathe like champions - long and deep 



At this point Dad's ears were always wiggling

and the car wheels a bit unsteady.

Our little dog drooled from lap to lap

digging dagger nails into our thighs

thrilled to be with the family going to the farm.

But we didn't mind.

We had a big towel on our knees

fields and cows and horses to watch

trees and flowers and fences.

A great story to think about -

to imagine when Mummy and Daddy were young!

Grandma was probably baking already.

Apple Pie! Just for us! 

And maybe some ice cream from the village shop. 


Life was good.

Life was really good.

I closed my eyes and whispered,

'Thank you, God.'



🌷 (2)

◄ The Farmer's Wife

Reflections on Humanity (and Other Things Too) ►


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Laura Taylor

Wed 16th Aug 2017 09:37

I absolutely love this Cynthia. The story-telling - my Dad was a natural story-teller too, and had so many of them to tell, each time embellished a little more. There are some exquisite lines in here:

We were practically crawling into her mouth
even though we'd heard this story dozens of times.
She always had a fresh word, or a new shape to her mobile lips

and the humour too - I did laugh 😃

The notion of empowering your daughters this way really moves me. I was never empowered, but I made damned sure my own daughter was.

This has brightened my morning, thank you.

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kJ Walker

Wed 16th Aug 2017 07:04

Loved it.
We have an expression (I don't know if it's just a local thing) for seagull incidents. "shit for luck". Never been more appropriate.
Cheers Kevin

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Frances Macaulay Forde

Wed 16th Aug 2017 02:35

Well, I certainly did enjoy it... thank you for sharing such a lovely atmospheric journey to grandma's house.

Your free verse has reminded me of one of my poems in my 1968 notebook - which I still have!
I'll share it and hopefully someone will enjoy it...

patricia Hughes

Tue 15th Aug 2017 23:45

Oh my oh my,I love it,makes me think of asking my mum to tell me about the olden days😁.

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Tue 15th Aug 2017 21:15

Evocative, nostalgic. . .I enjoyed it a lot. Loved it!

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Tue 15th Aug 2017 21:09

OK, I had to get it done - had to. I thought I might just burst if I didn't finally get it done. I know it's long, but someone might enjoy it a bit.

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