Born and Raised – The Redux

Even in the bewildering epoch between childhood and womanhood, she knew her home was not home. Once a month, Sam found herself dragged along to her mother’s hair appointment. Parked in one of the bright green Naugahyde chairs arranged like fence posts bordering the rectangular reception area of the salon, Sam would sit and wait. She couldn’t help but notice issues of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and BAZAAR scattered atop the glass and chrome table in the center of the area. Observing others casually leafing through magazines as they waited, she eventually mustered the courage to snatch one for herself and thumb through it. She became obsessed at what she found within the two-dimensional world of international style and fashion.

Saturated in whispers of small-town gossip from the cackling hens, rays of sun flooding through the picture window, and waves of nicotine haze from the parade of Virginia Slims that assaulted her coming and going, she could escape to Paris for fashion week, the beach for the latest swimwear designs, or Cali for a preview of the latest North Beach Leather line from Michael Hoban. His glassy, colorful, and new age second-skin creations captivated her best. She eagerly awaited the “Fall Fashion Preview” headline that was plastered over the covers of the lobby rags at the tail-end of each summer. She was nearly desperate to see what new lustrous eye candy he’d dreamed up and the models who brought it all to life.

Sam never knew what it was about leather specifically, but the lighting, angles, and action of the photos appeared otherworldly—a world she desperately wanted to see for herself. All of it was so foreign to her current circumstance or future prospects. She could scarcely believe any of it was happening anywhere on the same planet where her mundane life was plodding forth.  

The magazines stoked a smoldering desire to see anything beyond the 5 state Midwest region consisting of WI, MN, ND, SD, IA (and sometimes IL) that had so far confined her. It bewildered Sam that her parents would venture as far as the Black Hills on a summer road trip, when it would’ve been quicker to drive to Thunder Bay—it wasn’t another planet, but at least it was another country. As it was, Eau Claire seemed like a bucolic gulag. 

 In nearly every sense, Sam was more backpack-Europe than college material. In sixth grade, standing in her choir robe in front of the congregation at Concordia Lutheran Chruch, she looked up toward the heavens and dreamed of the bustling hostels, breathtaking vistas, and historic beauty. Under her bed, she kept a secret wish book—in actuality, a three-ring-binder nabbed from her father’s office—chocked full of clippings from the magazines at the hair salon. Before her mother announced they were going to the salon, she would slide a pair of scissors she’d lifted from school into her jeans or coat pocket. Leafing through the pages, if she saw an image she coveted, she’d surreptitiously slice along the spine, tear it out, fold it ever-so-gently, and pocket it. Even when she was old enough to stay home alone, she eagerly accompanied her mother to the salon to see what new magazines adorned the glass table.

Back at home, she’d sneak into her father’s office and use the three-hole punch to make the requisite puncture and add it to her wish book. On any given evening after lights-out, with flashlight in hand, she’d flip through photos of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and the bridges and canals of Amsterdam. Leather-clad models strutting the catwalks of Paris, Rome, and London broke up the monotony of European landmarks.  To Sam, it all seemed as wonderful as it was impossible. 

For years, she lusted after her own private European adventure to commence the minute she received her high school diploma. She even squirreled away every penny she earned in a shabby cigar box that she hid under her bed next to her bursting Euro fantasy binder. But the drudgery of a diabolical Scandinavian-Lutheran upbringing slowly wrung the wont for adventure right out of her.

In one way or another, Sam was destined for Eau Claire and Eau Claire was destined for her. An insistent mother and overbearing father pleaded with her to accept Tony’s proposal of marriage. Brow-beaten by her folks and convinced, due to a lack of collective imagination, that Tony was the best she could do, she let go the last vestiges of her vagabond soul. Sam would settle for the arrogant undersized brute who, like a used car salesman, fast-talked her into a cheap and broken-down marriage. Apparently, she was fated to become Mrs. Anthony Wolf of Eau Claire, WI.

Excerpt from All or Nothing Girl, the forthcoming novel from Blake Charles Donley

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