by Judith Allen
Our Millie learns a lesson in fashion as she attends the Consolidated High School.
|In which we meet the snooty Ima Rae Beare, fight the battle of Poodle Skirts and crinolines and learn that fashion is more important some places than others, and rescue the UPS delivery that caused the trouble.
Our Millie used to say that some things aren't important unless you think about them too much or you don't have them and some snooty person keeps rubbin' it in your face.
The year Our Millie started at the Consolidated High School on the other side of the mountain turned out to be the one in which most of the girls in the Freshman class engaged in a battle that no one could have thought about except for the actions of that snooty Ima Rae Beare who started it all.
In August Our Millie and Pearlie Gates were walkin' down the road talkin' about startin' high school and how it was goin' to be fun and scary and who would they meet, would any boy like them and what would they wear the first day of school, when a big brown truck with the letters UPS on the side slowed beside them and the driver asked for the Beare address. Our Millie and Pearlie Gates were surprised 'cause the only deliveries in the area came from the Post Office or Mr. May in his beat-up truck from town. But the Beares always thought they were better than anyone and would have their deliveries done special. The girls told the driver the address and after briefly wonderin' what was in the package they forgot about it and started talkin' about the camp revival that weekend and guessin' who Preacher Joe would be out to save.
When school started Big Mil wanted to make sure her girl was lookin' her best so she took some money she was savin' for a rainy day, decided it wasn't ever goin' rain and took Our Millie shoppin' in town. This was so new to Our Millie that she kept lookin' for the Sears and Roebuck catalog along the way.
Big Mil bought Our Millie new saddle shoes and bobby socks, a blue cotton sweater set and a poodle skirt with fancy stitching that stood out along the leash and collar. She also bought one crinoline.
Our Millie was lookin' pretty good that first day, and even Pearlie Gates said so and she always found fault with everything. When they got to school and were walkin' down the hall everything was still good. That was until, just like the parting of the Red Sea, the girls in the hall stepped aside and stared at one girl as she sashayed on her way. She wore a poodle skirt, but it wasn't very flat. It seemed to poof out more than others. Then they understood. One crinoline wasn't enough. That snooty Ima Rae Beare was wearing at least two. The poodle skirt and crinoline war had begun.
The war raged on. Each day it seemed there were more crinolines appearing in the hall and more poofy skirts. Some of the girls had trouble walking and the skirts stood out so far that when they tried to sit in their seats they could hardly fit behind their desks. The teachers were getting concerned and the boys just didn't understand what was so important about the fashion statement and watched in wonder to see if any of the crinolines would slip down.
Big Mil didn't want to buy more crinolines but she didn't want Our Millie to be left out either. So, it happened that Our Millie ended up with three crinolines and that looked alright, even though Pearlie Gates borrowed another one from her cousin Betty and so she had four. Ima Rae Beare must have had at least six but she just smiled and flounced her skirt around.
The crinoline war simmered down a bit. Then that snooty Ima Rae Beare came to school one morning making the next statement, and the girls parted again in the hall and watched in envy and awe as she strutted by. She had a rich aunt in New York City, she said and she had sent her clothes in boxes by UPS. Pearlie Gates and Our Millie looked at each other and wished they had sent that UPS man up Painter Holler where old Mr. Riggles and his mean huntin' dogs lived. Anyway, her aunt always took her places and filled her head with stories about bein' a model and gettin' rich. And on this particular day she shocked the Freshman class girls by wearin' a straight navy blue skirt with a pleat in the back. She wore a pink angora sweater set and a string of pearls, and she kept jinglin' around a charm bracelet with all kinds of charms on it. Our Millie had a bracelet too, but it only had a little guitar from Nashville, a sandcastle from Myrtle Beach and the US Capitol from her eighth grade trip to Washington D.C. Ima Rae Beare even wore little black Mary Jane shoes and lacy anklets. Our Millie took one look and fell in love with the whole outfit.
In a few months Our Millie had a birthday. Because she had moped around the house since she came home the day of the straight skirt, and hated her poodle skirt and threw her extra crinolines on the floor and kicked them under the bed, Big Mil had an idea of what she might want. She got a charcoal gray straight skirt and a white angora sweater set with little flowers on the collar, a pair of Mary Janes and lacy white anklets which weren't nearly as comfortable as her saddle shoes and bobby socks but she would never admit that. She proudly wore her own charm bracelet and jingled it as much as she could when she walked down the hall. She also kept a bit of white angora in a drawer in case she got a boy-friend and he gave her his class ring and she could wrap it and wear it on her finger. Pearlie Gates had tried to out-do her, but Our Millie didn't care. She felt beautiful.
Time went by and poodle skirts and bobby socks were forgotten. Crinolines lay limp in the bottoms of closets. Our Millie never knew what happened to Ima Rae Beare but she has her skirt and sweater set hanging in the back of her closet to this very day.