Roberta's Brief Bio

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Charmed, I'm sure

I think there's something very charming about a settee.  Whenever I see one it reminds me of when I was 8 years old and my mother enrolled my older sister and me in a school for manners which was referred to as "charm school” (held in a banquet room at local department store). 

My mother was very charming and very proper.  She called a well-put-together outfit "smart" as if channeling Jackie-O. She thought sandals should never be worn with socks and that no one should wear white after Labor Day. I'm sure it really irked her to drive her old Dodge Dart in the winter because it was white.

My mother was suddenly widowed with five kids, and worked nights as a supermarket cashier just to hang on to our house and keep us in a very nice middle class New Jersey neighborhood. She was also determined to have kids with good manners, so she volunteered six weekends at the charm school so we could attend for free. Apparently, we needed to be taught poise (whatever) and grace (yeah, Ok) and to not throw food at each other (what can I say, Animal House was inspiring.) 

She let my brothers be rough and tough, but my sister and I had to be polite and quiet. Demure we were not. We'd have full-on hair pulling fights, hosted neighborhood cherry pit-spitting contests on our porch, (still reigning champ), rode dirt bikes in the woods and walked barefoot. 

By the time I was 8 years old my mother was fed up. 

At charm school we learned how to walk properly. (Apparently, you need to balance a hard-covered book on your head to do it correctly.) We also learned to set a table and how to sit like a lady—demonstrated by the teacher on a fabulous and charming settee... even back then I had an eye for great furniture.

For charm school graduation we had to bring in our favorite poem to recite. First, we modeled the store's clothes (to prove we learned how to walk). Then we sat (properly) on the stage until it was time to take the mic. Some proud parents heard their daughters recite Dickinson and Yeats. My sister recited Browning.

I was 8. I went another way:

It doesn’t breathe
It doesn’t smell
It doesn’t feel so very well
I am discouraged with my nose
the only thing it does is blows! ! --Jay Quaranta, third grade crush

What did my mother do? Lucky for me she giggled. And, me? I figured I was as charming as the teacher's settee.  

1 comment:

The Zhush said...

What a charming story!:) Not to mention all the lovely setees!

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