PATTY JANE KEPT a drawer full of cotton bandanas spritzed with dimestore perfume - Tabu and Evening in Paris and, occasionally, My Sin, which I thought was a chic as chic could get. I helped out at the House of Curl after school and on Saturdays. Whenever anyone stank up the place with a permanent wave, I would be called upon to distribute the bandanas and tie them carefully, the way a nurse ties a doctor's surgical mask, over the nose and mouth of our customers. Everyone in the shop wore them (except for Clyde Chuka, the manicurist, who said Tabu gave him a worse headache than permanent-wave solution) so that the room looked overtaken by a bunch of Old West bandits assembled for a Dippety-Doo heist.
"Scented kerchiefs are one of the nice touches that separates our establishment from the others," Patty Jane often said. Other nice touches included homemade banana bread served with coffee to women basting under hair dryers; pale green smocks monogrammed with the initials of our regulars (we kept a supply of less personalized smocks--"V.I.P" and "First Lady"--on hand for walk-ins); and harp concerts courtesy of my Aunt Harriet, whose accompaniment to my bandana distribution was always the William Tell Overture.
Patty Jane, my mother, was big on nice touches.
"For cripes' sake," she said, "if you can't be a class act, why bother?"
She studied what society news was to be found in the Minneapolis Star as if she were a candidate for a PhD in High Living; she drove her rattly old DeSota around Lake of the Isles, picking out mansions she would live in were her inheritance more sizable than a pair of turquoise cuff links and an incomplete set of 1947 World Books; she tried on designer dresses at Dayton's Oval Room and Powers and then had my grandmother sew up copies on her heavy black Pfaff sewing machine.
"Just because my life began in the bargain basement," she said, "doesn't mean I can't take the escalator to Fine Crystals."
Truth be told, if my mother were to spend any time in Fine Crystals, it was guaranteed something would break.
Excerpted from Patty Jane's House of Curl © Copyright 2012 by Lorna Landvik. Reprinted with permission by PUBNAME. All rights reserved.
Patty Jane's House of Curl
- Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Ivy Books
- ISBN-10: 0804114609
- ISBN-13: 9780804114608