It was a brown, imitation-wood, cardboard closet with two narrow sliding doors - that kept my secret.
My sister Bev and I shared our tiny bedroom and even a tinier closet.
Bev worked part-time and had such pretty clothes for college. I was just entering High School and searching for my identity. I began to look into the mirror and see me. I wanted to become pretty.
Fern, my dearest friend and I, decided it was time for us to explore the world and to go to our first dance. Each Saturday night, in the nine- teen fifties, the Jewish temples in Brooklyn desperately tried to play matchmaker. And now we too, were ready to join all the other nice Jewish girls, hoping to meet that nice Jewish Boy.
But, I had nothing pretty to wear. Bev had just left the house to go to a movie with her future husband. The cardboard closet doors were beckoning me. I dared to try on the new Alice blue blouse mom had bought Bev for Chanukah. It was beautiful, satin, long sleeves; French cuffs with a double collar. It looked so luxurious with the long circular black velvet skirt Bev had sewn for herself and had now given to me.
With Bev's future mother in law’s discarded old sued platform high heel shoes, stuttered with fake jewels - and my solitaire pancake make up, green eye shadow and green mascara, I was ready to become me. I was now “Babs” not the shy “bobbie.”
Two flowers trying to escape the walls. Fern and I had a great time counting how many guys asked us to dance. We secretly brought our Chesterfield cigarettes and began to puff imitating the movie stars of the nineteen fifties. Clumsily, I fidgeted with the match. Until I began to smoke, I was too scared to even light a match. But now the new “Babs” had to learn that treacherous act of striking a flame! As I took a puff of my cigarette, a spark flickered on to the light blue cuff and burned a tiny whole in her new blouse.
What would I do - What could I do - I would die, at least Bev would kill me. A tiny whole in her new Alice blue blouse. I had no money to buy her another blouse or to run away. Where could I hide? If I was Christian I could join the Salvation army but I couldn't play the trumpet or sing - If I was French I could have joined the Foreign Legion and escaped to some far off land, but I was probably too young and I didn’t speak French. What does a Jewish girl do? Perhaps, if there would have been a Kibbutz, I would have escaped to Israel. No one wanted me -
We ran to Fern's house and asked her mom if she would hide me. Mrs. Friedman, from behind her round-rimmed glasses, her blue eyes wide, had an idea. "Turn the cuff inside out! We'll reverse it!" she suggested.
Painstakingly we cut each thread and reversed the cuff. We ironed the blouse, hurriedly ran to my home and stuffed Bev's blouse back into our cardboard closet.
Bev wore that blouse for many years. She looked so eloquent in it. Each time she put her hand into the sleeve, I quietly left the room. A dagger went through my heart but I never showed her Babs’ emotions. I must play the role of shy Bobbie and she won't ever guess.
Last Passover, we reminisced about our teenage years. I asked her if she remembered her blue satin blouse “That blouse, the one mom bought as a Chanukah gift for me? You know I never wore satin, especially such a shiny satin, but I didn’t want to hurt mom’s feelings. Why didn’t you tell me? “She laughed. “We would have had a great excuse to give it to the thrift shop!”
We laughed so terribly hard – Little did we realize it would be our last good laugh together