WeWriWa—Mean Girls at Woolworth’s

7

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. For two more weeks, I’m sharing from the opening chapter of my recent release Little Ragdoll, a Bildungsroman (growing-up story) spanning 1959-74.

Adicia, four of her sisters, and their surrogate mother are at an uptown Woolworth’s, where they ran into some of the mean girls from the nice part of the Lower East Side. Though the Troys live just inside the boundaries of what was to become the East Village in less than ten years, they’re decidedly not as gentrified or well-off as these girls. One of them has just asked what 5-year-old Adicia’s name is.

***

“Her name is Adicia,” Emeline says. “It’s an ancient Greek name, the Latinate form of Adikia, who was a goddess.” Though Emeline typically bubbles over with her wealth of knowledge, she leaves out the fact that Adicia was named for the goddess of injustice because their parents thought it was an injustice to be saddled with a seventh unplanned child and yet another girl in a row.

“Ew, Greek mythology is so boring. I’d rather read fashion magazines and love stories, not stupid stories about made-up gods and goddesses thousands of years ago,” Linda Hopkins scoffs. “And I love having the same name as a lot of other girls. It means I’m popular and boys will pay attention to me.”

“Oh, people will pay attention to these losers too,” Karen Becker says haughtily.

***

The names booklet I found the Troy siblings’ names in claimed Adicia means “mal-treated.” When I looked up the name when starting over with this story so many years later, I found out it doesn’t exactly mean mal-treated, but the real meaning fit the intended symbolism just as well.


Adikia being beaten with a hammer by Dike, the goddess of justice.

WeWriWa—Mean Girls at Woolworth’s

7

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. For a few more weeks, I’ll continue to share from the opening chapter of my recent release Little Ragdoll, a Bildungsroman (growing-up story) spanning 1959-74.

Five of the six Troy sisters are at an uptown Woolworth’s to buy back to school supplies in 1959, but their shopping is delayed when they run into a bunch of mean girls from school. One of the mean girls has just criticized their decidedly non-trendy names.

Once again, no offense to women with the popular names of that era! I just used those names as an example of extremely popular Boomer girls’ names and don’t have anything against those names or the women who bear them.

***

“What’s the baby’s name, Eunice?  And the name Ernestine belongs on a smelly old lady who has fifty cats!”

“I’d much rather be the only Ernestine at school than lost in a sea of Lindas, Barbaras, Susans, and Debbies,” Ernestine retorts. “I like being unique.  At least no one will ever forget my name.”

“Our baby’s name is Justine,” Lucine says. “A very pretty French name.”

“What’s the little ragdoll’s name?” Nancy Jenkins asks.

***

When I created the Troys at thirteen, the only name I chose with any deliberate significance was Adicia. When starting over from scratch and memory so many years later, I realized four of the sisters have French names, and discovered the surname Troy is also French. So I made their father of 100% French Huguenot descent, and so proud of his ancestry he gave all his kids at least one French name. The ones who don’t have French forenames have French middle names, and a few have two French names.

WeWriWa—Mean Girls at Woolworth’s

7

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from the opening chapter of my recent release Little Ragdoll, a Bildungsroman (growing-up story) spanning 1959-74.

Five of the Troy sisters have gone to an uptown Woolworth’s with their surrogate mother, and have found a number of girls from their own neighborhood who also wanted to go uptown. They haven’t had anything nice to say about the girls or their family. One of them has just said 5-year-old Adicia looks like a dirty, ugly, torn-apart Raggedy Ann.

***

Adicia hides behind Emeline, too shy and scared to say anything.

“Do you have a boyfriend yet, Lucine?” Helen Johnstone asks. “All the boys are fighting over me and competing to ask me to the dances.  I guess nice boys prefer girls who wear new clothes and don’t live in tenements.  Imagine that.”

“Unlike you, I have more interest in school than getting a date,” Lucine says. “I want a real diploma, not my Mrs. degree.”

“Why do you and your raggedy sisters have such stupid old lady names?” Sharon George asks.

***

A largely unspoken irony of the names insult is that all the girls making fun of the Troy sisters have names which are now largely considered dated and middle-aged, no longer popular or fresh-sounding. (Nothing against those names or people with them, but you can’t deny a name like Barbara or Linda doesn’t exactly conjure up images of a young girl anymore!)

WeWriWa—Mean Girls at Woolworth’s

9

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from the opening chapter of my recent release Little Ragdoll, a Bildungsroman (growing-up story) spanning 1959-74.

Five of the six Troy sisters (13-year-old Lucine, 11-year-old Emeline, 7-year-old Ernestine, 5-year-old Adicia, and 6-month-old Justine) are uptown at Woolworth’s with their surrogate mother Sarah Katz, a barely-paid live-in servant who performs the housekeeping and childcare duties Mrs. Troy is too lazy and disinterested to do herself. At Woolworth’s, they’ve run into some nasty girls from the nice part of the neighborhood who also wanted to go uptown.

Now one of the mothers has something to say to Sarah, who defends herself as boldly as Lucine has been doing. Then one of the girls turns on little Adicia.

***

“How can you go out in public without long sleeves or a bandage covering that thing?” Mrs. Jones asks Sarah. “That’s not decent, particularly not for little children.  There’s no decent way to explain that to them.”

“Your attitude says more about you than me,” Sarah responds. “My girls know what my tattoo means, and they don’t think it’s shameful or dirty.  Are you uncomfortable to see evidence that not everyone has a life as perfect as yours?”

“Is this one starting kindergarten?” Barbara Stevens asks. “She looks like a dirty, ugly, torn-apart Raggedy Ann.”

***

In 1959, this really was a common attitude. Very, very few Holocaust survivors had written or spoken publicly about their experience, it wasn’t really taught in schools, people were not getting degrees in Holocaust Studies, and it made many born Americans uncomfortable to see evidence like Sarah’s tattoo. In the era of “what’s not nice we don’t show,” many survivors were told to cover their tattoos, or did so themselves, to avoid awkward questions or looks.

There’s a chapter in Livia Bitton-Jackson’s memoir Hello, America, where the rabbi/principal at her religious school tells her the parents are very upset she told their children the truth about her tattoo. He seriously thought she should’ve told them it was her phone number, even though that would’ve made her seem a madwoman.

WeWriWa—Mean Girls at Woolworth’s

5

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m still sharing from my recent release Little Ragdoll, a Bildungsroman (growing-up story) spanning 1959-74.

Five of the six Troy sisters have gone uptown to Woolworth’s with their surrogate mother for back to school shopping, but they’ve run into a number of the snooty girls from school. These girls live in the gentrified northern area of the Lower East Side, which was less than ten years away from breaking away into the East Village. The Troys themselves live just inside the future East Village’s borders, but they’re definitely not gentrified or financially successful.

Not only do the girls have to deal with taunts about how poor they are, but they also have to endure the shame of having a father who didn’t serve in World War II.

This has been slightly edited to fit eight lines.

***

“Does that Kraut think she’s fooling anyone?” Linda Jones asks. “Just call her what she is, a slave who works for peanuts.  Maid and nanny, my eye.  I bet your dad the Kraut-lover hired her.  He shoulda been thrown in prison for sitting out the war, while all the rest of our dads served our country and did the right thing.”

“My father’s not some draft-dodger,” Lucine snaps. “He showed up when he was drafted, but he failed his medical tests. It’s not our fault he was 4-F.”

***

4-F was considered the most shameful, embarrassing draft deferment during World War II. Many 4-Fs tried to appeal it and be reconsidered, or applied to other branches in the hopes they’d be accepted there instead. Mr. Troy didn’t attempt to fight it and just went back to the box-making factory.