Jeanie Lou lived down the street from us. She and my older sister Margie were about the same age. We played together when her mother would let her. I don’t know where her daddy was. I never did see him at her house, and I never did ask her. I was afraid to ask because I thought he might be dead, and I didn’t want to make her feel bad if he was dead.
I asked my mother a couple of times if she knew where he was, but she just told me to mind my own business. I tried to mind my own business, but that was a hard thing to do. There were lots things going on in the neighborhood, and I wanted to keep up with the latest news.
“Ruthie, you are a very nosy little girl,” Mother said.
“No, I’m not nosy. I just want to know.”
“That’s the same thing, Ruthie.”
“Well, sometimes you listen when I am telling stories about the neighborhood.”
“I do not. Only if it’s about someone I know.”
“Well, you know everyone on the block, Mother.”
“Don’t get smart with me, young lady.”
“Yes, ma’am. I will try to be nice. But who will tell you if anything good happens?”
“Oh, my gosh, Ruthie! You are just impossible sometimes.”
I could see she was getting put out with me, so I thought maybe I better let it go at that. I knew she would listen if I found out something good. Daddy would not listen though.
“Ruthie, if you don’t have something good to say about people, then don’t say anything,” he said to me when I was spreading a little gossip. Then, he would get up and go outside. He just wouldn’t listen if it was gossip. I don’t think I ever heard my daddy say bad things about anyone. He just wouldn’t do it. That was a rule he lived by. He was an honorable man. His word was his bond.
I decided that morning when I got up that after school I would try to go down to Jeanie Lou’s house to play. When we were eating our oatmeal, I mentioned it to Mother.
“Can I go play with Jeanie Lou after school?”
“Why do you want to go down there?” Mother asked.
“Just to play,” I said.
“I guess you can for a little while. And you better be good.”
“Why do you always tell me that? I’ll be good.”
“I know you, Ruthie. That’s why I always tell you that.”
“Okay, I guess I have to always promise to be good.”
“Just don’t do anything to get you a spanking.”
I got ready to go to school and started walking. Margie was with me. It was a little bit chilly, but not really cold. We saw Jeanie Lou on the way to school, and I told her that I could play after school.
“Will it be all right with your mother if I come over to play?’
“Yeah. I already asked her, and she said it was all right. She said don’t mess the house up though.”
“We won’t mess the house up.”
“Can I go, too?” Margie asked.
“No, you can’t. Mother said just me.”
It was a long day in school, as usual. I wondered if I would ever like school. I really didn’t think I would. If I hadn’t been locked up there on that day, I could have found a lot better things to do. I knew that for sure. They said I had to go to school, and I had to do what they said. But, someday I would be old enough to tell myself what to do. That sure did seem like a long way off.
The day was finally over. The last bell rang, and I tried to see how fast I could get out of that place. I didn’t run though because I could get in trouble for running in school. You are not allowed to do anything fun in school. You can only do boring things in school.
I ran straight home and changed clothes. I was not allowed to play in my school clothes. As soon as I was dressed, I left to go to Jeanie Lou’s house. When I got there, I knocked on the door and Jeanie Lou let me in.
“What do you want to do?” I asked her.
“Let’s color for a while.”
“That’s fine. I like to color. What books do you have?”
“I’ll get them out of my room.”
She went to her room and got the color books. I couldn’t believe she had her own room. Boy, that would be nice! I shared a room with Margie and Junior. She came back with the books, and we sat down on the floor to color. We did that for about twenty minutes until we got bored.
“What do you want to do now?” she asked.
“I don’t know. We could just talk I guess.”
“That’s a good idea. What do you want to talk about?”
“Do you like school?” I asked.
“It’s all right, I guess. I’m not crazy about it,” she said.
“I hate school. There is nothing fun to do there.”
“I know. I want to be a beauty operator when I am old enough,” Jeanie Lou said.
“What exactly do they do?” I asked.
“You know; they cut ladies’ hair, and they give permanents.”
Jeanie Lou had real pretty hair. It was real long and wavy. It looked like shiny silk. I had wished a lot of times that my hair looked like hers. She told me one time that she brushed it one hundred times every night. That seemed like a lot of wasted time to me.
“You want to play beauty shop?” she asked.
“Sure. That sounds like fun,” I said.
“Let’s go into my room.”
“Okay. Let’s go!” I really wanted to see her room.
We went into her room, and it was real pretty. She had a dresser all her own with a mirror on it. I have to say I was a little bit jealous. I wished I had a room like hers.
“I will be first. You can do my hair, and then I will do yours,” she said.
“That sounds good to me. How do you want your hair done, ma’am?” I asked.
“I’m not sure yet. I think I would like a haircut and a permanent,” she said.
“You really want a haircut?” I asked.
“I really do. I would like to try short hair. You cut mine, and then I will cut yours,” she said matter-of-factly.
“You really mean it? You want me to cut your hair?” I asked again, not believing she meant it.
She opened the dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors. I was thinking I could get in real trouble for cutting her hair and for letting her cut mine. This could lead to a spanking. Then I thought, “Oh, well, if she really wants it cut, then let’s get started!”
“How do you want it cut?” I asked.
She took one long braid in her hand, held her fingers like scissors, and showed me where to cut it. She wanted it cut about to her shoulders. So, I just did what she told me to do. I snipped it right off. She looked at it and began to cry.
“I don’t like it like this!” she said.
“I don’t think we can put it back on,” I told her.
Then all of a sudden, I heard someone say, “What are you doing?”
It was her mother. She looked at me like she was really mad at me.
“I just did what Jeanie Lou told me to do. She wanted her hair cut.”
“No, I didn’t, Mother. She just cut it,” Jeanie Lou lied.
“She told me to. She showed me how to cut it,” I said.
“You get out of this house right now. I will be coming to see your mother.”
I was scared by then, so I ran out the door and went home. I knew I was going to be in trouble over that little incident. I just knew it. Why did Jeanie Lou lie to her mother? She knew she told me to cut her hair. She didn’t want to get in trouble; that’s why.
I ran in the front door. I found Mother and Daddy in the kitchen cooking supper. There was nothing else to do, so I just blurted the whole story out. I watched my mother’s mouth fall open. My daddy just smiled like it was not a big deal.
“Ruthie, I told you to be nice and not get in trouble,” Mother said.
“She asked me to cut it, Mother. I promise she did.”
“Why would she do that?”
“Because we were playing beauty shop.”
“What did she say to you?”
“She showed me on her braid where to cut her hair; then she gave me the scissors. And I cut it.”
Daddy just broke out laughing. Mother shot him a look that he better shut up. So he did, but he put his head down and was smiling.
“Her mother is coming to our house to talk to you.”
“That is just what I needed tonight, Ruthie.”
Just then, someone knocked on the front door. I knew who it was. Mother went to the door and opened it. Jeanie Lou was with her.
“I want you to look at what your child did to my daughter’s hair!”
“Ruthie said she told her to cut her hair.”
“She is a little liar. She just took the scissors and cut it.”
“Don’t you dare call my child a liar. When Ruthie does something wrong, she tells the truth. She said Jeanie Lou told her to cut her hair.”
“I told the truth, Mother. I would have taken the spanking if I did something wrong. But she told me to,” I said.
“I know you told the truth,” Mother said to me. Then turning to Jeanie Lou’s mother, she said, “I think you need to take your daughter home and try to fix her hair.”
Mother slammed the door in her face and went back to the kitchen. Daddy was still almost laughing, but he knew better. I followed her back to the kitchen. I thought that the time had come for me to get it. I sat down at the table and waited for Mother to say something. I just wanted to know if I was going to get a spanking or not. If I was, then I wanted to get it over with.
“Am I gonna get a spanking, Mother?”
“Ruthie, I know you knew better than to cut her hair.”
“I wasn’t really gonna cut it, but she told me to. I asked her twice before I cut the braid off. We were just playing, Mother. I’m not lying.”
“I know you are not lying. I can tell when you lie. Plus, you came home and told us before she got here. You have always been good about admitting it if you did something bad.”
“I’ll take the spanking, Mother, but I just did what she told me to do.”
“You’re not going to get a spanking, but no movie for you this Saturday.’
“I would rather take the spanking. I’ll miss this week’s episode of the Lone Ranger.”
“I know all that, and that is why you don’t get to go to the movie this Saturday.”
Daddy looked at me as if he wanted to help me, but I guess he knew she was right. I missed the movie on Saturday, but Margie told me what happened. I don’t think I ever played with Jeanie Lou again. I saw her at school, and her hair was cut short – both sides. I think they moved not long after that happened. Daddy said I ran them out of town. Then he laughed. I was sorry that I cut her hair, but if you don’t really want me to do something, then you better tell me. She told me to cut, so I cut. And that was another fine mess in the life of little Ruthie.