So Goldie moved to Charlotte in 1965….
This was a Big Deal back then when single women simply did not relocate for jobs.
But my Mother, as usual, took center stage.
“Goldie is moving to Charlotte. I don’t understand this at all,but I hear they have good shopping in Charlotte. We can go see Goldie and shop and buy things people in Danville don’t have and tell them we got it in Charlotte. They have malls! That will be so much fun! Of course we will stay with her and visit, but the shopping will be great”
Mind you, the only gene my family has in common is the “shopping gene.” We have can go generations without any commonality, we can have serious discrepancies in educational levels and political beliefs, but you say the word “shopping” and everyone falls in line.
One of our first trips was to buy my sister’s dress for the Little Miss Danville Pagent when she was “Miss White Swan Laundry.” Lou, my mother, must have looked at every party dress for a 4 year old in Charlotte. She settled on a pale green chiffon dress with about 75 crinolines at Ivey’s, that had bells, and was more pleased than if she had been a witness to the seconding coming of Christ.
We then went to see “The Sound of Music” at a theatre in Downtown, now Uptown, Charlotte, weeks before it came to Danville. She acted like she had been to Paris to buy clothes and London to see theatre.
She couldn’t wait to tell everyone she knew in Danville about her adventures. And this would only work because most people in Danville only left town to go to Myrtle Beach for a week in August….
Goldie settled into her job. She did her work. She accepted her new place and, I think, loved her new apartment. In Danville, she had had an apartment in an old house on West Main Street, near Averett College, in the Historic District. In Charlotte, she was in a one bedroom apartment in a new part of town. There was a drive in theatre behind her apartment and if you climbed on the kitchen counters, as I quickly discovered, you could see the movie for free over the fence in the back. You might not be able to hear it, but…..
And since my Mother only ever wanted to go places she “knew people” besides Myrtle Beach, Goldie’s new apartment became her vacation getaway.
Goldie would tell me of her travels. Of seeing Carol Channing in “Hello Dolly” in New York on Broadway. She had a walk in closet full of fashionable 1960’s clothes. She taught me the Twist and the Watusi. Lou could not have cared less….If it didn’t happen in Danville, it was irrelevant.
And Goldie struggled with the bridge between her old life in Danville and her new life in Charlotte. She missed her family but loved the new opportunities she saw…She struggled for balance.
I’ll never forget one visit to see her. A mutual friend of hers and my parents had stopped by. A traveling salesman. A real Don Draper….
I remember the night so well. My sister and I had been put to sleep on the rollaway bed, but I had gotten up and snuck into the kitchen to watch a movie over the fence at the Drive In. My parents had said it was a dirty movie, so I had to try to see it….
I heard my parents and Goldie talking in the living room. Since this was not in Danville, my Father was free to drink more than usual. Since it was not in Danville, my Mother actually had a few cocktails since “no one would know”. Her motto was always, “it doesn’t count if it’s out of town.”
Goldie was saying: “Arrington Callaway came by last week. He was too drunk to drive, so I let him stay. I let him have my bed and I sat by the bed in the chair all night listening to him talk about his life. He is such an unhappy man. I never dreamed…”
Now my mother had Southern Belle Simple down to an art form. Even before she got Alzhiemers, she could toss her earrings and put her head to the side and look at you in a way that made you believe absolutely nothing was going on behind her very fetching eyes. She worked it to her advantage, like no one else I have ever seen, well into her 60’s.
But the woman could also drop the mask and get down to brass tacks faster than anyone I have ever seen. And it was scary to watch the transition…..
My Mother Lou, who was on her third drink or so, said: “Did you sleep with him?” Goldie said, “No, of course not, his wife Susan is one of my oldest friends. I just listened. But I worry. Should I tell Susan?”
Lou looked at her and said: “That man is sex on a stick. Are you sure you didn’t sleep with him?”
Goldie said: “No. I swear.”
My Father, who had drunk himself into a stupor by then, piped in: “I knew you were a lesbian.”
Lou said to my Father: “You shut up. I’ll deal with you tomorrow when you are sober.”
To Goldie she said: “Listen, you aren’t married. You don’t know what it’s like. We all marry these hound dogs and it’s our job to keep them on the porch. If they wonder, we don’t ask too many questions. Susan knows what she got. Believe me. You did her a favor. Keep your mouth shut. If anyone knows about this, it will be blamed on you because you are a single woman over 30. You will be called a slut for letting the old dog in in the first place. I know because that’s just what we do. We always blame the woman. I put on my hat and gloves and went to see Herman’s boss and batted my eyes to stop his over night travels. Susan should have done the same. It’s more her fault than yours, but no one will ever see it that way. That’s life.”
I think that might have been the night Goldie realized how much distance she had traveled….
And over time, we went to see Goldie less as a family. Eventually, I would go see her alone or with my friends.
But Goldie always walked that tightrope between the old world in Danville and the new world in Charlotte. Charlotte was never home to her, but she know she knew Danville was no place for her at that time in her life. I’m not sure she ever found her place….
More to come….