July 4, 2003
What I Would Tell Her

Miss Fire Prevention ~ July 4, 1970

She's cute, isn't she? In that awkward, poise-challenged, I don't quite know what I'm supposed to do with my hands twelve-year-old way?

It's The Fourth of July 1970, and she's dressed in her Miss Fire Prevention finery: cheap rhinestone tiara, red velvet cape, Sunday School dress, pristine white gloves. Plus she's wearing her very first pair of nylons, a fact that has her feeling both sophisticated and terrified. (It took her a month to convince Grandma that she was old enough to wear them, and then another month to save up the $1.98 to buy them. Now she's scared to death that she's going to ruin them.) In a couple of hours she'll be riding an antique fire engine down the main streets of Burien, along with Fire Marshall Patterson, Mrs. Fire Marshall Patterson, Sparky The Fire Dog and Smokey The Bear (in reality, two hapless local firefighters drafted to walk around in fur costumes in the middle of the hottest summer on record) as part of the local Fourth of July Parade.

Here's what I would tell her, if I could.

I would tell her that it's OK to relax and smile, first of all: she looks just fine. (Although she should probably not plant her feet so far apart if she's going to wear nylons and high heels: she looks like she's posing for a high school wrestling team photo.) I would tell her she can quit worrying about whether or not her dad will show up in time for the parade: he will. (And afterwards, he'll take her and her brother out for Frenchie Burgers and a movie at the Midway Drive-In.)  I would tell her that this is going to be one of the best nights of her young life, and that she should try and squeeze every molecule of fun out of it, because evenings like this one will come fewer and further between, the older she gets.

I would tell her that as soon as the picture-taking session is over, she should walk across the lawn and give the photographer a great big hug.

Here's what I wouldn't tell her: I wouldn't tell her that in two weeks her dog is going to get hit by a car and killed, and that it will be the worst moment of her childhood. I wouldn't tell her that the boy she's currently pining for -- her first real *crush* -- is going to completely ignore her for the next five years. (And that by the time he finally gets around to asking her out, she won't be interested anymore.) I wouldn't tell her that junior high school isn't going to be the Malt-Shop-and-Clearasil Fun Fest she thinks it's going to be: that in fact it's going to be three years of adolescent hell on earth. I wouldn't tell her that those Marcia Brady pigtails make her look like a dork. I wouldn't tell her that she'd better not get used to wearing a crown. I wouldn't tell her that someday she will find herself drunk and semi-naked in the basement of Fire Marshall Patterson's house. I wouldn't tell her that whether or not she's aware of it, these are the final moments of her childhood.

And I definitely wouldn't tell her that those brand-new nylons of hers will be shredded within an hour.

Burien Fourth of July Parade 1970

(click to enlarge)

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[now can SOMEBODY please give me a ride to the mall?!?]