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First Steps in Kitten Heels

As if entering seventh grade wasn’t shocking enough getting an invitation to an affair called a Rush Tea indoctrinated me into a world as foreign as the Greek symbols on the envelope.

Wearing our prettiest dresses, we were served tiny sandwiches and delicate sweets on plate-glass luncheon dishes. We sipped a few ounces of a fizzy mixture (sherbet and ginger ale) ladled from a sparkling vessel and served in glass cups. We balanced these refreshments on nylon clad knees crossed demurely at the ankles. Our hostesses, older classmates outlined the plan; weekly meetings, slumber parties, dances, and opportunities to do charitable work and perform a bit of community service.

If we decided to take part, however, we had to prove ourselves by a week’s pandering to established members. It was thrilling to wear the club’s hat with the αθς insignia and be recognized by a passel of new, sophisticated, soon-to-be friends. The club’s rule book listed items that were, for the most part, common sense, good manners and hints about how not to embarrass ourselves in the adult world.

As promised, being part of an established group had advantages. Robert’s Rules of Order and the gavel-wielding president kept the Monday evening meetings brief and on point. A social hour followed, and acquaintances turned into chums, cronies and bosom buddies as we lounged on the floor and enjoyed bottles of ice-cold Coke, potato chips and pretzels. We were happy, involved, and fit right in.

Like gypsies with our bedrolls and new shortie pjs the novelty of enjoying round-the-clock fun, sharing dreams, hopes and secret crushes at slumber parties. We sweated occasionally on weekends doing newspaper and scrap metal drives with our long-suffering dads hauling us and our bounty to collection sites. While car washes were hard work, they required wearing short shorts just like in a rock and roll song. Good deeds came in the form of making tray favors for hospitals at holidays. A highlight of the year was gathering at a summer cottage for a week on the lake front. A formal dinner dance topped off with awards ended the year and graduating seniors entrusted us with the reins.

Little did we know that the innocent world we inhabited was rare and special. Or, that the times would change so dramatically that kids would miss many of these unique rites of passage that we took for granted. Our entry into adulthood was gradual and monitored by peers. We tip-toed into the unknown becoming independent but looked over by guardian angels and it was all effortless.

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