Louise Scan

Louise

January 2007

I remember you, Louise Roos, Loesje, Weezie, Lulu, Rooster.  I remember you by all of your names even from this 46-year distance.  You’re wearing that red wool blazer with the emblem over the pocket that you got for your birthday, and you know you look good.  You always know when you look good.  Red was then and still is your favorite color.  You will paint your living room a bright red and wonder why it takes other people’s breath away.  But you are an adrenalin junkie.  You like cheap thrills.

You like the cheap thrill of seeing Dean K. and swooning into your diary about how he called you “sweetie” and kissed you on the back of the neck at that fireside at the Stevens’ house.  My question:  What is a thirty-one year old man doing, kissing a 17-year old girl?  Haven’t you noticed that when you meet him downtown, he is always strolling with an entourage of young boys?  He is looking for Mann’s Tadzio of DEATH IN VENICE, a book you might want to read soon.

You look like a skinny boy, yourself, with your jazzy new, short hair cut, a cut that will identify you for years to come.  You are impressed that he teaches German and Russian at a school across town and that he takes students to Europe each summer.  It’s that European adventure you’re after, and you think the two of you will some day marry and walk off into a Tuscan sunset.

Raise your expectations, honey.  You can do better.  And you do.  You will marry a German professor like Jo March of LITTLE WOMEN, but unlike Jo, you will never stop writing.  And here’s a hint:  he lives within two blocks of your house and is not one of the Mason boys.  If you think about it hard, you’ll know who it is.

I can hear you squealing.

Deanie the Weanie, as your father calls him, will disappoint you in a few years and you’ll seldom think of him again.  Except years later, you’ll be sitting with your husband and youngest son in a café in Vienna and you’ll think you see him in another booth.  “Isn’t that Dean K,” you ask your husband, and he turns to look and asks him:  “are you Dean K,” and he says—get this—“I would be he.”  It will become a joke in your family.  You’ll come home and call your husband’s name and he will appear and say, “I would be he,” and you’ll both snort with ridicule.

Here’s the good news, Louise:  Christine and Melanie and the rest of your high school gang will be your friends for the rest of your life, as will the hyper handsome Brent M.

I can hear you squealing again.

This is the year you read CATCHER IN THE RYE and Holden Caulfield’s voice will send your mind spiraling.  Can you do that, you will ask.  Can you write with that voice?  You will find your way to a similar adolescent voice, only it will be your voice.  You will build a career on what it was like to be you at seventeen.

You’re afraid that you will become one of the adults you see around you, who have forgotten how to be playful.  You will never be like them.  You will never be your mother.  You are completely yourself and will never be anyone else.  You are not lazy.  Look how you write in your diary for pages and pages.  Look how you spend every waking minute, drawing.  This is not your mother’s work; it is yours.  Keep doing it.  You think your mother is always mad at you, but she isn’t.  She’s mad at Daddy, because he’s never home.  She’s not mad at you.  Trust me on this.

Finally, it might help you to know that you get everything you’ve dared hope for and so much more.  By the time you are my age, you will have forgotten how many times you’ve been in Europe.  You will have satisfying work, and yes, Louise, you’ll even have fans.  Keep singing, writing and drawing.

You are always in my heart.

Louise Roos____________

New York City  (I can hear you squealing).

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY TO YOUR SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD SELF?

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