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DREAMS ARE LIKE CLOUDS--THEY CHANGE SHAPE OVER TIME
At least, that's what my daughter's last summer before college has taught me. See, living
in Pritchett, Wisconsin, was not my dream--I'd wanted to be a model or an actress, living an exciting life in a big city. Instead, I fell for a farmer and wound up a mother before our first wedding anniversary! Not that I don't love being Sam's wife or Bree's mom--because I do. Well, now Bree has entered...
DREAMS ARE LIKE CLOUDS--THEY CHANGE SHAPE OVER TIME
At least, that's what my daughter's last summer before college has taught me. See, living
in Pritchett, Wisconsin, was not my dream--I'd wanted to be a model or an actress, living an exciting life in a big city. Instead, I fell for a farmer and wound up a mother before our first wedding anniversary! Not that I don't love being Sam's wife or Bree's mom--because I do. Well, now Bree has entered me into a Christian beauty pageant, and I'm being treated like Pritchett's pride and joy. So I'm preparing to be a "Proverbs 31 Woman," dealing with my best friend's newly uncovered secrets and watching my daughter follow in my footsteps by falling for a local boy--all while being treated as princess of my own front porch!
After twenty years, Prichett is as familiar to me as my own ref lection in the mirror. Most of the time I am indifferent to it, used to it even, but never completely comfortable with it. Prichett is the town my mother, a schoolteacher, dragged me to when I was a sophomore in high school — a small farming community with a mind-set as narrow as its main street. I hadn't wanted to move there and throughout the rest of high school, Prichett and I had been locked in silent combat — Prichett trying to hold on to me while I struggled to break free. I had the days counted until graduation. Then I planned to wave a merry goodbye, so long, see you later to Prichett and only come back during the holidays to gloat over my victory. Just visiting, you know. See you next year.
But wouldn't you know that small town and I became bound together. Forever. By a simple gold band given to me by a twenty-year-old farmer with sky-blue eyes and a crooked smile. My husband, Sam. Prichett and I were forced, like two sisters with nothing in common, to live together in tight-lipped civility because my husband's first love was one hundred acres of fertile topsoil, although I like to f latter myself that I came in at a close second.
Even though the farm is three miles outside it, there is no pretendingthat I'd escaped the town's grasp. The grocery store, the post office, the school and our church are all tucked like hankies inside Prichett's small-town bosom. And the beauty salon. Which happened to be the place I was heading when I noticed that the playground equipment in the park was in terrible condition. It was like suddenly noticing a mole on my face that I was sure hadn't been there before.
Now, in the world that exists beyond the city limits of Prichett, I'm absolutely sure those tall metal slides, the ones with an incline so steep they rip out your stomach on the way down, have been the cause of countless lawsuits, which have led to them being dismantled lug nut by lug nut and thrown into a scrap pile somewhere. But not in Prichett. Prichett is still searching for the elusive thing that will catapult it into celebrity status. Or at least will be the excuse for a really nice community barbecue in the summer. I could just imagine it — Welcome to Prichett, Home of the Nation's Most Dangerous Playground Equipment — printed on a billboard stationed proudly next to the city limits sign. A billboard which, by the way, proclaims an absolute lie. There is no denying that Prichett's population is shrinking, but still the town stubbornly refuses to change the sign that announces Prichett's population is 1,532. It's kind of like continuing to put your pre-baby weight down on your driver's license, even though you know you are never going to weigh that again.
I slowed down and studied the merry-go-round. My daughter, Bree, had always loved to lie on the bench, kick her shoes off and trail her toes in the sand while I pushed it in lazy circles. Any kid that tried to stretch out on the bench now would most likely end up with a stomach full of splinters. I shook my head.
As parks go, the one on Main Street sure wasn't keeping up with the twenty-first century. But that didn't surprise me. Neither was Prichett. At some point, the town had choked, sputtered and gotten stuck in some sort of Nick at Nite time warp. And I knew that my friend, Bernice, had to be partially responsible.
Bernice owns the beauty shop and she is her best, and only, employee. When she'd moved to town and opened the Cut and Curl, she'd somehow managed to find those ancient hair dryers that look like something you'd find in a mad scientist's lab. The chairs lined up against the window, in an array of ice cream pastels, are the squishy plastic kind that stick to bare skin like chewing gum on warm asphalt. There are stacks of celebrity hairstyle magazines everywhere and a pot of coffee so strong you can get a caffeine buzz that lasts all day just by smelling it. By the looks of the place, you almost expect Bernice to tease your hair into an enormous beehive and turn you out into the streets of Prichett a half hour later looking like a bewildered June Cleaver.
I get away without making an appointment because I give her free eggs and satisfy her addiction to salsa, which I can in the fall.
"I don't have time for you this morning." Bernice's voice rose above the bell that trilled whenever a customer walked in. She was coloring Mabel Marvin's hair. Mabel looked like she'd been attacked by a roll of tin foil. So far, I'd been spared the Star Wars extra look. There was not a strand of gray hair on my head, even though I could see forty on the horizon. I confess that I'm vain about my hair. Part of the reason is because that's what Sam told me he first fell in love with — my hair. He said it reminded him of corn silk. Now that may sound hokey and sentimental, but in nineteen years of marriage, I can count the times on one hand that he's gone poetic on me. The others aren't open for discussion.
I sat down and Bernice rolled her eyes at me. Mabel's fingers searched under the voluminous plastic cape for her glasses.
"Elise? Is that you?" Mabel squinted in my direction.
"Yes, it's me." I picked up a magazine and ignored Bernice's meaningful cough. She might say she didn't have time for me, but somehow she always manages to squeeze me in between a perm and a set. I know exactly how fast my hair grows and that I need to get it trimmed every six weeks, but Bernice has the you-need-an-appointment lecture down word for word and I hate to disappoint her. That's what friends are for.
"Here you go, Mabel," Bernice crooned in the elderly woman's ear. "Under the dryer for a few minutes. Do you want a cup of coffee? A magazine?"
Mabel reached up and touched her hair, smiling when the foil crinkled in her fingers. "Is it finished?"
Bernice shook her head and put her hand on Mabel's arm, as if she was afraid the woman was going to jump down and head outside, scrambling radio stations across the county. "You have to go under the dryer for a few minutes." Her voice rose slightly.
Mabel nodded agreeably. I watched as Bernice fussed over her, settling her under the dryer as lovingly as she'd tuck a newborn into a bassinet.
"My next customer will be here in ten minutes." Bernice turned from Mabel, the favored child, and glared at me, the prodigal. I grinned.
"Just this much off." I pinched my thumb and finger together. "It'll only take you ten minutes. You know you're good." Bernice didn't scare me. She has a soft spot for the very young and the very old, but everyone else is lumped into the pain-in-the-neck category. Myself included.
Not many people moved to Prichett by choice, so she'd been the source of a lot of gossip when she'd first moved to town. There was a rumor that she was Tammy Holowitz's cousin, but as far as I knew, she and Tammy never spoke and Tammy drove half an hour to Munroe to get her hair cut at the strip mall. That kind of blew a hole in the cousin theory as far as I was concerned. The only explanation Bernice ever gave me for moving to Prichett was that she liked small towns. End of discussion. I sensed there was more, but something in Bernice's eyes had told me not to push. There was an old injury there and I try not to stare at people's scars.
We'd met for the first time when I walked into the Cut and Curl (without an appointment), took one look at the place and almost bolted right back outside. Bernice, feeling the pinch of being new in Prichett and on display like the prototype for next year's tractor, was obviously prepared for that possibility. She'd stationed herself between me and the door. With a curling iron in her hand. Plugged in. I admit, I'd come mostly out of curiosity. But now I was stuck. I should have just stared at her through the window like everyone else.
"I'm Elise Penny," I'd finally said. "Like the coin."
"I'm Bernice Strum." She'd paused. "Like the guitar." We stared at each other, both of our faces ref lecting the same did-I-really-just-say-that-and-why-am-I-such-an-idiot expression and then we burst out laughing. I didn't think we'd become friends. I call her a townie. She calls me farm girl. She lives alone above the Cut and Curl in an apartment decorated with black-and-white posters of movie stars. She says she isn't sure she can warm up to a God who makes some girls popular and some girls wallf lowers. As someone who had fallen into the first category, I was of the opinion that both kinds had their problems — and I wasn't sure how much God had to do with that kind of thing to begin with.
As cynical as Bernice was about men, she loved Sam and he didn't mind when she showed up at the farm and swished back and forth for hours on our big porch swing. And even though she's lived in Prichett for ten years now, I still have the uneasy feeling that one day I'll come into town and there will be a For Sale sign in the window of the Cut and Curl and Bernice Strum will be gone.
"Get in the chair." Bernice jerked her head toward the metal perch by the mirror. "I won't have time to wash it."
"That's okay, I already did."
Under the dryer, Mabel was humming "Amazing Grace."
"Running errands today?" Bernice clipped a bright yellow plastic cape around my neck.
I closed my eyes and let myself get swept away in the music of Bernice's scissors as they snipped at my split ends. "I've got to pick up a few groceries and go to the bank. Have you noticed that the park equipment is in bad shape?"
Bernice chuckled. "Did you park way over there again?" That's the trouble with friends. They know every chink in your armor. Prichett was tiny but I still hate to parallel park on Main Street. Put it down to a traumatic experience with the DMV the day I tried to get my first driver's license.
"You can't find a place to park," I said in my defense. "Not when every retired farmer in the county shows up for the ninety-nine-cent breakfast special on Wednesdays. They keep their own chickens, why do they need to go to the cafe?"
"Like I haven't heard that one before." Bernice's scissors clicked lightly. Then paused. "My, my. What have we here," she murmured.
"What? Ouch!" I jumped six inches off the chair. Bernice grinned at me and dangled something in front of my eyes. A hair. A gray hair. It couldn't be. Maybe it was just one of the lighter blond strands. My hair always bleaches out in the summer.
"Don't look so tortured." Bernice dropped the hair on the f loor and it disappeared against the ceramic tile. "It happens to the best of us, El. Time goes forward, not backward, you know."
Excerpted from Front Porch Princess by Kathryn Springer Copyright © 2006 by Kathryn Springer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted June 2, 2010
This book touched the heart of this mother with college-aged girls. In raising children you think you know where they are going (or should go) in life. But you easily forget at those ages they might see themselves going in a good, but different, direction. Front Porch Princess was a great story of reflection, learning, and letting go. It would be great for discussions at a women's book club.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 15, 2006
This was the story of a 40 year old wife and mom who¿s let bitterness take root in her life. Kathryn Springer does an excellent job of making a woman who could be very unsympathetic a very likable and human character. I was quickly drawn into Elise¿s life and mind. Generally not a fan of fiction written in 1st person I was surprised at how well it was done and how well it worked. To say that I empathized with Elise would be an understatement, many of the issues she faces in the book (like looking forward and not back, having a real, dynamic relationship with God vs. a surface relationship) are issues I am currently facing myself. And reading a fiction book that touches on my current life issues is something I always enjoy. Reading about how Elise dealt with what was going on in her heart, life and mind really helped me to make forward progress on my own things. As an aspiring writer I think that¿s some of the highest praise you can give a writer. I was so touched that the book really made a difference in my life. And I pulled out my bible to read more about the Proverbs 31 woman! Also a huge plus for me was the fact that Christianity was not overplayed. It was simply another layer of several of the characters in the book, seamlessly woven into their making and very believable. Not once did I feel preached at and not once did I feel like I was reading someone else¿s opinion of what faith should be like and how it should be loved. This book is an excellent read and I¿d highly suggest it for any woman looking for a down to earth, honest look at marriage, parenthood and faith. Enjoy!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 6, 2007
A small town where everyone knows everything about everyone, and one woman has dreamed her entire life about escaping Pritchett. Having won a beauty title in her teens, Elise dreamed of becoming a model or an actress. Life had different plans in the form of a handsome farmer. Elise settles reluctantly into small-town life, wanting more for her daughter. When her daughter enters Elise into a Mrs. Proverbs 31 pageant, Pritchett, Wisconsin pulls out the red carpet, complete with a parade and an ice cream social. As Elise prepares for the pageant, she discovers much more about love, beauty, friendship, and God, learning to be content in her circumstances. Front Porch Princess is a delightful read. Kathryn Springer has the reader running a gauntlet of emotions. Don't read this book unless you're prepared to not be able to put it down! Absolutely wonderful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 9, 2010
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