Read an Excerpt
Dry Your Smile
By Robin Morgan
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1987 Robin Morgan
All rights reserved.
These will be the first words I'll ever write in a diary of my very own. Momma gave you to me, and I think you were the best of all the presents she gave me on yesterday, my eighth birthday. I will never ever have another eighth birthday in my life. I also got a new pair of barrettes for my hair and three more dolls for the collection and a pair of white kid gloves and Momma and I had lunch at the Plaza Hotel and last night we went to the opera to see Carmen who had a rose between her teeth and got killed. It was very interesting. But you are the best of all, Dear Diary, because I wanted a diary and Momma knew that and here you are. I love your shiny blue leather cover with the strip that has a lock in it and the tiny golden key that can shut you. Momma is going to keep the key because she says I'll just lose it and also she wants to check and be sure I write in you every single day and also so she can correct my spelling mistakes. Because she says you never know who else might look. I'm a pretty good speller and I think nobody would look if I had the key but then you never know and they could always just cut the strip I guess anyway. So I'll be careful what I write in you I mean about the spelling.
It is a wonderful feeling to write in you because your paper is smooth and slippery and the color of the cream I lick off the milk bottle's round cardboard top. You are very important to me even if anybody else can look into you because you never know.
Your friend, with love, Julian Travis
Momma says she is glad that yesterday I wrote down all the good things we did on my birthday and how special it was. She says it will be a treasure for me to look back on when I grow up and remember how happy these years were. I'm sure Momma is right because otherwise a person might forget these things when they get old.
Today was pretty normal so there's not much to tell you about. I know it's funny to call you "you" dear diary but you seem real to me. Anyway, today Momma and I got up and had breakfast. Momma always has coffee and a muffin which is also one of her names for me. Muffin I mean not coffee. So our joke is that Momma always has coffee and me for breakfast. I had cereal which I always hate especially the raisins which I know you're supposed to like because most people eat the cereal only for the raisins. But the raisins don't help me because I hate both. Anyway, so then we got dressed and I wore the pink organdy with white butterflies aplikayed (spelling? Help Momma!) on it that Momma sewed for me (Momma makes all my clothes, dear diary, and she's wonderful at it) and my white maryjane shoes with the straps that I hate but today I didn't have to use shoe polish to clean them because they were still clean from yesterday when I wore the black patent leather ones instead.
Then we took the train into New York City to rehearsal (we live in Yonkers, dear diary, which is called a suburb) and went to rehearsal and then I had an interview which is why the pink organdy today and then we took the train back. Then there was school and ballet and tap class and then I did my homework and practiced piano and studied my lines for tomorrow's rehearsal. I should tell you more I guess but I'm too sleepy right now. I almost didn't want to write in you tonight but I want to every single night so I did.
Your friend, with love, Julian Travis
Momma says I should put the date on every time I write in you so that years later when I am grown up I will know the exact time of my happy memories. Today was October 10, 1950. I should tell you who I am, dear diary.
My name is Julian Travis and I am an actress. I'll tell you about me the way I'm supposed to in an interview. I had my own radio program but that was when I was younger and also I was on "The Whiz Kids" for two years which is a show they put you on if you're smart when you're little or at least can say funny things that sound smart. But now I'm on a television show every week in "Family" (that's the name of the program) and I'm Ingrid (that's the little girl I play). It is very popular and I am famous I think. But I am not just famous. I am a serious actress. I can become anything anyone wants me to be. Anyway, I live with my mother, whose name is Hope Travis — and it fits her because she always says she is full of hope! We live in apartment 3-A, which is on the third floor (we don't have an elevator but Momma thinks someday soon when I make enough money we might move into the city itself and live in a fancy elevator building). Our apartment building is only one block from the railroad station which is good because we go into the city for rehearsals and the shows and stuff every day except on weekends and sometimes I do a fashion show even on a weekend day (I'm also a model, diary). What is not so good about our apartment house is that it is right next door to a place everybody says they should tear down and make into something clean like a parking lot because it has lots of little funny wooden buildings on it, sort of leaning as if they could fall down. A lot of Negro people live there and some of the houses don't have electric light and everybody says they are a fire hazard. They are a fire hazard because the Negro people have to use candles to see by and have wood stoves everybody says. But I don't know how you're supposed to see in the dark or keep warm if you don't have electric plugs. They are very poor, Momma says, and always on Thanksgiving and sometimes on other holidays (but not on Jewish holidays because Momma says none of the Negro people would ever be Jewish) Momma and I go over to the houses with shopping bags. We bring cans of food we buy on special at the A&P and lots of oranges you can get in sort of wiry bags. And we put some of my clothes I get too big for to give in the shopping bags. But we never put the organdies in there even when I get too big for them. Because Momma thinks we should save them so I can treasure them when I grow up and also she says where would the little girls next door wear such things?
There is one little girl next door who is just the same age as me and her name is Jewell which is sort of like Julian and I think she would look beautiful in one of the organdy dresses because she has a nice smile and is very friendly but Momma told me it would be an insult to give her one of the organdy dresses and I would never want to insult Jewell. I'd like to go play with her sometimes but Momma and I talked about that. She explained to me that everybody was exactly the same and Negroes were just as good as white people and poor people were just the same as rich ones. But life wasn't perfect, Momma said, and you had to face facts. Facts was that if Jewell came to 3-A to play she would only get jealous of all the dolls and pretty dresses and how lucky I was. And if I went over to Jewell's house to play first it was too small and we would have to play outside and we shouldn't play outside because that was dangerous the ground over there has broken glass and bottle tops and rusty metal things and I might fall and hurt myself or even bust up my face. And Momma also explained that wanting to play with Jewell was a wonderful idea but it wouldn't work because Jewell and I had nothing in common and Jewell knew that even if I didn't. I don't think Jewell knows that. Even if she did we would have a lot more in common if she had one of the dolls and an organdy dress. Besides, they don't have television sets over there next door because no plugs which means that Jewell doesn't even know I'm on television. So she might think I'm just a little girl like her. She always smiles a nice smile at me.
If we went to the same school maybe we would have something in common and would be allowed to become friends and play. But I don't know where Jewell goes to school. I go to a private school and there are only fifty pupils in the whole school and nobody looks like Jewell. I mean not only that nobody is a Negro person but also nobody smiles a nice smile at me. At school everybody knows I'm on television every week so they act like we have nothing in common. Also I'm pretty smart in school and a good reader and have what Mr. Pierce (he's the director of our show) calls "a fast memory." That helps with learning my lines and also in school. But being good in school doesn't help me have more in common with the other kids there. I think they think I stink and am a rotten stuck-up pig (Doris said that) but Momma says I should ignore it and trust her and that they're just jealous. I think Jewell would have a lot more to be jealous of me about if she wanted to because she has only one doll which is a Raggedy Ann and no organdy dress but she seems to like me. But since we have nothing in common I guess we can't be real friends. Momma says we can be friends of course, and I should always smile back and be polite and greet all our neighbors (in the building and even next door) when I see them. But that's not being real friends. I will understand all this when I'm old, Momma says, I should trust her and besides the world will change and people won't be poor anymore and she is full of hope. I believe her because she's the best Momma in the world and she is giving her whole life to me. I love her more than anything else and I hope I die before she does because I wouldn't want to live without Momma.
I'm too tired to write more now so I'll tell you more about myself another time, maybe tomorrow. Good night.
Your friend, with love, Julian
This time I really will tell you about myself. I am eight years old, but you already know that because you were born on my eighth birthday (which means we have the same birthday, Oct. 7!) and I have brown eyes and blonde hair. When I was young my hair was very blonde. You can see it in the pictures of me when I did the baby food ads and the toddler clothes ads. But last year it began to get dark and become what Mr. Pierce called "dirty blonde" even though we wash my hair every night and Momma sets it in curls with bobbypins and hairset while I sit on the toilet seat and study my lines. Anyway, Mr. Pierce and even Miss Unger (she's our show's Executive Producer) were getting worried, and so they had a talk with Momma about my hair and now since January we go every three weeks to Charles of the Ritz to keep my hair blonde. I like Charles of the Ritz, because it means I miss half an afternoon of school even if I do have to do makeup homework. Charles of the Ritz is named after a great hairdresser who is either dead or anyway never there. It is in the city and very expensive Momma says so I always sit still and don't waste time. I like the shiny white marble floor and the pink silk coat they put on you and the big soft chair you climb into that turns in every direction and walls and walls and even the ceiling of mirrors. You can see millions of yourselves turning in all directions. The rest I hate. Miss Frances is very nice to me and always talks about how I am a little princess but then she puts this stuff on my head and it stinks awfully and the smell makes me sick in my stomach. Momma and Miss Frances say to hold my nose and breathe through my mouth but the smell even stings in my throat like it does on my head and it goes on and on because they leave it on your head and go away while you do your homework or study your lines or something. You have to be very very careful not to let it drip down your forehead into your eyes if you bend your head down because you could go blind. So I always hold my head straight ahead of me and lift my homework or my lines to up there which makes my arms tired. After a while, Miss Frances comes back and then it gets better because we have a shampoo which gets the stuff out and then conditioner she says and a set and then I sit under the dryer like all the women in their silk coats. And then we do comb out and it all is silky golden curls and Miss Frances and Momma and Miss Unger and everybody is happy. Your head stays stinging for two or three days and hot water especially on it hurts when your hair is getting washed even at home but then the sting goes away until the next time you have to go to Charles of the Ritz. I wish I hadn't become a dirty blonde.
Dear Diary, I'm very sorry and I apologize because I always mean to tell you about myself but always get too tired. Today I had rehearsal in the morning and then school and then the lesson with my drama coach in foreign accents. We did French and British today. Tomorrow I have piano after school so I had to do extra practice tonight after homework because I was falling behind. So now I'm too sleepy to write more. I apologize dear diary.
Oh and I almost forgot. I'm not going to sign what I write in you like I have been, I mean "your friend with love, Julian" anymore. Because way back that is what we decided I should write on the fan pictures I autograph (we are very honest about this and I sign them all myself for real even if other television stars use a rubber stamp because Momma says we have a duty to our fans). But you are not a fan and I don't want to sign this like that. Even if you feel like a real friend and I feel like I really do love you, those words got used up somewhere else. But I don't know what else to sign this with. I would never want to insult you. I apologize.
Today is October 12th and I don't see why I have to always tell you what day it is because I've been writing something in you every single day since Momma gave you to me on your and my birthday so if anybody reads this because you never know they can always count up. Momma did read you last night after I was asleep but I guess you know that. This morning on the train she explained to me that it was a waste of time and of you with your blue leather cover and creamy paper to fill you up with drivel she said about things like Jewell and Charles of the Ritz. She said a person should be positive and write happy things in a diary or else if anybody looked at it you never know they would get the wrong impression and think life was nothing but miserable. My life is not at all miserable and I know that I am very very lucky to be beautiful and have a fast memory and be a television star and have hundreds of loyal fans and go to a private school and have organdy dresses and a doll collection and wonderful privileges like music and dancing lessons and the best mother in the whole world. I apologize, dear diary, if I gave you the wrong impression. Momma explained that even if nobody ever read what I wrote in you still when I was old and read you myself I might get the wrong impression and besides who wants to remember bad things an old person wants to remember the good times. I have never been old yet so I believe what Momma says. I certainly would not want to give me the wrong impression.
I'm very tired tonight so I guess I will stop now and I'm sorry I didn't write in you much today.
This is October 13th and it was Show Day. A Show Day is always special. I don't go to school at all on Show Day (I do full school makeup work at home on Saturdays) not even for a half-day as usual because we start rehearsal at ten in the morning right in the studio itself and do a runthrough and then a lunch break and then a full dress rehearsal and then dinner break and then get our makeup put on and there's The Show itself. We don't get out of the studio until ten o'clock at night! And so even though I'm tired I'm going to write in you right now on the train going home (I apologize that's why my writing is so bumpy) because I know that when we get home Momma always puts me down right away even if I'm excited because she says she knows I'm tired and also there's the Saturday makeup schoolwork tomorrow and a new script to start learning. And I have my singing lessons on Saturdays, too.
Anyway, today was Friday the 13th!! And Miss Clement and everybody else in the cast went around very nervous because it was Show Day and we do our show live and not on tape beforehand which means anything could go wrong you never know. But doing our show live is what gives it its magic Miss Unger says. I wasn't nervous even though I had a big part in this one which was about Ingrid, who is the little girl I play, remember? getting in trouble for being a tomboy until she wins a baseball game for the neighbor kids by hitting a home run. I wasn't a bit nervous because in secret (except for Momma, who knows all my secrets) I know that 13 is my lucky number. So even though I could have been nervous because I'm not a tomboy and I don't even know how to throw a ball right or catch one I still wasn't nervous. In rehearsal Mr. Pierce had said he "despaired" of me. "Julie," he said, "I despair of you." I hate hate hate it when anybody calls me Julie. I don't mind Jule so much but I hate hate hate Julie. But you can't say that to Mr. Pierce, no matter how politely. I asked Momma to tell him but she said she didn't dare to either and besides everybody else called me something different from Julie anyway like Elfin and Sweetie and Princess and whenever they talk about me between themselves they call me The Baby which Momma says I should understand because after all I am the youngest member of the cast and why be fussy? I hate hate hate The Baby, too. But anyway dear diary I want to be positive and Mr. Pierce is really very nice to me and says I am brilliant and a trooper and professional and precocious (spelling? Help, Momma!) and his little Sarah Burnheart (who was the greatest actress who ever lived and died a long time ago). But he despaired of me this time and swore bad words and yelled why can't this kid even catch a ball. I couldn't help it. I kept shutting my eyes tight and sort of ducking down when it came flying at me. You never know, it could bust up your face. Momma talked to me and I tried I really tried to keep my eyes open but then my hands went up in front of my face instead. I don't think it's so silly to duck when somebody throws something at you and it wasn't so silly that time when the crazy man threw a rock on the last personal appearance tour. It was good I ducked that time or Momma said I could have got a scar or lost an eye or something horrible. They took the crazy man away to an insane place and he was crying and everything and I felt sorry for him but I sure wasn't sorry I ducked. Jewell next door can throw a ball and catch it perfect every time. I've watched her do it. After Mr. Pierce despaired of me in rehearsal I thought it would be a wonderful idea if Jewell could teach me how she did it after all it was for my part and she could rehearse me all week on my ball stuff after school just like Momma rehearses me my lines and cues after homework. But Momma said that was not practical and so Momma and Mr. Pierce and Miss Luchino (she writes the scripts for the show) all had a conference because nobody wanted to bother Miss Unger and they solved the whole thing by hiring a double to catch and throw (that's called a stunt) and they would shoot that scene in a long-shot. It felt funny to see another little girl wearing my costume with her hair done up just like mine. It felt funny to see her being me, except for in the close-ups. They called her the stunt kid and I never even got to know her name. She knew just how to do it, too. I don't know how she learned to throw and catch like that but Momma said which would you rather know how to do, throw a ball or be a star, catch a ball or get A's in school, and I told Momma I'd rather be who I am and we laughed together at it. I love Momma because she didn't want me to feel bad and so she told me to dry my smile and remember that anybody could play ball but only me could be loved by thousands of people I've never even met.
Excerpted from Dry Your Smile by Robin Morgan. Copyright © 1987 Robin Morgan. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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