Excerpt from one of my projects, Easy Street: Based on my mother’s memoirs

Steps Out of Ziska

High School

Part 1

“Why are you wearing that lipstick? Diane’s family would ask her.

“I thought you weren’t that kind of girl!”

Diane Busta (13 yrs old) with her Baba, Grandma Griglak, in June 1951, Cleveland OH.

The words rang through her mind as she tapped the tube of pink on her lips. Without looking, she ran her fingers over the buttons securing the blue skirt around her waist before smoothing the pleats past her knees.

As she sat on her bed to put on her white bobby socks and penny loafers, she thought of her father. He had wanted her to drop out of school when she finished 8th grade. Just like her friends in the neighborhood, the expectation was working class kids join the “real world” as young teens. Grammar school was enough education for the granddaughter of Czech and Slovak immigrants. No one from her family had ever gone beyond 6th grade. Plus, Diane’s father had hated the idea of her riding streetcars to get to all-girls high school.

Diane finished styling her hair, gently pulling the bobby pins from the curls bouncing off her shoulders. She had gone to a salon for the first time that weekend. Her hair was so fine, the heat had almost burnt her silky strands. But she loved how her black ringlets shone when they caught the sun’s rays. Right before she left her room, she spritzed a homemade concoction of water and hair gel to hold her new hairdo—the poodle clip.

Down the stairs of the tavern, Diane walked with her arms full of books. She took rhythmic steps all the way into the kitchen, using the same beat when practicing the piano. Last summer, her mother bought her a typewriter, but there was no way she was going to be a secretary. Instead, she spent her free time in music and drama clubs. She also was no longer was interested in reading about saints and pious children. The books she read now were either for literature class of epic historical fiction novels.

Diane entered the kitchen for a breakfast of scrambled eggs. Her mother was standing in front of the pantry cracking her knuckles. Neither of them said a word. Diane knew she was nervous about letting her travel across town. She also knew her mother faced criticism not only from the family, but the entire neighborhood for letting her attend high school –education was a waste for girls.

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