The microscope and the lipstick

You can see that fashion was far from a priority for me.

When I was a not so little girl, I wanted a microscope for my birthday.

I was in sixth grade.  I was old enough to know this gift was far beyond the birthday budget, and would set a  precedent for birthdays in a family of nine children, that was well, in polite language—which we always used—a precedent that was unacceptable.  In the language of my sister, Bonita, it was selfish.

Maybe it was selfish, but I wanted that microscope more than anything, and I knew I wasn’t going to get it.  That didn’t stop me from talking about it.

“I know I can’t have it,”  I said. “But I want it more than anything.”

“I know,” Mom said for the umpteenth time.

“I know it’s too expensive.”

“You’re right, it is. If I get you a gift that expensive, everyone will want the same.”

I knew I was never going to get that microscope.  No matter how much I wanted it. There were more important ways for Dad’s money to be spent. Still, I hoped. I prayed.  I wished for a microscope.

I was old enough to understood reality. I prepared for a gift I would love, but wouldn’t be a microscope.  Mom was a pretty smart cookie about what her kids liked.  After all, she got me science books before I could read.  She knew I had Grandpa Z’s set of concave and convex lenses and a bag full of iron ore samples from the Upper Peninsula. She’d think of something that would be almost as good as a microscope.

My day came.  I knew there would be no microscope waiting for me.

What? No, it couldn’t be.

A panty-girdle, a pair of nylon stockings, and a tube of lipstick.

Just this past summer I had bowed to Deanna’s bullying, and started wearing a bra.  Really, now I had to wear nylons and lipstick?  And what kind of birthday present was that, anyways.

To coin the popular song, “Oh what a birthday surprise!”

Well, it was my birthday and like the Leslie Gore would say,

“It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”  And I did. A lot.

“I’ll take them back and get you something else,” Mom said.

“I knew I wasn’t getting a microscope,” I blubbered. “But this?”

Two days later I had a microscope.  A beautiful, student microscope.  I don’t know how much it cost. I do know that Mom helped adjust that mirror so I could see the yeast grow that she put on the slide.

I never even thought about how my tears affected Mom until years later. Bonita teased me about how I cried to get my way.

“No I didn’t,” I argued.  “It’s just nylons and lipstick was the last thing in the world I wanted.”

Mom came to my defense.  “I learned a lesson that day,” she said. It turned out the year before, that very gift thrilled Deanna out of her 12-year old mind.  Mom continued,  “Just because one daughter loves a gift, doesn’t mean the next one will.” 

Mom is about the wisest person I know.

I don’t know why that story popped into my mind the other day.  Maybe because it’s been so long since I’ve written a Little Girl story.  Maybe because the News makes me so sad, and I just wanted to remember that sometimes the happy ending comes later, and it can have an even happier ending later still. That’s the beauty of time and perspective.


At any rate, have you ever had a disappointing birthday present, that brought along a life-lesson?

After I drafted this post, I gave Mom a call. Believe it or not, she had just been to a seminar on suffering. She said it brought up a lot of memories. Guess what memory she recalled. We had a good laugh together.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s