The Mermaid of 1952


“And Ruth was a lady. And ladies know when to leave.”
Fried Green Tomatoes

I am like Ruth
From a six year old’s eyes the pool was humongous. The fountain was the center and maybe I could reach it, I would have to swim like the mermaid my mother bragged, to all the pretentious competition. Life was like the caste system though no one dared accept this truth. Southern living and social structures in the 1950’s wasn’t far in comparison to India except the clothing, hairstyles and color of skin were an ocean apart.

Neville Pool was breath taking. An architectural ingenuity that marveled this child. It was heaven. Babe’s teenage playground, and Uncle Tim’s and Uncle Bill’s feed. It lured and provoked demure subtle seduction in teenagers. Even in the late 1930’s, it was sultry and hot and the Southern Wisteria vines draped the back drop. The aroma of Magnolias and Jasmine permiated Louisiana.

The fountain still spewed cool fresh water. Cleaning of sins with mouths wide open filling souls with fresh spring water ritualized the gardens youthful women of sixteen or more.  There in the golden age, seen through an amber lens and pressed into a dust filled scrapbook life comes alive for the viewers. Neville Pool’s ghosts are displaying their stories and trying to hold onto life as it played out, then. It’s surrealistic whispers beg the audience to listen, to hear, and to tell the story. Step into my brown aged pages. Look back into time. There you will find romance and mermaids, the ponies at the track and men wearing white suits. Life is someones dreams and memories. So, it is the same here at Neville Pool in Monroe, Louisiana.

And, the pointed cups of their swimming bras were simply and innocently virginal. And, every man had one or two etched on the men’s bathroom wall. Well, this was understood and on Saturday night’s the men branded notches in their belts sharing stories of their conquests. Maybe true. Mostly, not. But, it didn’t matter, after all, it was just a tale similar to the largest fish in the pond tale. The sad part was the young male listener’s believed the fabrications. And on occasion acted out on those wild tales and try to recreate them as their own. Many of the young dames at Neville Pool fell prey to lies of the ego and some yeilded to physical man handling. Thus,  forcibly giving up their tails of mermaids and unicorns. Southern gents sometimes take the childhood imaginations from little girls.

It was Christmas again and this time Uncle Tim and Uncle Bill invited these beautiful women to our Christmas Evening meal. several of us gathered around, young and old. I remember they wore a lot of red velvet and their hair was very blonde. They had large breasts that seemed to squeeze out from tight corsets. They were way too small for their bosoms. But, I found delight in all their colorful ways. Big Mother served dinner on fine Christmas China, silver, and handmade table linens and nothing was out of place or sordid. She always found presents even for the women in red. And, Babe was most curious like a child at the circus.

Mom thought for a moment of running away just to live the life of a gypsy. She always amazed me. Babe was much more free spirited than her mermaid child.
“Hmm… I can’t explain this to a four year old. One day you might know why. Gypsies always have music. They dance every night under the stars and they travel everywhere.
So, that’s why.””Oh.” I didn’t understand why she didn’t turn the phonograph on and go outside and dance. That made perfect sense to me. The traveling? Well, I just wanted her to stay home and raise her little mermaid. But, Babe had the wandering star guiding her. She couldn’t be content with anything mundane. It wasn’t in her. She wasn’t milk toast. This record she would set straight. Life was meant to live loudly.

Awe~ the summer memories of Neville Pool~I’m not certain if Babe was a debutante of Neville Pools. I don’t think she was and it doesn’t matter. She never snubbed her nose at Neville’s female sacrifices. No, when Babe became a sacrifice it would be private. No one’s tale but hers and the tongue that lashed vein glories would be cut out deep at night. One swoop while he slept and he would speak no more. Babe wouldn’t tolerate anything but cool operators. No one who had to shine their egos publicly would accompany Babe anywhere. This was a fact. They might as well slither off like a snake than meet the likes of her. Babe could beat the tar off Tar Baby any given day and boys knew this. Only real men dare entered the green eyed beauties turf.

At Christmas Eve Dinner again~
Her breasts poured out and bountifully from the crimson red velvet dress. Little mermaid just looked at her beauty.
Uncle Bill comment, “little fish, what are you looking at? Haven’t you ever seen a woman before? Well …. Quit staring its impolite!”
The ladies of the night, giggled.
“Uncle Bill, she’s wearing the most beautiful Christmas dress I’ve ever seen. She looks like Marilyn Monroe.”
In Uncle Bill’s deep polite southern drawl he says, “yes, yes~ she is beautiful like Marilyn. ” Devilishly, he chuckled and pinched her red velvet dress where little mermaid shouldn’t have seen.

After all, this Christmas she was eight.”Mother, may I have a red velvet dress like theirs’ ?” Mermaid politely whispered to Babe.Babe said, “yes, I’ll make you one. You’ll look like a Christmas angel for certain!”

That Christmas Big Mother gave the mermaid a box filled with fabric. Red velvet material. Babe cut the pattern and made a fairy dress. No longer mermaid, but now, “Fairy Princess.” she even made wings and a halo.One

Halloween, years before Babe made mermaid a Medusa head piece. Mermaid loved the stories of mythological beings. Babe loved to read the fables to her little fairy princess and then make elaborate costumes to match. Sometimes mermaid wore them to school. Even though, the school children laughed at her.

Babe taught mermaid how to think magically. It was easy for Babe to think of mermaids. After all, gypsies, Medusa and mermaids were featuring characters in my mother’s many bedtime stories. Even women of the night were giggled at when Babe told the legends of Neville Pool.

*Although this story is a work of fiction, the medusa headdress was not, thanks to my creative mother… RIP, Babe