I had seen lady undies up close, tiptoeing into my mom's bedroom and slipping her conical stitched Maidenform on for a sneak peek into the future – turning sideways in the mirror for pretend full effect. In my older single digit years I also studied girdle stays, and though schooled to a minor degree about the dangling hosiery clips, I found the strange gizmos unsettling. Also in Mom's bottom dresser drawer, bleach-white panties and slips felt smooth as water, cool as milk. But my favorite delicate, the wondrous bullet bra, had the same taut texture of line dried bedsheets. Apart from sensory reaction, the most pertinent thing I had learned about lady undies was that they were always kept under wraps.
Terry Brockmiller lived deep inside uncharted territory, four houses away, and I knew the ground rules of staying close to home same as I knew invisible air was there and a booger stuck between the pages of a math book eventually dried, but retained its greenish hue and editorial comment into the next school year. Terry asked if I could go to her house to play and we bolted from my mom's unexpected “yes” like cats from a garden hose, rounding the porch corner at a dead run before the woman who made the rules came to her senses.
Out of Mom’s sight, our pace slowed. The oxygen on the north end of the housing breathed heavier. Trash cans loomed larger. Game show chatter yammered louder from open windows. I wondered if I had made a mistake venturing so far from the familiar. We reached Terry’s house as a cheer rose from The Price Is Right studio audience. Terry's mother paused in her work to watch the winning contestant moment, possibly wishing she'd just hugged Bob Barker for guessing the correct price of a brand new Frigidaire washer and dryer; Zenith radio; Motorola Hi-Fi; and took a drag off a cigarette.
Seeing Terry's mother the way I did, pressed against the outside screen door with hands cupped around my eyes in makeshift binocular fashion, the day blindingly bright behind me and this woman's pointy brassier and sheer waist-high panties glowing in the dim living room like a lighthouse beacon while she swayed back and forth across the shirt laying the length of the ironing board, was a pretty big shock. Yet, this was not completely unfamiliar territory.
Wanda Morrow Clevenger © 2011