It’s a warm July morning. After a swim, I was dressing for the day. I have a basket of huge fluffy powder puffs and several glass containers of scented powders. It’s lovely to make the air in my dressing room dense with the ritual of powdering up to ward off sticky perspiration (aka sweat). This morning I had a flashback as I saw the round mark of powder on my bosom.
Meet Miss Helen Groce. This dear woman was the librarian at the Bronte Library in Victoria, Texas. She had my dream job — a desk in an air-conditioned historic building, surrounded by books. I was so in awe of this woman. To this day, I remember her in such detail.
Miss Groce was a short, stocky woman with bosoms like a great shelf in the front of her dress. A soft voice. Perfectly curled silver hair captured by one of those whisper thin hair nets. Her dresses were all like the one in this photo. Shirtwaists, they were called. Crispy navy silk with covered buttons down the front to just below the waist. A thin little self-belt. The neckline was not such a deep V, but one could always see cleavage, nonetheless. And powder marks.
When I was a shy little girl standing in front of her desk waiting to check out my books, Miss Groce’s chest was always at my eye level. And I was fascinated by the round marks of powder that were visible! Through the years, as I have reached for my powder puff, I have thought of our librarian.
I worked my way through the young adults books, section by section. Summer was my special time for reading. A lot of time was spent at the ranch, where I could hide in the huge live oaks in our yard with a great book. It was in the tree when I was reading another girl/horse story that I encountered passion. Yep — reading Spring Comes Riding by Betty Cavanna, billed as a “Starlight Novel for Modern Girls”. Midway through the book, Spring is in the stable with the handsome groom shown here. They kiss. I almost fell out of the tree.
I did not dare dog-ear the page — Miss Groce always seemed to know if we had dog-earred pages. But I soon discovered that the book would fall open to that page anyway. I read about the kiss over and over and over. In secret. Not wanting anyone to know.
When we went back to the library, I turned in my whole stack of books except this one. It got renewed. Miss Groce just smiled. I really could not look her in the eye.
The next week, it got presented for renewal again. This time, my mother was standing there and asked why I was keeping this book to read again!? Miss Groce volunteered that all the girls like that book because “it had a little romance in it”. To my horror, she flipped the book open to the kissing page! I could have melted into the terrazzo floor of the Bronte Library. Mortified.
And so … more than 900 miles and over 50 years later, on this warm July Sunday morning in Georgia, I am breathing in the scent of the powder and thinking of Miss Groce. And kissing.