When I was a child in Atlanta, Dee Dee was an object of envy. She was a teenager, my sister’s age, who lived at the end of our dead-end street.
I don’t think she was an only child, but I do believe Dee Dee was the only girl in the family.
On the one or two occasions I was allowed to accompany my sister to Dee Dee’s house, I was in awe of her bathroom.
For one thing, it was her bathroom. She didn’t have to share it, and it was what we call now an en suite. In my limited experience, only moms and dads had bathrooms adjoining their bedrooms.
The bathroom was pink and gray, as I remember it, with skunk decals on the toilet. It was the most beautiful bathroom I had ever seen.
I cannot tell you how I coveted Dee Dee’s bathroom and vowed one day I would have skunk decals of my own. Luckily one’s tastes change as one matures.
In Dee Dee’s bedroom, which she did not share with anyone, she kept a hope chest, which I had never heard of.
The 15-year-old Dee Dee already was gathering the things she would need to set up house when the man of her dreams married her and whisked her away to a ranch house in the suburbs much like the one she lived in. The pre-feminist me was enraptured.
As I remember it, Dee Dee opened the Lane chest — it had to have been a Lane — and showed us her treasures. For the life of me, I can’t recall them with certainty, though I think white linen tablecloths were involved.
She explained that she saved her allowance, then she and her mother would go shopping for the things Dee Dee would store in her hope chest.
I thought it was incredibly romantic, but wondered what she would do with the stuff if nobody married her. Setting up one’s own home as a single woman was a pitiable fate; buying one’s own home was unthinkable — and, in 1958, darn-near impossible.
Dee Dee seemed so sure of herself, so sure of her future, it was hard to doubt she would get what she wanted.
I also envied Dee Dee because she had a Kerry blue terrier. I didn’t particularly like the breed — it was too jumpy — but it was a dog, and I wanted one. My beagle, Donnie, had been sent to “school” months after we got him, and strangely, never graduated and never returned.
For all the “opulence” of Dee Dee’s life, it seemed strange that her parents rented out the basement to a young man, a quiet loner I’d see walking up the street toward the bus stop at Roswell Road or at the record shop at Lenox Square.
According to his website, at the time, he was a student at Georgia State University studying music theory.
Later, in 1962, after we moved to Knoxville, we would hear his song on the radio. It was called “Ahab the Arab,” and the boarder, Ray Stevens, was a star living in Nashville.
Darned Dee Dee was a girl who had everything, from skunk decals in her bathroom to a budding music legend in her basement.
Though I envied her, I hope she got a happily-ever-after that required linen tablecloths.
Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her by email at email@example.com.