I remember feeling so grown up taking the bus from Somers Point into work every day. I smoked cigarettes in the back with the cool kids, as we were all riding to our jobs Down The Shore. It was the days before the casinos had arrived, after the glory years of the Boardwalk itself, and Atlantic City had acquired a somewhat seedy reputation. But it was the old days still, and Atlantic City was exciting to me. The Diving Horses on the Steel Pier were still an attraction but the Marine Ballroom (where I competed as a squaredancer in 7th grade) had burned down the year before.
I made a lot of friends that summer and I'd walk to visit them on my breaks. One friend worked the rides at the Amusement Pier, others worked in the restaurant business, some were lifeguards and a couple of new girlfriends worked at shops along the way. It was great. Heck, I was even dating the Planters Peanut Man (who was really just a boy in a peanut suit that I'd taken a liking to). Don't judge me. He was cute.
I just felt so grown up being in high school and spending the entire day on my own at work. Songs about The Shore always bring back memories of the two summers I worked on the Boardalk in Atlantic City.
But the title of this story should really be My Mother's Hall of Shame, because that's what it truly is.
In late August of that year, I got very sick at work. My father had to drive to the city to come collect me. My stomach was killing me, it was really acute and I ended up quietly suffering through a horrible night. I think around 3 in the morning, my mother checked on me and ended up calling the hospital, where she worked as a telephone operator, and explained my symptoms and they said to bring me in right away.
Before we go any further, I just want to say that my parents, like everyone at that time, were very patriotic people. Having lived through two wars, and gone through the Great Depression, well it was just a different era. Then the 70's came, and all hell broke loose. Young people were wearing (gasp) things with the image of the AMERICAN FLAG on them. My mother was appalled. She thought it was just so rude and well, disrespectful. I just want to point this fact out. You'll need to remember it later.
We arrived early in the morning at the emergency room at Shore Memorial Hospital, and because she worked there, my mom was permitted to come in with me. I gingerly climbed onto an examination table and my shorts were pulled down and little and my top was pulled up, and one of the nurses commented on my cute underpants. Oh yeah, I'd forgotten I'd worn that pair, I remember thinking. I could see my mother talking to one of the nurses over in the corner of the room. A doctor asked me if it hurt when he pushed in places, and as he gently pushed on my right side, I screamed. God, did that hurt! And my mother came running, and to her horror, she saw that I was wearing bikini underpants with our nation's stars and stripes emblazoned all over them. "Oh, for the love of God, Katy!" she said, "Where in Heavens Name did you get those underpants?"
Now it was bad enough wearing the flag on your outer garments, but one look at this article of clothing, well it set my mother off. She didn't say anything else, but I could tell that she thought I was pretty tacky wearing it. But all I remember feeling was really sick, and now felt like crying because I had embarassed her in front of her co-workers. Luckily, the nurses came to my aid and quickly ushered my mother from the room, telling her I needed emergency surgery. I'd been diagnosed with acute appendicitis. I came out of the whole thing just fine, in the end, and to my mother's chagrin, was known during my stay at the hospital as the girl with the flag underwear, you know, CHARLOTTE'S DAUGHTER.
I liked to think of myself as the girl with the itsy bitsy teeny weeny red, white and blue bikini. Yeah, that was me. And my mother wasn't really that upset. I mean, it was just a pair of underpants.