It’s a summer night in 1957 and I lie on the back seat of the 55 Ford with my three year old brother. Together we about fill it with our sleeping bodies. The car has stopped. I wake up. “Where are we, mom?”
My Uncle Hank says, “I’ll go see if he’ll open up and sell me gas. The store lights are on. He can’t have been closed long.” The green neon Sinclair dinosaur in the window lights the parking stalls in front of the station. Pink and white neon lines the roof-line.
Once the car has stopped I sit up look out the window at the Wyoming night. Beyond the gas station, the city park, soft, summer darkness, out across the plains forever.
Suddenly there is a burst of girls in long frothy dresses, running and laughing. They run past us, their dresses lit momentarily by the neon of the gas station lights.
“Rainbow girls,” says my mom, thoughtfully. “The Lodge must be nearby.”
“What are rainbow girls?” I ask.
“It’s a club for teenage girls, honey. Your Aunt Dickie was a member.”
“They’re wearing long dresses!” I am five and in love with long dresses.
“Formals. They wear formals at their meetings.”
Uncle Hank comes back with the service station owner who unlocks the pumps and fills the tank. We’ll make it to Billings. My grandfather has died and my dad flew up that morning to be with his mother. I’m sure my uncle explained all this to the man.
Life prophesies itself.
1965, Bellevue, Nebraska. My dad has become a Mason and I am about to become a Rainbow Girl. My mom and I go to a Rainbow Installation of new officers. Installations are open to the public. I like the ceremony. I’m surrounded by girls in long dresses. I haven’t forgotten the night in Wheatland.
“An international Masonic organization for girls of teen age,” says the booklet I take home with me that gives me information about the group.
The Installation is beautiful. Each color of the rainbow represents a quality of life and of the spirit. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet are the names of the first seven offices and then there are three more that are white — the color made by all the colors together in the light spectrum. Red = love, orange = religion, yellow = nature, green = immortality, blue = fidelity, indigo = patriotism, violet = service. The white ones? Faith, Hope and Charity.
I hold two offices before I move away. I am yellow, nature, and violet, service. Oddly enough, the qualities represented by those two colors will describe my life as it turns out to be. My frothy dresses? I only have two. I sew one of them during my Gone With the Wind phase. It is white dotted Swiss with a big skirt and a sash. My mom makes the other, white lace fused on pale green backing. Very early 60s.
I loved it. I loved the pageantry and the colors and the ritual — and I learned something about music. The processional march we used was the March from Aida. Years and years later, at the Arena in Verona, I saw Aida and when the march began I was, for a moment, a girl in Bellevue, Nebraska watching the officers enter the room in their long dresses while a record played.