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Tales From the South: Puddin' Gets Pierced

Rachel turns 12 Wednesday. Her grandparents aren’t invited to the party this year. It’s a skating party with her friends. She came to see us Saturday before the big day.

“OK, here’s what we’ll do G-Mama,” she said. “We’ll just get our ears pierced while I’m here. Let’s call the beauty shop and see if somebody can do it — right now!”

Her mother promised for years, “When you are 12, you can get your ears pierced. Not before.”

Sometime during the past, I said, “When Rachel gets her ears pierced, I think I’ll get mine done.”

Word got around. Soon everybody in the family was saying, “G-Mama’s going to get her ears pierced when Rachel turns 12 and gets hers done.”

In the 1950s, my gang — nine teenage girls — spent as much time together as possible. We attended ball games and picture shows, laughed and cried in each other’s arms, shared intimate secrets, had our first cigarettes and beer together, and lived for bunkin’ parties.
But when it came to piercing ears, I refused. I wouldn’t go along with the gang when they pierced each other’s ears with the same needle sterilized in the flame of a wooden match, and stuck broom straws through the holes.

“No way, are you doing that to me! I’ll get my ears pierced when I get a bone in my nose!” I laughed, poking fun.

My friends countered with, “Puddin’s a scardy cat! She’s afraid to get her ears pierced!”

I held my ground. I was afraid … didn’t like needles. I kept my promise. I grew up, and older, sometimes envious of others with pierced ears, but still refusing the process.

So, when I said I’d get mine pierced when Rachel did hers, it was rather like when I told my friends I’d get a bone in my nose. I didn’t really mean it. I have never been serious about getting anything pierced. But what grandmother in her right mind would disillusion her granddaughter and renege on a promise, albeit a half-hearted promise?

We hurried out to the salon Saturday afternoon just in time to catch the piercing lady before she went home. The sweet young thing didn’t look old enough to perform surgery, but she very efficiently told us what to expect: “I’ll shoot the starter earrings of your choice into your ears with this little plastic gun. It just takes a minute. It won’t hurt. Who’s going first?”

Granddaughter beamed as she jumped into the chair saying, “Me first! G-Mama can watch.” She chose silver balls, while I decided on gold ones — to match my bifocals.

The woman-in-control marked each ear with a black dot while Mother confirmed the perfect spot. Then she swabbed Granddaughter’s ears with alcohol and grabbed her gun. In an instant, the gun popped loudly. I jumped, and Rachel grinned. The little silver balls went in easily. Not a tear.

My turn. I gritted my teeth and sat down. I jumped when she shot the gold ball into the wrinkle in my left ear, but since it didn’t hurt, I let her do the other.

Then she said, “Now they must stay put for at least three weeks.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that earrings are one of the first things to come off when I get home.

In the car we had a serious talk about piercing other body parts. The line was drawn. The saga of our family’s piercing is over and done. I’ll not get a bone, and Granddaughter will not have anything else pierced, no matter how old she gets.

Now here I am, a grandmother with little gold balls piercing through my sore ears. I’m putting alcohol on a cotton ball, dabbing my ears twice daily, and rubbing the entire lobe with antibiotic salve. I’m twisting the little ball every time I think about it, which today, is often.

Granddaughter says to twist the balls while my holes are curing. It’s very important. It will break down the tissue and leave a neat place for my new earrings.

A granddaughter can cause a woman to do things she said she never would.

Patsy Pipkin enjoys her grandchildren and her writing life in Searcy, Arkansas. She is
the author of three collections of columns and the life story of a World War II Veteran.

As an official sponsor, along with Argenta Arts Foundation, of "Tales from the South," a radio program taped each Tuesday at Starving Artist Cafe in North Little Rock, Ark.,  featuring southerners telling their own true stories, AY brings you this monthly feature of highlights from "Tales from the South." The program is broadcast Thursdays at 7 p.m. on KUAR (FM89.1) in central Arkansas. You can find it streaming online at kuar.org; or listen along with 140 million European listeners on World Radio Network Sundays at 9 a.m. at wrn.org. For more information, log onto talesfromthesouth.com.

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