As a kid my family moved around a fair amount -- teachers always asked me if my father was in the military or the diplomatic service. (Nope.) Mostly it was that secretly, I believe, my mother must have gypsy blood in her veins. I like to imagine the circumstances. So exciting!
But for explaining why I attended so many schools: a problem. I was in fact a good girl and a very strong student. We just ... moved a lot. Mine was not to reason why. Mine was but to do, or else.
When I was in seventh grade, at my Next New School (a perfectly lovely Quaker school in Philadelphia), I was yet again the New Girl in the class. New Girls were inevitably assigned to a Teacher's Pet (the most popular, smartest, prettiest girl) to be given orientation. Don't ask, it's just how things went.
So the pudgy but otherwise intelligent pre-teen Polly fell under the power of "Mimi," this SuperGirl. Suffice it to say I never made the grade socially (oh god, middle school), and was assured of many years of presumed and justified inadequacy anywhere within in a 50-mile radius of this cool, lithe, 13-year-old blonde success story. The Girl You Love To Hate.
Fast forward 30 years. I bump into Mimi's brother at a noisy New England fundraiser. "What's your sister up to these days?" I query.
In the hubbub of the crowd, I think that I hear him say, "blah blah blah....in New Hampshire..."
Heh heh heh.
Soooo, I think. The former blonde vixen is now living in New Hampshire. Justified or not, Bostonians delight in forging crass, unsophisticated images of New Hampshirites. I thus conjure up, with vengeful glee, the mental portrait of a Mimi transformed into a manure-shovelling unshaven backwoods hippie. I revel in picturing her with swarms of unkempt children fighting over who has to bring in the firewood. Dirty fingernails and bad grammar. Walmart clothes. Ah. I feel relieved, redeemed.
"Where in New Hampshire?" I ask coyly.
"No, no, it's Amsterdam. And Paris," he corrects me. "She has an international interior design firm. It was on the cover of Architectural Digest last month."
Guess who I haven't looked up in Paris?