Ms. Magazine    
feminist news wire feminist archives

spring 2003
* * * *
this is what a feminist looks like

Features
The Feminist To-Do List by Gloria Steinem
Ms. Poll Feminist Tide Sweeps In as the 21st Century Begins by Lorraine Dusky
Affirmative Action on Trial by Teresa Stern
Women on Death Row by Claudia Dreifus
In the Thick of Life at 70 by Jessica Chornesky

Special Action Alert
Women Take Action Worldwide
Listing: Coalitions and Groups
National Council of Women's Organizations Statement on War with Iraq
NCWO Partial Members List
Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue
by Grace Paley

Writing of War and Its Consequences
Ghosts of Home by Patricia Sarrafian Ward
Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood by Marjane Satrapi
Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963 by Helen Zelon

News
Pat Summitt's 800th Victory
Augusta Golf Club's Red Face
National Map of Priest Abuse
Women Warriors
Lesbians with Strollers
Kopp Trial
Trouble in Herat, Afghanistan
Reproductive Rights in Poland
Health Clinics in Guatemala
Congolese Women for Peace
Global Good News Round-Up
The Opposite of a Nuclear Bomb

Departments
Lower Breast Cancer Risks by Liz Galst
The Making of an Activist by Gloria Feldt
Nature Conservancy Gains by Rachel Rabkin
Harvard Stumbles on Rape Rules by Lorraine Dusky
The Bush Overhaul of Federal Courts by Stephanie B. Goldberg
My Friend Yeshi by Alice Walker

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This essay first appeared online in the Spring 2000 collection at www.ducts.org


Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963
By Helen Zelon

On this particular day, Vicky, Randi and I skated over to Thrifty Drugs for nickel Crearnsicles. After, we played jacks on the sidewalk between the dichondra-- a peculiar, flowerless, low- to no-maintenance clover, planted in lieu of authentic grass-- on my front "lawn" and the narrow green strip that divided the sidewalk from the curb and gutter.

"Going to the library?" Randi asked.

"Nah," I said, collecting my jacks. "Not today." I went up my front steps, through the living room and past the bathroom, into my room.

"That you?" called Mrs. Rollins, from the bathroom. "Don't be tracking your dirt in here, keep outside! Not through the kitchen neither, the floor's wet. Go through the garage." She returned her attention to my slippery, splashing sister. Stealthily, I took my pillow and slipped outside.

Our fenced-in yard had three elements: patio, driveway, and more dichondra, here a spongy, lima-bean-shaped green expanse, punctuated by the sprinkler heads that regularly kept it lush. I sat on the dichondra with my pillow, then stripped the pillow of its case. The tag tore off easily enough, but I couldn't rip the ticking; the fabric was stronger than me. I got my father's screwdriver from the garage and shoved it into the ticking. Hand clenched around its handle, I dragged the tool downward. A six-inch gash in the fabric began oozing feathers.

I put my hand in, wrist-deep. With a fist full of feathers, scouting fast for the babysitter, I spun around and threw the feathers up over my head. Feather-snow fell all around me. I took another fistful, then another, then two at a time, flinging each upward, turning face-up to receive the snow. Pretty soon, Randi and Vicky came by-- they had seen the "snow" billow over our backyard fence. They stuck their hands in the pillow and started throwing snow, too, and then all the kids came, all scooping up snow in handfuls from where it settled on the dichondra, throwing feather snowballs and wadding great piles of down into soft, hand-packed snow bombs. The aquamarine sky turned white with clouds of feathers, and we raised a racket, screeching and shouting and hollering in wild delight, because before too long, Mrs. Rollins came to the slidingglass door in the den and stopped dead at the sight of us. "I don't know what to do with you wild ones," she scolded. To me, "Wait til your mother gets home."

When the big Buick lumbered into the driveway, we were still playing in the dichondra, twirling in the flurries. My immaculate mother emerged from her car to see us, and her yard, covered in feathers, and seemed to stumble on the air. She regained her physical balance but went a little crazy, there on the hot driveway. Muttering through gritted teeth, half-Polish, half-English, she took me by the shoulders, shook me hard, shamed me in front of my friends.

"How could you do this?" she demanded. "Get rid of them"-- my friends-- "and clean this up." Then, she wept. My rock-solid, impermeable mother cried, there on her driveway in July 1963, ensconced in a perfect suburban world of her own devising, and her shoulders shook like mine had, only no one was shaking them.

"Clean this up," she said again, then lit a cigarette, and went inside.

Cleaning up the feathers was more of a challenge than making the snow had been. Scooping them back into the pillowcase was slow going. I tried the rake; all it did was kick up little eddies of feathers, which settled into the dichondra again. Meanwhile, my father came home.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

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