" . . . prepare to laugh out loud and cry in ernest . . . highly recommended "
—Library Journal

What happens when ex-cheerleaders grow up?

For Snowy, the cute, blond, ponytailed cheerleader at Gunthwaite High School in the 1950s, did anything ever match the glory of those days?

This is the story that the multitudes of fans of the best-selling The Cheerleader have clamored for, a story that new readers will respond to with equal eagerness. While chronicling Snowy’s next thirty years, it explores the complexities of friendship as it follows the lives of her best friends, beautiful Bev and outspoken Puddles, and her first love, Tom.

What happens when the Silent Generation grows up?

Snowy describes how Snowy and her friends, who came of age in the security of the 1950s when roles were defined and accepted, develop in the next decades, coping with college, marriage, and careers, their experiences unique and universal.

What happens next? The following volumes inThe Snowy Series, continue the story.

Available now!

St. Martin's (1993); Frigate Books (2002, e-book 2017)
Foreword by Ann V. Norton; Saint Anselm College

 

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Chapter 1

SO HERE SHE was, on Wednesday, October 9, 1957, about to strip off her Pig-Pen costume consisting of dried-muddy sweatshirt and Levi’s, in a bathroom in a sleazy motel across the Vermont line in New York with a little party going on outside the bathroom door whose lock didn’t work, her roommate and her roommate’s date and her own impromptu date lolling around watching loud TV and imbibing rum-and-Cokes out of paper cups. Henrietta Snow, known as Snowy, had definitely not expected to find herself in such a situation when she’d been accepted at Bennington College last spring. A scholarship student, too!

Someone tapped on the door. She froze, head inside the filthy blue Bennington sweatshirt. "Who is it?"

"Me,"said her roommate, Harriet Blumburg. "Okay to come in?"

Dennis, Harriet’s date, shouted, "Hey, Snowy, want us to help scrub your back?"

Harriet opened the door just wide enough to dart in and slammed it behind her. "Shit, the lock’s broken."

From the interior of the sweatshirt, a muffled wail: "You promised you’d keep them at bay!"

"I will, I will," Harriet said, "but I need some Dutch courage," and she grabbed Snowy’s rum-and-Coke off the cracked toilet tank and took a deep swig.

"Huh?" As Snowy tugged her sweatshirt up over her dark blond hair pinned up frowzily to approximate Pig-Pen’s and plastered with mud like a bird’s nest, chunks of dirt pattered down on the scuffed linoleum. Her emerging face had been slathered with a facial of real mud, now also dried and crumbling. "You’ve already got a drink, has Dennis run out of refills."

"There’s a slight problem I haven’t mentioned, I have trouble drinking or eating anything in front of a guy."

"Really?" Snowy said, amazed

Harriet began laughing. "God, you’re a mess—you, of all people."

Small and cute, with a heart-shaped face and turned-up nose, Snowy had been frantically trying to change her squeaky-clean look ever since she’d arrived at Bennington a month ago, but she’d realized she hadn’t succeeded when, amid gales of mirth, the girls in her house had decided she would be perfect for the Pig-Pen part in the Peanuts skit. She said, "I tested the shower, it’s hardly a trickle.

Exploring the dank sour room, Harriet picked up the wrapped midget bar of soap. "At least the management changes the towels and soap, be glad you don’t have to use a sliver with someone’s pubic hairs on it."

Snowy retched, a noise she’d learned from her high-school best friend, Bev Colby, and gingerly draped the sweatshirt across the washbasin. "This is crazy, I should be showering at the house."

"Any shampoo samples?"

"Are there usually?"

"Sometimes, but maybe these motels back East—-" - Harriet stared at Snowy, once again stunned by her lack of experience. "You’ve never been in a motel before?"

Harriet, a California sophisticate; Snowy, a New Hampshire hick. Hideously embarrassed, Snowy said, "Nope."

Harriet said quickly, "I’ve just been with my parents, no big deal, I haven’t ever been to a motel with a guy."

"Plural! We’ve got two of them out there!"

"Try anything once, that’s my motto."

Snowy’s laugh was nervous, Harriet’s bravado. But they were all supposedly only here so Snowy could wash off Pig-Pen and look reasonably presentable for what Dennis had termed a "pub crawl" of the beer joints over the line in New York, where you could drink at age eighteen. Yet Snowy doubted that that toy soap would make a dent in the dirt, and she’d need plenty of shampoo even under ordinary circumstances because since last spring she had been letting her hair grow, rivaling Rapunzel, and nowadays she usually wore it cascading straight to her hips in a Bohemian Bennington style, after having spent her high-school years as a perky cheerleader in a long ponytail curled into an upside-down question mark. She unzipped her Levi’s and asked, "If you can’t eat when you’re out on a date, what do you do at the Top Hat or the State Line?" Despite her size, Snowy possessed a lumberjack’s capacity for food, and although she was shy, the presence of a boy had merely made her mind her manners with extra care. How Freudian, she thought vaguely, her major not psychology but literature, how Freudian that Harriet, who was thin and dark and angularly pretty, an art major, had become fascinated by fat women, painting nothing else. Harriet called it "my fat-lady period." The canvases hanging on the walls of their room would have daunted anybody’s appetite but Snowy’s.

Harriet guzzled rum-and-Coke. "Oh, I can fiddle with a piece of pizza all evening, I can nurse a beer for hours and hours."

Besides having never been in a motel before, Snowy hadn’t ever gone to a beer joint. And this was her first date since coming to Bennington. Last spring, after breaking up with Tom Forbes, her high-school boyfriend, she had sworn off boys, so at Bennington she hadn’t taken advantage of the tradition decreeing it socially acceptable to investigate and respond to stag boys who would enter a house and yell, "Anybody want a date?" Harriet had met guys from Williams and Union and Rensselaer this way and offered to fix Snowy up, Snowy always begging off, her excuses her reading assignments or a paper or a poem she was writing, and actually these excuses were the truth, in addition to the determination not to get involved with a boy again until college was over. She read and reread, wrote and rewrote, scared stiff she wasn’t smart enough to attend a school which didn’t have exams. Hard work and a photographic memory had been the reasons she’d graduated first in her class at Gunthwaite High School in Gunthwaite, New Hampshire, a mill town four hours away. Because of her terror of exams she had hated school; this and the pressure of having to be the fastest gun in the West, always having to get A’s, had made her choose Bennington where there were no grades at all. It was turning out to demand even harder work.

But tonight Harriet had provoked her into consenting to this date, and now beyond the bathroom door awaited Whit Bennett, a Williams boy. Whitney Bennett. Williams. He’d probably even gone to prep school. Well, Harriet had gone to a private school, albeit as a day student.

Dennis shouted, "Rub-a-dub-dub, two girls in a tub!"

Harriet reflected, "He looked like the sensitive type—compared with Ray and the others, anyway."

"Hah," Snowy said, laying her Levi’s on the sweatshirt. "You’re always complaining that Ray takes you to westerns and yells, ‘Cut ‘em off at the pass!’ and throws popcorn all over the place, and at fraternity parties Jim specializes in pie beds and Stan adores his plastic hand that jumps out of toilets, and then there’s the fraternity couch, but they never duped you into a motel."

"So Dennis is more imaginative." Harriet picked up Snowy’s sweatshirt and Levi’s. "I’ll shake these outdoors."

"Thanks. Please, though, please don’t let the guys pull any old-swimming-hole stunt with them."

"Good grief, you’re such a worrier you should’ve played Charlie Brown." Harriet opened the door a slice and dodged out.

In motels, or at least in this motel, the bathmat was made of paper. Better than nothing, Snowy thought, to protect bare feet from this linoleum. She took off her right sneaker and hopped onto the bathmat, took off her left, peeled off her socks, plucked bobbypins out of her hairdo, turned on the reluctant shower, clumsily adjusted the nozzle, shucked her underwear, and, glancing over her shoulder at the door, leapt into the tin stall, where the ragged plastic curtain slid against her, slimy and suspect. Her parents would die if they knew what their darling daughter was doing. Well, it was a milestone. She and Bev had always kept mental lists of milestones, like their first bras (which neither of them had needed and still didn’t) and their first kisses, but she couldn’t write Bev at Katharine Gibbs school for secretaries about this Williams-date milestone complete with motel because they were no longer best friends, to Snowy’s shame. Nonetheless, as she held up to the dribble her mask of mud she began telling Bev about it in her head—and she began telling Tom.
She tried to lather her hair with the ridiculous soap. Dirt dripped down her body, a mud slide.

Breaking up with Tom hadn’t cured her of talking to him in her head every day, telling him her news, even a Williams date, for Christ’s sake! She still fought against the temptation to talk to him on stationery instead, and the telephone was another magnet she strained against, especially during Saturday nights alone. Give in, sang the sirens, give in, write him, a friendly note, not a billet-doux. If he doesn’t write back, a twirl of the dial and the operator will connect you to his fraternity house at Rumford Teachers’ College in New Hampshire, where he was now a sophomore. Why not phone? He certainly wouldn’t be there, he’d be out on a date, so a call would only cost her money, not pride and independence. But what if he was there and they made up? The future would consist of writing him daily and waiting for his letters, waiting weekends as he drove the maybe two hours over to Bennington, then bliss: Depending upon his schedule of washing pots and pans in the college kitchen, she could be here in this motel Saturdays or Sundays with Tom, in that double bed out beyond the dubious barricade of the bathroom door. This prospect, however, was exactly why she’d broken up with him. He had understood their dilemma first. They had begun dating in March 1955, just before her sixteenth birthday. She had been yearning for him, Tom Forbes, handsome, funny, a Catch, and his finally noticing her seemed a present from the gods who bestowed on her the happiest birthday ever, followed by the happiest time of her life, making the Varsity cheerleading squad, cheering him at football games, going steady, discovery. What ended their romance was, of all things, Girls’ State. At the start of the summer of 1956, she went off to a week of Girls’ State at the University of New Hampshire to learn about government, leaving him to grow scared about how much he missed her, this absence a preview of the college years ahead when he’d be trapped by love, fate sealed, opportunities closed. Upon her return he had broken up with her at the drive-in theater, saying they almost ought to make a date to begin again after they’d finished college. At home, she’d nearly drunk iodine. But on a cold April night a year later, having stolen him from Bev and lost her virginity, she had refused the fraternity pin he assumed she’d accept, because she realized her passion for him would ruin her future. She couldn’t get pinned to him; she loved him so absorbingly she wouldn’t have cared about anything at college except his visits and letters. She couldn’t plan to take up where they left off after college, either; she had to be free of him totally. She needed a fresh start, unencumbered by Tom.

Her decision was like a murder, and she remained in shock. He had been her great love, but he’d also been her best friend. She had killed off her best friends, Tom deliberately, Bev a casualty of her Tom preoccupation. Yet on and on she talked to their ghosts.

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© 1993, 2002, 2017by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved