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When it came to Old Man Wither’s challenge for people to be brave – I’m not sure it was Bitsy he had in mind. Bitsy never had an issue with courage. In fact, I think it’s safe to say, she could have used a little less courage and a little more thinking before jumping, I’m just saying.

We all know how Bitsy is prone to exaggerate and most of her stories contain about one kernel of truth, buried under a pile of extraneous questionable details.  And finding your way to that kernel of truth is like digging through that junk drawer in the kitchen you hadn’t cleaned since the kids were born –  to find just one dadblasted rubber band.
So I have to say….when Bitsy came busting into the front door of that beauty parlor, out of breath, and claiming that she had a brush with death, well, we didn’t jump out of our seats with worry. 

 It’s not like we don’t care about Bitsy.   We cared when she said she thought she had been poisoned by that lady who’s parking space she took at the grocery store –  and we cared when she got arrested at the Piggly Wiggly, and how was she supposed to know you’re not allowed to dip your finger into the dressings to taste them first?  
And we cared when she was convinced the chemicals in her shampoo were eating through to her brain, and she could no longer remember the words to her favorite Shania Twain song. 

 So don’t blame us for not reacting more gravely when Bitsy announced that she almost died. We had been somewhere like this before. 

It was Saturday afternoon and the place was buzzing over at Myrlene, Vyrlene, and Shyrlene’s House of Beauty – where gossip is truth – big hair is a blessing – and tabloids are the second gospel. Like chickens at egg laying time, you could hear the high-pitched chatter from those women all the way down the street. We have a special way of greeting each other down here – that is often prefaced with a couple of high squeals – girl I haven’t seen you in ages –  a few gushes – why you’re absolutely glowing –  some giggles – yes we had a nice honeymoon – and a smattering of various exclamations that we should get together for lunch and oh no she didn’t say that right to your face. 

In the beauty parlor, there can be thirty conversations all going on at one time, and you’ll still notice who didn’t comment when you said your daughter got the lead in the play. She always was jealous. Women can have multiple conversations going on, interrupt themselves along the way, and still remember where they left off. And my husband walks into a room full of men at the gym, and just nods and tips his head. He’ll talk to his cousin on the phone and then when he gets off I’ll ask him what he said and he just shrugs his shoulders and says nothing. Nothing? The man has cancer, his daughter got busted for drugs at the prom, they’re about to lose their house, and you got nothing?  Let me call his wife.

Women came here to Myrlene, Vyrlene, and Shyrlene’s for more than just a trim or a color or a new do for their daughter’s wedding. They came here to comment on the current administration, complain about their kids or brag, whichever felt better that day. They came here where somebody would notice that they had lost a few pounds and not notice if they hadn’t.  A bride would come and get her last bits of pre-marital advice. Wait. Last? Who are we kidding?  A place where perms occasionally took on a life of their own, and if your man had taken up with his secretary, well you could bet somebody knew somebody who could take him out.  Or at least key his car. It’s not that we were terrible gossips. It’s just sometimes things just don’t feel like they really happened until you get to chat them out. And sometimes, there was wine.  And Lord help us all when the Chardonnay starts flowing. 

So Bitsy comes rushing in flapping her short little arms like a lemon scented T Rex in a flowered cardigan. Her cheeks all red with excitement – not so much about what had happened, but excitement at getting to tell it to an audience. Her ample bosom was heaving in anticipation – or rather from having run the last block to get here before the all the dryers got started. Nothing could drown out this moment. 

So apparently, this had all happened when Bitsy took that plane trip to go see her sister in Dubuque. The one who just had gall bladder surgery, an

d we can see the pictures later. Well, actually it happened on the way back, to be more specific. 
Bitsy made it quite clear that she was sitting in first class -which shouldn’t matter a bit to the story – but that’s just how Bitsy is. And we didn’t mention that we knew it was only because her son was a flight attendant. NOT a pilot which she’d been known to imply to strangers.

So Bitsy was sitting in the aisle in first class, ready to get herself home where she could finally have a moment to herself. Her sister sure did know how to talk. And had no problem being waited on hand and foot. Gall bladder surgery or not – you could still be a good hostess. I’m just saying.

Now you need to know that Bitsy travels everywhere in complete hair and makeup –  which is why we gave her the nickname Camera Ready behind her back.  She says you never know who you’ll meet on an airplane, and if God forbid the plane should go down and she should die, she surely didn’t want someone else doing her makeup. This way she at least had some say in it.

The only problem with always being camera ready, is it makes sleeping on an airplane nearly impossible. If you fall asleep, you are in high danger of falling back and messing up your hair – and even worse, start snoring. She still had PTSD flashbacks from the time she fell asleep in the window seat and snored her way through a flight disembarkment and the flight attendant had to wake her up, and when she walked out into the lobby, she could see people pointing at her and laughing.  She made sure never to fly at that time again, just in case somebody recognized her. 

So Bitsy went to as much effort to stay awake as she did to get ready. But it was so hard to refuse a mamosa – all chilled like that. And free. And who could say no when offered a second? Why that would be downright rude.  And who cares that it’s only 9am, it’s got orange juice in it. That’s when you’re supposed to drink it. 
And that’s all it took.

So before long, Bitsy’s head began to bob.  And somewhere high up in the clouds over Tennessee, Bitsy lost the battle and fell asleep. Which now that I think about it, doesn’t really matter to the story – one of those irrelevant details which Bitsy loves. But she included it, so I did too.

It’s when they landed that things got ugly.  

You know how everybody gets when a plane lands.  It’s like one minute the entire place is in a unified coma and as soon as the landing ding sounds, they jump up like there’s a fire and they’ve got to be the first ones out. And there’s this race to get up, get your stuff, and get out of that plane.  So what took them 29 minutes to board – takes them thirty seconds to unload. It’s quite the mystery.

Bitsy, being raised in the south to believe that manners counted more than just about anything….. Who would have probably apologized to a mugger for stealing her purse because there wasn’t more money in there……was determined to be polite. She refused to get up and add to the rush and chaos. One at a time. They could just wait. Won’t kill them. And she politely clutched her purse on her lap and talked smack about them in her head. Because a good southern woman never shows her anger. 

So she’s sitting there all polite, peering at people out of the corner of her eyes, just to make sure nobody was pointing or looking at her funny since she had fallen asleep and her throat felt a tad sore.  And that’s when she felt it.  Something soft pushed up against the back of her head and immediately sent a jolt of electric outrage through her  – not because it hurt – but because something had dared to make contact with her hair.  

As any polite southern woman with proper manners, she acted like it didn’t happen.  Normally she would have immediately apologized, but she had just taken this online self-help course, that said apologizing for what you didn’t do was taking away your power.  So she didn’t say anything at all. 

And then it happened again only a little bit harder this time. Now once was one thing. But twice? Bitsy felt the tips of her ears get hot – which is what usually happens right before she does something she regrets. But she just closed her eyes and did her deep breath exercises she learned on her new meditation app and tried to listen for the sound of the birds. 

When it happened a third time, Bitsy lost it. Excuse me, she said in her high pitched you just took my seat in church and you’re gonna regret it voice. She turned around and ran smack face first into some gentleman’s midsection – who really should have worn a shirt that tucked in. And if a delicate southern woman was to be caught in such an awkward situation, well it was quite regretable that it wasn’t a finely toned midsection like in the firefighter calendar hanging on her refrigerator. This midsection, however, was brought to us by Budweiser. 

Apparently, this rude gentleman, delete the gentle part, in the seat right behind Bitsy, had something very important in the bin directly above her head. And he was determined to get it out now. Why you’d have thought it was top security clearance or something, the way he was throwing his whole body into the task, grunting like a stuck pig, and ramming his midsection into Bitsy’s face. 

Bitsy really didn’t know what to do, as the man was practically climbing over her head to get up in that bin. So she did what any self-respecting southern woman in her genealogical line would have done. She turned around and pretended like it was not happening. Denial was the go to of Bitsy’s blood line.  She gently leaned up in her seat so he wouldn’t think she was being rude to wait out this predicament and said a small prayer that her hair would look as full and high as it did this morning. She always did like to walk off a plane looking like she was somebody famous. She’d even worn pearls like her life coach advised – to truly show up in her life. She wasn’t sure what that meant exactly, but she figured pearls showed up quite nicely.

With one final grunt, the man behind her finally got hold of his beloved bag, which you thought might have held a kidney or something, the way he was acting. But in reality, was just a laptop computer. And if it was so important, well, you would think he would have put it in a case, not just thrown that thing up there like he had money to throw around. Bitsy was so busy chewing him out privately in her head, that she really wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Well, how could she have been? It happened so fast – yet really slow at the time – as brushes with death tend to go.

Bitsy didn’t see it coming, but the others around (as they told her later) said they were all watching in slow motion horror, while that man pulled out this giant computer (like oversized metal – HUGE computer the lady across from her attested to) and just as he got it in his rude grubby grasp. He lost his grip. But the computer was already en route. And you can guess exactly where it was headed. Yes ma’am. 

Bitsy felt like she had been hit by a train when that giant metal beast of a machine fell on top of her head – not even flat, but the corner hitting her head, which was even worst. Kind of like a metal torpedo coming right down on your skull.  Bitsy heard someone cussing  behind her, and then  people started shrieking-  she’s been hit –  then a bunch of prickly stars floating around her head, and people’s concerned faces peeking down over her -and they were all distorted – and then she fainted. Probably not so much from the pain, as the trauma of it all.

Being rolled out by a stretcher and a team of airport medics and security, was not exactly the exit Bitsy had been planning. And she was incredibly embarrassed that they held up the disembarkment all because of her. Which is just more of that southern guilt she was raised on.  And she was simply horrified at the thought of what her hair might look like, and absolutely threw a fit when they said they needed to take a look at her head.  And doughy midsection dude was nowhere to be found – of course. And Bitsy was pretty sure she was gonna get her next flight free. And, a mimosa would have been nice – could’ve made her feel better while they waited to make sure she didn’t have a concussion.

She kept insisting that she was fine. Which was unsual for Bitsy, as she usually lived for that kind of attention. She passed all their tests, and assured them that she would go to the doctor if she had any unusual symptoms. But that she really needed to go. And she rushed out that airport as fast as her plump little legs would take her.
We all gave her the proper amount of shocked response, from under our foil strips and dryers.  It actually was a horrible thing to happen, and she could have been really hurt. We couldn’t believe there wasn’t any blood or anything really serious. And we asked why Bitsy, for the first time in her life, was she desperate not to have the attention. Like she was embarrassed.

Well, she said, I kind of was embarrassed. And my head really was hurting pretty bad. But I knew I was already okay. Because even though it hurt, I knew what had broken the fall. And I’m pretty sure that I’m alive today because of it. But I couldn’t really tell anybody.

We all leaned in closer on this one, and all movement stopped in that salon. It was one of those moments you knew something was about to be revealed.

Bitsy took a deep breath, and pulled something out of her purse.

It was big and brown and shaped like a banana and covered in velcro.

My Bump It saved my life, she said, with a tear running down her cheek.

Some of you might be confused, but others of you are already singing the as-seen-on-tv jingle about the miracle of the bump it. And some might have one in the back of their hair drawer still to this day.

The Bump It is a contraption that you put under your hair on top of your head – to give it more lift. Which is kind of an understatement, as some women were able to super size their bump it and generate hair dos that house a family of birds. Miss Eulaly had one so high she couldn’t fit it in her car when she left, and had to walk home.

So that day on the airplane, when that computer had come spiraling down like a missile at Bitsy’s head, the Bump It had risen to the occasion and protected her delicate crown – like a Bible held up from the breast pocket of a valiant Civil War soldier that had stopped the bullet.  We all closed our eyes for a moment of silence. 

She of course couldn’t tell the medics that she had some assistance that she wasn’t born with. Well how would that have looked for everybody to see? A southern woman never reveals her beauty secrets. 

And, Shyrlene, who wore pantyhose with butt padding in the back, could totally understand.  And Aurora said she’s convinced her padded bra is what kept her boobs from getting burned that time she had the grease fire in the kitchen. Then again, she thinks it might have been the boobs bumping into the burner that might have actually started the fire. But still. And all of us felt a little better that day about the money we had spent on beauty over the years. You just never know when it could save your life.

I think Bitsy was secretly glad it happened, because it gave her a great story to tell. Over. And over. And over. By next year, there’s no telling what she will have added to it. But thanks to her, Bump Its are making a comeback in Prides Hollow. They can’t keep them on the shelves. 

I might even have one on right now.  But I’ll never tell. Shhhh.

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