Beauty of identical friends

Published 9:29 pm Friday, September 25, 2009

Miss Rachel Rodgers will celebrate her 90th birthday on Sunday.

She and my mother where identical.

Being identical twins is not all that unusual. But Mama and Miss Rachel were identical friends and not many people can say that.

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Miss Rachel is the daughter of a Methodist preacher and Mama’s daddy helped develop a planter for the company where he worked.

Miles apart and worlds apart, the two of them were.

But their lives came together when they came to Brundidge to work for Miss S.E. Hightower in the beauty parlor on Main Street. Mama and Miss Rachel became fast friends and their friendship endured with time and in spite of me.

Miss Rachel often accepted the dubious task of putting a permanent wave in my hair after which I would pitch fits of varying descriptions, magnitude and long-de-tude depending on just how awful I thought my hair looked.

I was known to hide under the bed, refuse to leave the house and, during one stint, I wore a sailor hat for months until the curl grew out of my hair.

Finally, I announced that I would rather be thrown in quicksand than get another permanent wave in my hair. In the picture show, somebody would always throw a stick to the man sinking ever so slowly in the quicksand and pull him out. Nobody could wave a stick over my head and get those frizzy curls out of my hair. I swore off permanent waves.

So, for a while, I had bangs and hair that Oralene straightened with a weekly dousing of Vaseline against Mama’s protest.

Then Mama and Miss Rachel joined the conspiracy against me.

My grandmother, Mommie, tricked me and my cousin, Net. She told us that we were going to surprise our mamas. She was going to get Miss Rachel to give each one of us a permanent wave as a special surprise to our mamas.

Years later, we realized that they were all in on it – Mama, Aunt Jeanette, Miss Rachel and Mommie. But we were young and nieve and wanted very much to please our grandmother and surprise our mamas, so we went, a bit reluctantly, to the beauty parlor.

Miss Rachel’s beauty parlor was located in a little nook behind the City Market in Brundidge. When we walked in, standing there right in the middle of the floor was the most amazing thing we had ever seen.

Miss Rachel said it was an electric perm machine.

Well, being adventurous little girls, we wanted to try it out. We wanted an electric curl.

Now, Miss Rachel tried to talk us out of it. She told us how hot the machine got and how it pulled your eyes back to your ears and how heavy all those clamps would be and how our necks would hurt from the weight of it all.

None of that fazed us. We were there to get a permanent wave and we wanted the hot one.

We got it.

Recalling the misery of an electric perm is too painful. Just let me say, I never want another one. I will voluntarily step into a pool of quicksand.

Net and I were standing out on the stoop when our mothers and grandmother arrived. I can still see their faces. Aunt Jeanette was leaning over from the driver’s side and Mama from the backseat peeking out the windshield. The passenger window framed Mommie’s placid face. Their mouths were dropped open like they were in the beginnings of a big yawn.

We looked like the daughters of Frankenstein but we were grinning from ear to ear.


We had done it. We had surprised our Mamas. Even Mommie seemed a little surprised and she was in on the secret.

Over the years, there were other permanent waves and more fits to be pitched but Mama and Miss Rachel took it all in stride. I did not come between them.

From them, I learned to really appreciate their friendship and what it means for women to have someone with whom they can share their hopes and dreams, their disappointments and their pains.

Just when I realized that Mama and Miss Rachel were more than friends, that they were identical friends, I’m not sure.

Others noticed it long before I did.

They had the same wonderful, caring dispositions and were very content with their stations in life. They loved their families, their friends, their church and their Lord.

But it was not just those qualities that made them identical. They were identical inside and out.

Time and time again, people would come up to Mama and say, “It’s so good to see you Rachel” and Mama would say, “It’s good to see you, too.” She never corrected anybody. The same thing happened to Miss Rachel just as often. “How are you, Pauline?” And she, too, went right along, “I’m fine, and you?”

But one day Miss Rachel set the record straight. A man came up to her and said, “Pauline, you don’t know who I am, do you?” And Miss Rachel answered, “No. And you don’t know who I am. I’m Rachel.”

Mama and Miss Rachel laughed a lot about being identical friends. They considered the mix-up a compliment because they had great affection for each other.

When I look at Miss Rachel, I see Mama. It makes me happy and it makes me a bit sad, both at the same time.

I miss Mama terribly and I do so wish that she could be here to help celebrate Miss Rachel’s 90th birthday.

They would both be 90 and what stories they could share, those identical friends.

And, it’s a safe bet that someone would come up to Mama and say, “Happy Birthday, Rachel,” and she would smile and say, “Thank you very much” and be pleased by the mistake.

But since Mama can’t be here, I’ll just wish Miss Rachel a ‘Happy Birthday’ from me and her identical friend.