Alter Ego

img_1948-copyWhen I was in college, visits to the campus post office were an important part of my week. Fat envelopes filled with news from home, fortified with newspaper clippings and photos, lifted my spirits and encouraged me to reciprocate. One day I pulled a small envelope from my box. In it was a page of stationery with A Note from Lois printed on it. I didn’t know anyone named Lois, but apparently Lois knew me.

The note was chatty. Lois had recently returned from a day of successful bargain hunting, snagging a designer garment for a song. She had lunch with my beautiful mom (who said “hi”), and commented on a recent good grade I had gotten at school. Wishing me luck on upcoming mid-terms, she signed off. I decided to write back.

I told Lois about the antics of the fun freshman girls I lived with. I shared pictures of the jack-o-lanterns we carved, and the pies we made out of them. I gave breathless accounts of the football and basketball games, and the treks to far-flung-seeming parts of North Carolina for a hayride and a buffet meal.

Years later, I ran across a letter from Lois and shared it with my daughter. I explained that my mom had found a package of stationery on the ground at a shopping center parking lot and decided to use it. Lois was born. My daughter was so taken with the idea, she ordered some cards personalized with the name Dixie Beauregard, and asked that I use them to write to her at camp. During prior camp summers with both our kids, we’d tried to write every single day so they’d get something at the mail call. Now, this burden could be shared with Dixie.

As her name suggests, Dixie is a deep-fried southerner. I imagined her as a Mame-like force of nature, full of opinions and not afraid to voice them. She loves to cook and eat, and isn’t shy about showing her near religious devotion to southern food. Transplanted to Chicago, Dixie practically lost her mind when a Chick-Fil-A opened near the Loop. That letter had grease stains on it.

You’d think that writing under a pseudonym would allow extreme invention, but I found it to be closer to the truth. Refreshing and direct, fun and genuine. I just found these Dixie cards and realize she hasn’t written to our daughter in college. Well, we can’t have that.

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