Greg Lippert and Robert Haydon Jones

The Pervert Song (click to listen)
A song by Greg Lippert
Inspiration piece


Stepping into the Renoir
By Robert Haydon Jones

When I was eight, I got pneumonia. For nearly two years, I was bed ridden, wracked with high fevers and delirium. In the parlance of the time, I was “wasting away.” A new drug, penicillin, saved me. But just. I was so weak and fatigued, that for months, I was unable to walk without assistance.

I was the eldest of six children, so my mother decided to hire a girl to help take care of me. So, from January, when I left my sick bed in the bleak hospital, to September when I re-entered school, Connie Longo, a high school senior, who lived just two streets over, took charge of me.

At first, Connie would come over after school and visit with me. But our house was small and crowded, so soon it was decided that my mother would drop me off at Connie’s at 3pm on schooldays and at noon on Saturday and Sunday.

Connie and her younger sister, Marie, were set up in a wing of their large house. They each had a bedroom – and they shared a small sitting room, a bathroom and a large sunny room they called the Play Room.

I think my mother had envisioned Connie taking me for long walks, and in the summer, accompanying me to the nearby beach for swims to help build up my strength, but as it turned out, I spent nearly all my time with Connie lying on a couch in the Play Room while she hung out with her sister and their friends.

The usual group was Connie, Marie, who was a year younger but was often mistaken as an identical twin; Delores Knox, who had graduated the year before and was going to Nursing School nearby; and Elizabeth Attenborough, Connie’s red-headed next door neighbor and classmate, who was the high school Homecoming Queen.

All four girls were very pretty. Connie and Marie were pert, strawberry blondes; Delores was dark haired, with olive skin, flashing dark eyes, and an ultra lithe body. Liz was a real beauty – with a peaches-and-cream complexion and a “Sweater Girl” body so spectacular that I had heard older boys talk dirty about her, back when I was in the second grade.

They called me, “Little Jimmy” and “Jim-Jim”. But they rarely talked to me. My mother would have been furious had she known – but for most of the time Connie was taking care of me, I lay quietly on “my” couch in the Play Room while Connie and the other girls socialized.

After a while, although they might acknowledge my presence, “Hi, Little Jimmy. Are you feeling any better?” they pretty much forgot about me. I became just another feature of the Play Room – like the very big overstuffed bear they had posed on a windowsill, or the dark green leather club chairs with the matching hassocks. After a few weeks, they knew I was there but, for them, I had ceased to be an animate object.

That was convenient for all concerned because usually the girls lounged on their couches in ultra casual clothing. I wouldn’t say they always lay there in their underwear (although often one or more of them did). Suffice it to say that when an outsider was about to enter the room, even Mrs. Longo, they hurriedly adjusted the clothes they had on or they put on more.

The bottom line is that I inhabited their boudoir for months. I was with them for several hours six days a week. Every day I looked at them and I listened to them discussing their life.

A big topic was Delores’s wedding at the end of June to Chris Izzo. Chris was an older guy in his late-twenties. He had been wounded in the war in Belgium. He was studying to be a Doctor on the GI bill.

They talked incessantly about the wedding. …The wedding gown…Delores was worried her father couldn’t afford the one she wanted…. The bridesmaids’ dresses.. they never could agree…the reception…they decided on the Italian American Hall… the honeymoon destination…Niagara Falls won out…how hard it was for Delores to wait for the baby so she could become a nurse.

They talked a lot about other girls they knew. How some were mean and two-faced. How bad some of them dressed. How some of them were sluts. How the girls who were going to college seemed to think they were so la di da.

They talked about the boys they knew. Why was it they always liked the dangerous ones – the ones you could never trust? Connie and Liz had crushes on boys that didn’t work out. Both boys were going steady – so Connie and Liz never said anything. They were still sad about it.

Each girl had a crush on a movie star. I couldn’t understand how that worked. Liz would blush when she talked about Frank Sinatra. He looked like a skinny, ugly guy to me. Besides, I had heard he was a 4F.

They read the movie magazines. The stars carried on in real life. Marie had a dream where she was married to Errol Flynn and Connie and Delores worked for her as maids.

That spring a new bra came out that was a lot more comfortable and glamorous. Connie and Marie tried one out and it was great. Poor Liz had to wait for months to get one in her size. Delores tried on the bra Connie and Marie used but she wouldn’t buy one because she thought it made a girl look like a slut. The three of them argued hard with Delores about that – and when they stopped talking about it, I could tell they still had a lot they wanted to say.

One day, Mrs. Longo bought Connie and Marie the new bra in a beautiful shade of lavender. Connie went into the bathroom to try hers on — but Marie opened the box, took a quick glance at me, turned away so her back was to me and shrugged out of her jersey. She took her old bra off. As she put on the new, lavender bra, she turned to fit the straps and I could see her breasts. She was beautiful.

Marie saw me looking at her and smiled. I must have looked very innocent. And, of course, I was very innocent. Her beauty stirred me as beauty stirs me to this day in my old age. I am grateful neither of us flinched.

Some years ago, NASA pointed the Hubbell Space Telescope at a patch of dark sky near the Big Dipper. They held the focus on the dark field for eleven days. Then they processed the images. To their astonishment, they discovered a myriad of images. These images had traveled immense distances — billions of years, in some cases, millions of light years. There were more than two thousand galaxies hidden in the depths of the dark field. Each galaxy had billions of stars.

I had forgotten about my time as Little Jimmy on my couch in the Play Room with the Longo girls and their friends more than sixty years ago. Then last month, a 10-year-old girl went missing in a nearby town, and they broadcast an “Amber Alert” with her picture and a description of the man who snatched her off the street and drove away in a white van.

The mind is the last great frontier. The missing girl was the picture of innocence, but rather than thinking of her and her plight, I flashed back to my innocent 10-year-old self there in the Longo’s Play Room. How I loved being there with the girls again! Everything was as I had left it light decades ago. Delores was still to be married. Liz was waiting for her bra. Marie still smiled when everything depended on it.

Fortunately, the missing girl was found within hours. A favorite uncle from a nearby town had taken her to the movies. There should be more happy outcomes like this.

The good news for me is that particular section of my dark field is now open. I am able to return at will. I simply focus my inner vision and presto — I am there in the Play Room. With the girls. With 10-year-old me.

It is deeply pleasurable. My wife asked me what it is like and I told her that it is like being able to step into my favorite Renoir whenever I want. I showed my wife our print of “After the Bath” and my wife said, “Perfect.”

So, I’m showing you the Renoir print too.




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  1. Posted December 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm | #

    Aaah nostalgia,always “warm and fuzzy”. An old guy’s favorite pastime especially during the off season……Nice story!

  2. Posted March 14, 2015 at 1:13 pm | #

    Moving story. Like how a lost memory was captured again, with the beauty of the memory remaining still, escaping the passing of time. And so true. Fascination with women begins so early, and never grows old.

  3. Posted March 14, 2015 at 4:55 pm | #

    Jones pushes your emotions to the edge. This time, he went over. He captured, and encapsulated, a thousand long lost memories. I took the liberty of sharing this widely.

  4. Posted March 17, 2015 at 8:10 pm | #

    Jones and Renoir deliver. Ah, the Longo girls. Good stuff.

  5. Posted March 22, 2015 at 2:14 pm | #

    Jones, Now you’ve done it… broken through the wall of your old universe into a new and delightful one. Way to go! You’re on a real adventure and I’m happy to be riding along.