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Summer lakes and dreams of youth

It had been nine weeks since my last hair appointment, and I was on my way to Leslie’s beauty salon.

I don’t know why I always procrastinate my haircuts. Maybe beauty postponed is beauty denied. The beautiful Kim Novak played a character, Madge, in the 1955 movie “Picnic,” who often complained about being pretty. One of her lines was, “What good is it only being pretty? I get tired of being looked at.”

At 76, I am not being looked at, however, it is important to check the mirror and to have the humility to say my hair is not looking its best.

While stopped at a signal light near a donut shop, a National Public Radio segment asked listeners to call in and tell the audience about their favorite lake.

Reminiscences overflowed of lakes of my childhood summers in the Pacific Northwest. There were the family picnics at Lake Sutherland in Port Angeles, Washington, with a metal slide at the end of a wooden dock where my cousins and I took turns splashing over our heads into the lake. All of us learned to swim at an early age at the city’s public pool, a precaution in an area surrounded by lakes, creeks, rivers and bays.

Then there were the teenage years at Silver Lake in Everett, Washington, where my friend Raili and I thought about swimming across the lake but never did even though we were both excellent swimmers.

I also thought about swimming across Puget Sound with my father beside me in his wooden fishing boat ready to rescue me if I failed. I didn’t do that either. Maybe inspiration postponed is action denied. At the time Florence Chadwick, who was a big news celebrity after swimming the English Channel, inspired me. I was also fascinated with Esther Williams’ synchronized-swimming movies, herself a champion swimmer. I took a water ballet class at the YMCA, where I fantasized I was in the movies while spiraling gracefully to the bottom of the pool, toes sharply pointed, small bubbles released from my nose and lips.

Only a few blocks from the salon, the radio’s lake segment was closing with the instrumental song “Moonglow” from the dance scene in “Picnic,” where actors William Holden and Kim Novak danced and swayed romantically on a wooden platform at a lake.

The whole story took place over Labor Day, with the community’s picnic and holiday festivities celebrated at a lake in Kansas. When the song’s strings welled up, the dance scene became as vivid a memory as if I had watched the movie yesterday when I was a 14-year-old girl looking in the mirror and dreaming of a scene like that in her future, wearing a pink, flowing dress like Kim Novak’s.

Ms. Novak has long been a Rogue Valley resident, and I have known for years that she was a client of Leslie’s, but on this very day she was sitting in the chair getting her hair done, which seemed amazing to me.

I am grateful for the influence actors like her, and other artists and athletes, have on one’s sense of possibilities, fantasy or not, and how their performances lend us immutable images that can arise fresh even after 62 years.

— Judith Ticehurst lives in Medford.