Monday, March 03, 2008

HAPA Birthday, Silvia B--War Bride Baby!

Silvia B (left in the photo) was my best friend in high school. We drew together because we were both considered weirdos among our so-called peers which only made us rebel more.

Although Silvia was very attractive with long silky black hair, green eyes and a husky voice, some of the athletes in our school (you know who you are Mr. Famous Football Player Who Married An Actress) would hiss and call her names whenever she walked down the hall. To this day, I still can't figure out why. Silvia didn't date anyone at our school so maybe they were just mad that she wouldn't give them a chance. After all, rejection is painful.

Besides, Silvia and I were both into older men anyway, especially musicians. Not that we went out with them either, but we did have our fantasies and they didn't include pimply-faced boys with crewcuts wearing lettermen jackets. I, in particular, would have never been able to date most of the boys in my school anyway, since I was "half Negro" and just about everyone else out of 1,500 students was white.

But Silvia was white, too--sort of. Like my mother, Silvia's mom was a war bride so maybe that took her down a notch in the eyes of the more "American" kids. Unlike my mother, Silvia's was a stay-at-home mom who raised a lot of kids--seven, if I remember correctly. A photo of Mrs. B sat in the living room, and whenever I was visiting I would stare at it in wonderment. Mrs. B was from Vienna and her picture showed a young woman with wavy auburn hair and a secret Mona Lisa smile similar to Silvia's. She spoke with a German/Austrian accent and smoked a lot of Tareyton 100's while drinking black instant coffee all day. Whenever she was in the mood, Mrs. B would tell us about her life during the war rattling off a litany of insults against Russian soldiers who, she claimed, would urinate in the sink and wash their hands in the toilet so uncouth were they. She hated Germans, too. Scar tissue from the war, I'm sure. Even though Mrs. B had lived in Austria, her parents were Czech and Yugoslavian and she considered herself a slav all the way. If I stayed for dinner, we might have eaten German potato salad made with oil and vinegar, or red cabbage cooked with wine.

I found it as fascinating listening to Mrs. B discuss the war in Europe as I did hearing my own mother talk about dodging bombs in Tokyo. That was a deep cultural connection that Silvia and I shared, but, at the time, I don't believe we even realized the impact of having war bride mothers. We just knew we didn't belong, and it made us do crazy things like when Silvia refused the advances of Jimmy Paige of Led Zeppelin backstage at a concert. Why should she have gone out with him anyway when her fantasy man was oh-so much more?

Silvia and I also hung out in Seattle's University District with our hippie friends, both of us with long, dangling hair, huge hoop earrings, and colorful satin skirts. Soon, the others began calling us The Gypsies.

Eventually, Silvia and I drove her '59 Chevy all the way to Pacific Grove California where we ended up living for six months among all the Timothy Leary drop-outs. It was an exhilarating time, but our middle-class upbringing didn't help us learn to survive hippiedom. So, we ended up back in the Northwest working at a television station, unbelievably, for the most controversial right-wing talk show host at the time.

Years passed, and eventually Silvia had a boyfriend, and then a son. I kept moving back to Cali and points beyond, but I would attempt to always stay in touch. After awhile, Silvia and I drifted so far apart that we couldn't reconnect. A few years ago, though, I found her and talked her into going to our high school reunion with me and my sister (who, for some reason, always goes to mine and not her own). As much as I hated my high school years, there's something intriguing about attending reunions and seeing all the people I hated as teenagers become adults.

Wherever you are Silvia B, know that you were a perfect friend at a time when I really needed someone like you. I salute you, and wish you a most HAPA birthday! (Although now that I've finished writing this, it's March 4 and no longer your day.) Hopefully, you don't mind me posting this snapshot of us taken at our 1998 reunion. Oh, yes. And, that's the gorgeous Maria Carter, the bellydancer, on the right. I didn't find out until that night that she is biracial, too--half Filipina and half Caucasian.


Your Hip Hapa,

P.S. Don't forget the t-shirts at

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