On the way to our cabin in Park Rapids, MN, for the 4th of July weekend, John and I stopped to visit friends at their summer place. During our visit, Tara and Brian suggested we go for a boat ride. Tara, getting a good look at my pale legs, said – “You are quite fair skinned! Do you want some sunscreen?” I thankfully accepted. In Minnesota – land of temperature extremes – one can expect to have a pretty good tan by the 4th of July. Seattle, Washington, where I grew up, is famous for cool and cloudy weather year round. In Seattle having a beautiful tan by the 4th of July is a status symbol.
In 1961, the year I turned 9, we had a marvelous summer in Seattle – tons of sunny days and outside play. My next oldest sister, Margie – a very fair skinned redhead, not quite two years older than me – was expecting to celebrate her 11th birthday in August of that beautiful summer. One afternoon my older sister Chris’s husband, Ron, stopped by the house to visit; he caught sight of Margie and commented, “Hey, Margie! You’re sure proof that we’ve had a sunny summer this year – you are almost tan!” I mis-heard that statement, and indignantly said, “TEN? She’s almost eleven!” I got laughed out of the kitchen, but from that point forward my family referred to anyone with a ‘good tan’ as someone who had ‘an eleven’.