This is Bossy’s mom and she is three. She had a bang-up time in New Orleans with her mother Bert because there were chickens in the back yard. Loose chickens! And also because they played the grooves out of Benny Goodman’s String of Pearls, and because her Aunt Jenny is a scream, and because when things are fun she forgets all about things left behind.
But she’s glad her parents patched stuff up, and now she’s living in a different little house with different stuff and her father Walt builds submarines down at the Shippy Yard. She adores her dad, who nicknames her Dondi. They have a very special bond, even if Walt never fully realizes she isn’t a boy.
Dondi’s early life is framed by the inconveniences of war. Rationing means there is no sugar and so even the bubblegum tastes weird. And the butter isn’t really butter and comes sealed in a plastic bag with a big glob on it that looks like a blood clot and you have to knead this glob into the ghost-white margarine to make it look more like butter, but it’s still icky. Dondi doesn’t understand the implications of war, but she does know that a musician friend of Walt’s gave them his piano for safekeeping before enlisting as a soldier and now he’s not coming back.
Dondi is learning how to read with Dick and Jane. When the weather is nice she sits on her front stoop and watches for the ice man and the bread man and the rag man and the milk man—there are lots of men and most of them make their rounds with a pony and a cart. In the cold snowy weather Dondi covers her cotton dresses with her little wool coat, and presses her tiny cotton socks into her white leather shoes, but in no time the inside of her legs are rubbed raw from her wet woolen leggings. On days like that Dondi prefers to stay inside and hang out by the standing radio listening to Big Bands, occasionally sneaking looks behind the radio to try to spy who is singing.
She’s content in her little life, but in a few years it will change drastically.