When I was a little girl, I had so many girlfriends. First, I had my sisters: Deanna, Bonita, Vickie, Julie, and Marcia. I came right after Deanna. I heard once that Dad picked all the girls names. With three of the six names Spanish, Maybe he was stationed in Spain during the War.” I once quipped. This drew laughter from the adults; the kind of laughter a kid knows means there’s a secret joke only adults can understand.
Betty was my neighborhood friend. Betty and I rode the bus to school together, and sometimes I walked to her house, or she walked to mine. She was the first person I ever called on the phone. I still remember her number: two longs and a short. Yep, we were about the last people in the world to abandon the old crank phones. You know, like the phone Timmy called for help on in the old television series “Lassie”? I called Betty up and she’d ask her mom if I could come over to play. Then the moms would watch out the window as I walked the quarter-mile to Betty’s house, or she to mine: on the shoulder, only on the left side, until we reached the mailbox, then look left, right, and left again before crossing. We played outside until supper time; we weren’t allowed to play inside. If it was rainy or cold out, we stayed at home. Betty’s Mom and my Mom were in the Extension Club together, so sometimes the moms got together, too, to talk over Extension Club projects and other grown-up stuff.
Connie was my best friend ever; we became blood sisters by picking a scab and mixing our blood together. That’s when “Cochise” was a popular TV show. Nowadays, parents would be mortified to hear about blood-mingling. But back then everybody had a blood-brother or blood-sister. Connie came from a big family like mine, and we went to the same church and were in the same catechism class. Connie’s sister Gaynell was Deanna’s friend, Marilyn was Bonita’s friend, and so on down the line, I suppose, until both families ran out of kids to pair up. Connie and I became better friends after Betty’s big sister got pregnant and after that Betty’s mom found marbles in her big brother Larry’s rubbers. Betty’s mom said Larry didn’t know what rubbers were for, because he was using them for a marble bag. (Another story that made the adults laugh that we’ve-got-a-secret-laugh.) I just wondered what Larry wore when it was raining. After that Mom always had something for me to do when I wanted to go to Betty’s house.
Back then, if ever I thought someone would make a good playmate, I just walked right up to them and said “Will you be my friend?” Only one time did I get a “No.” I found this response so strange and funny, that I told the story to my family at the supper table. Dad took me aside and gave me a lesson in the right way to make a friend. “You don’t just ask someone to be your friend. Ask them to play, and maybe a friendship will come.” Well-meaning as I’m sure he was, this only made me think that I was doing it all wrong, which in the end, resulted in a whole lot of unnecessary self-consciousness.
The little manufacturing site where I now work is closing soon. I’m having a good time calling people and networking. Really, it’s just “Would you be my friend” in grown-up language. It’s an adventure connecting to old colleagues and making new acquaintances. So far, I’ve managed to help some of the talented people here find good career fits. Nothing for me yet. Right now I’m just enjoying the ride.
In the meantime, I found my friend Connie with a Google search. She runs a nursing home and she married someone in government. We talked for over an hour, picked up like it was yesterday when we last spoke, instead of 20 years ago. “I was just telling my grandson about my blood-sister.” she said. “His only comment was “Ewww! That’s gross.” We both laughed like we were girls again.
Maybe I’ll look up Betty next.
friendship, girls, memories, sisters