Sunday, July 17, 2005

Old Friends, Old Memories

Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein) wrote: The companions of our childhood always possess a certain power over our minds which hardly any later friend can obtain.

The photos above are ones I scanned of my best friend from childhood, Barby. She's sitting with the Shrinking Violet doll I received one Christmas and my younger brother is next to her. She was 8 1/2 and I had turned 9 a few months before.

I received a camera that Christmas so we took turns taking photos of each other. I'm the one in my nightgown in the grass and this was Christmas morning. She probably dressed and ran over to see what I received from Santa. As I remember it, she was the one who told me there was no Santa but coming from my best friend, perhaps it made it easier to hear, I don't really remember.

And that's the funny thing about childhood friends, they often remember things we have forgotten and vice versa. In a recent email she told me she used to tell her daughters night time stories about a long, long time ago when she was a little girl. And of course, those stories included me since we were inseparable for many years.

My first clear memory of her is coming home from somewhere and seeing her mother talking and having coffee with my mother at our kitchen table. I went into my room to find her playing with my dolls and remember feeling a need to protect my territory. I don't remember if any fight happened, probably not, we were only about 4, maybe 5 but we became friends and stayed that way through the years.

Neither of us had a sister (well, I did much later when I was 12) so we enjoyed pretending we were sisters and loved thinking we looked alike (we didn't). She took ballet and always had her hair in a bun and there was a period of time I always wore a bun too. Maybe that was my mother's idea as my hair wasn't exactly tame but maybe it was our idea so we could look alike. So much is lost in childhood memories which is why it's wonderful to have someone out there who remembers mine as much as I remember hers.

I was reading in another blog and found this: I don't like to be the sole memory holder of something special. A memory is meant to be shared.

I find it comforting that she remembers our childhood and so much about my life such as my childhood home, my childhood bedroom and toys and our childhood projects. She wrote recently: One of our girls' favorite stories was about when we would walk to the library, and agonize over our books, bargaining who could get which one, then stopping by Googie's for french fries and a hot fudge sundae, then going home, getting a big bowl of orange slices, and diving into the first book. We'd call each other for progress reports/reviews. BR5-O249. Then trade books. Then act out the books with the Barbies, until Tommy and Billy took all the Barbies and undressed them, then reposed them in their exact positions.

She recently reminded me of our "secret" clubs, the Tut Tut Club, and the Girl's From A.U.N.T. (with the motto, Be Kind to all Aunts, both kinds). She and I both remember going to each other's cabins in the mountains to escape the summer heat. Hers was on a lake and we'd take the rowboat and row around. My family's cabin was on a creek where we'd skip stones and sit on the rocks with the water meandering past us. When we were in the city, our summer began by "toughening up" our bare feet by running back and forth to each other's house on the hot pavement. One year we both went away to summer camp, different camps, but I still have the letters she wrote in a shoebox stored away somewhere.

We remember writing a neighborhood newspaper with gossip about the hated girl next door kissing a neighborhood boy and the girl's mother getting hot under the collar at us for writing it. I remember her dogs Dingo and Princess and she remembers my cat Esther. Even my own sister can't remember any of this stuff as she either wasn't born yet or was too young but Barby can
remember me with braces, as a gangly pre-teen and pre-husband and children. She remembers my parents as their younger selves and I remember hers. There aren't many people left in the world who remember these things and in my book that counts for a lot.

Our childhood seemed to close around the time my sister was born. I got the sister and she got the swimming pool we both wanted and most of that time is hazy to me. I went away for the summer to visit my aunt in Illinois, she went and visited relatives in California. By high school we were good friends again and we both got a boyfriend at the same time but a year later she moved out of state. Since then we've written, some years more than others, and we've married and had kids and raised families. To me, she'll always be a part of me, a part of my family and a part of my history. One of life's gifts is a good friend, but a good friend who holds part of your history inside herself just as I hold part of her is more than a gift, it's a treasure.


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