(Post archived – photos removed)
I spent a lot of time with these girls, especially Kim, who was three years younger than I.
We built forts in the woods that ran along the creek (or “crick” as we liked to call it), and stretched out in the backyard sun covered with baby oil;
cut through backyards and through the woods, past the frog pond to the corner store to load up on Pixy Stix and Kit Kats and Bottle Caps and Sprees and Razzles and Rain-Blo bubble gum. We’d take the long way home, around the reservoir, clutching our paper bags and eating our favorites first, saving the rest for when we got home and would lie on the bed and read books together;
we yelled our secret signal through cupped hands out of our bedroom windows to see if the other was outside and ready to play, played card games of euchre and 500 for hours at the kitchen table while we drank cherry Kool-Aid and ate kettle-cooked potato chips;
had sleepovers and took turns tickling each others’ backs while we were falling asleep, held seances, watched General Hospital on summer afternoons in her basement, shared our first cigarette together under the sheltering pines in my backyard;
played Chinese jump rope, marbles, mumblety-peg, jacks, Operation, Mousetrap, truth or dare and ghost in the graveyard.
In the winter there were sledding and snow days, ice skating on the reservoir at night and huddling with folks of all ages in the boathouse by a furnace the size of a compact car. It smelled of coal and your gloves would hiss and steam when you placed them on the thick black iron to dry.
We read the Secret Language, Ginny and the New Girl, all the Black Stallion books, anything by Beverly Cleary or Marguerite Henry, A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, the Laura Ingalls books, Little Women, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew;
and had mood rings, earth shoes, leg warmers, eight-tracks, clogs, curling irons and feathered hair, Buf-Pufs, and Bonne Bell lip gloss.
There is something enduring about childhood friends. There are gulfs of distance and time, but there is no end, only intermission. And when I go back, we still talk till two in the morning, still play cards around the kitchen table and drink pop and order pizza, and still double over with laughter. We are still growing up together.