All through grade school, I had one best friend–Suzy. We were in the same class from kindergarten through 6th grade. The summer before 7th grade, I moved with my mom and two older sisters to the San Bernardino mountains about 100 miles east of Los Angeles. Suzy and I kept in touch via letters and would get together when I’d go back to L.A. to see my dad or grandma.
We were pretty much glued at the hip during elementary school. We’d hang out at her house or mine (they were about a block away from each other), stroll around the corner to the house where Carl, Brian, and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys lived just to stare at it, or go to the little neighborhood store for wax lips and candy cigarettes. Sometimes we’d head over to the school that was nearer to her house (our school was nearer to mine) and sneak under the fence to play in the playground. It’s a little hard to see, but at left is a particularly flattering picture (ahem, not) of me with my sweatshirt snagged on the fence while I’m trying to shimmy through.
One thing we definitely had in common was a love of books and stories. We hung out in the school library so much that the librarian fell in love with us. She liked us so much she took me and Suzy to Marineland over in Palos Verdes, a fabulous (but now defunct) aquarium/marine life exhibit on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
And Suzy and I loved to make up stories. I remember sitting in Suzy’s garage one time while she created and told a story that involved us flying around on winged horses, traveling around the clouds (they were solid so we could walk on them). Another friend of ours, Janet, was also featured in the story with us. But at some point, Janet fell off her winged horse and was killed. We had nothing against Janet; that was just the way the story went.
Of course when we got to school the next day and Janet was absent, we were a little freaked out. Luckily, it wasn’t our fictional death that did her in. She was just sick for the day.
When I moved to the Lake Arrowhead area for those four years, I did make a new friend (Virginia), but I kept in touch with Suzy. I hadn’t realized how many letters I wrote to her until a few years ago she sent me a cool spiral-bound book filled with old photographs (like the ones above) and several of my letters. The one at left is pretty typical. I loved playing with words even then (a cackle of witches, a waddle of ducks).
Suzy attended my wedding 30+ years ago, then we lost touch for a long time. I think it was my mom’s death that reconnected us (which is when she sent the book). Then with the miracle that is Facebook, we’re at least virtually back in each other’s lives. I keep hoping that one of my trips to L.A. we’ll be able to meet IRL.
Meanwhile, I’ll just unreel the memories from time to time and keep that winged horse handy.