~ Part One ~
February 21, 2023
For Christmas, my son signed me up for Storyworth. You write your life story one week at a time with their inspiring prompts, then get them printed in a hardcover book. So far, I’m way behind. Then I thought, “I can make it into blog posts, too” — thinking that would spur me on. Well, here we are, more than halfway through February, and I’m finally starting. We shall see how far I get.
Here are the questions that I will
answer in two blog posts.
1. Are you still friends with any of your friends from high school?
2. How have they changed since then?
I’m fortunate to have two dear friends
that go back even further than my
high school days. Way back to the Stone Age!
Elaine and Nina.
The first story is about Elaine.
It was the 1950s and families across the nation were moving out of the big cities into smaller outlying towns in droves. Suburbia was exploding with new housing developments everywhere. So was the birth rate.
I lived in a sprawling, new neighborhood full of young families raising “boomer kids” in the hills of Redwood City—about thirty miles south of San Francisco.
When we moved into the last house on Farm Hill Boulevard, a three-bedroom rancher, I was five. Beyond our house were old oaks and rolling green grass as far as you could see. About fifty feet from our house, I had nestled a fort in between two enormous oak trees. You can see the trees in the photo.
I had books, blankets, pillows, and my toy piano in my “secret” hideout. Of course, the other neighborhood kids knew about it and visited me there, but they respected the sanctity of my space. In fact, I had installed a sophisticated phone system so they could call ahead before arriving.
One day the bulldozers came and removed my trees and fort. They didn’t even remove my stuff first. I was devastated and determined to hate whoever was going to live in the house that was now under construction.
Several months later, a moving truck and a station wagon arrived. I didn’t hang out to see who was moving in. But the next day, I got to thinking that they might have a little girl, and we could be friends. Plus, there were several girls already living on the block, and I wanted to beat them to meeting the new girl—if she existed.
The First Meeting
I stood at the end of the new neighbor’s front walk, staring at the two-story white house, then mustered up my courage, climbed the steps to the door, and rang the bell. A moment later, a tall, handsome man opened the door and bellowed, “Who is this beautiful child at our door?”
I was a skinny, knock-kneed kid with long brown braids and very short bangs, darkly tanned from playing outside all the time (no sunblock back then), freckles, and no front teeth. I wore a striped t-shirt, peddle-pushers (mid-calf length pants), and brown and white saddle shoes. Yes, I was indeed a vision of beauty!
“Hi. My name is Pam and I live next door.” I pointed next door. “Do you have a little girl?”
And the big man, named Jim, yelled, “Elaine! There’s someone here to see you.”
Elaine was three-ish (give or take) and the oldest of three kids that would one day be nine children. Her younger brothers were Jimmy and Mike. Soon, there would be Judy, Tommy, Loren, Eddie, Patty, and Cathy — not necessarily in that order.
In those days, kids ran wild in the neighborhood. Even three-year-olds. Everyone looked after everyone. If one kid was called home for dinner, we all went home. If you misbehaved at someone’s house, the parents would discipline you. And nobody sued anyone!
A few houses past Elaine’s, the street became a steep hill. We used to ride our bikes to the top and then sail down with our feet off the pedals. I remember feeling my bike quiver as I sped down the street.
One day, when I was not with her, Elaine had a bad accident and had to be taken to the ER. I was so worried about my friend. I went into her bedroom and saw her shoes on the floor with blood spatters on them My heart sank at the sight. Thankfully, she survived her wild ride. I’d like to say we stopped doing that, but I can’t.
Elaine’s family was the first on the block to get a color TV. I remember watching Bonanza and being mesmerized! Not many shows were in color yet, so it was really a treat. A couple years later, my dad built one using a “Heath Kit.”
We loved The Mickey Mouse Club and usually watched it every day — singing along with the opening credits. If there was a tap dance number, we’d put our tap shoes on and tap along. I wanted to be just like Annette Funicello.
Elaine and I have remained good friends to this day — 67 (give or take) years. Hopefully, we have many more years to come.
Her Irish mother still lives in the ‘hood, and I live three hours south. Recently Elaine and I went to a family B-B-Q at her mom’s. It was great to see Jimmy, Tommy, Eddie…
How have they changed since then?
Well, let’s see. There is the obvious. Elaine is no longer three, so a lot has changed. But the essence of Elaine has not. She remains a thoughtful, caring person with a good sense of humor.
Until recently, she was a teacher, and taught English to newcomers, along with several other interesting teaching jobs. She still tutors. She was married for many years, and recently lost her husband after a long cancer battle.
Elaine plays marimba and her group occasionally entertains family and friends.
She has always been an outdoor person, an avid walker and bicyclist.
And she has the most beautiful platinum silver hair. It runs in the family.
Sure doesn’t run in mine!
I love that we share a common history. There are only two friends in my life that knew me as a child and my family and all its turmoil. I am so thankful to have Elaine in my life.
I’d love to hear a favorite childhood friend
memory from you. If you want to share,
please leave your story in the comments.