” A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.
– Arabian Proverb
When you move as often as I did growing up, you don’t learn how to put down roots. Friendships begun had a way of disappearing the moment the moving truck pulled away. “Social media” then consisted of pen and paper letters, occasional expensive phone calls, and taped recordings. Nevertheless, there are some friends who stand out in my memory.
The Early Years
In Kindergarten and first grade Sandra was my friend. We played together at recess, and sat together in class. We talked a lot. Once, the Kindergarten teacher chastised us for talking by putting us in the cloak closet in the dark.
After first grade, we moved from a little house on the prairie in south eastern Colorado to a suburb of Philadelphia. Talk about culture shock! Not least of it was moving in with my grandparents. I had no special school friends during second through fourth grades. I did have some spectacular teachers, though, inspired me to be a teacher. I do remember the school safety patrol bullying me, and how badly I jumped rope, except for Chinese jump rope.
City of Brotherly Love
Before I could get into fifth grade, my dad began to pastor a church in Philly. We stayed there for nearly five years. By sixth grade I had a couple of good friends at school. My friend, Kathy was addicted to Dark Shadows and Flora (another preacher’s daughter) and I got along most of the time. I branched out by taking ‘cello lessons.
In seventh grade I rode the trolley to Warren G. Harding Junior High School. The year was 1966. Harding was the first integrated school I had attended, and I was in the minority. My parents were apprehensive, but I was happier there than any other school I’d been in. A lot of it had to do with Carolyn and Gloria. Both had beautiful dark chocolate mocha skin and the three of us hung out together often.
Carolyn and I were in the orchestra and played ‘cello. We had a pass from the conductor that allowed us to skip class to practice as long as our grades did not suffer. We chose to practice during English class. We really did practice – and we talked. And failed an English exam. Gloria and I regularly got into trouble for talking in class. I lost track of those ladies after the next move. It broke my heart. But I’ve never forgotten what good friends they were.
Where the Buffalo Roam and After
My dad moved us to Wyoming in 1968 where he took on another church. We were only there a year and a half and then back at my grandparents’ home. I attended my father’s high school for eleventh grade. There was no orchestra, and the ‘cello was too awkward for marching in the band. So, I followed my friend, Pam, and took a part in The King and I in school.
We later moved into government housing for a few years. Due to my checkerboard education, my senior year was spent catching up on missed classes. I had few friends – seniors are more about getting OUT than making new friends. The highlight of that year was gym class – a class in which I never excelled. I got an A in gym because I did a never to be repeated hand stand.
What school friends stand out in your memory? What do you remember?