I was recently rummaging through a box of old photographs
that I found in my mother's closet when I came across
a picture taken on my first day of school when I started
kindergarten -- way back in 1958. There I am standing
in front of the classroom door in a blue plaid dress
my mother made for me (the photo is black and white,
but I remember being so proud of that pretty blue dress)
and right next to me is another little girl in her best
dress, both of us waving to the person taking the picture.
My mother had her Brownie camera with her that day,
and as we approached the classroom, we heard another
mother almost in tears because she forgot her camera.
My mother immediately offered to take pictures of her
daughter, and that's how Susan and I came to be best
friends. Susan was my complete opposite. She was blond,
tall, even tempered, and her eyes were always eager
for the next adventure. I was the shy brown haired girl
with braided pigtails, always preferring to stay inside
and read, but quick to anger if I had to do something
I didn't want to do (some things never change!).
Susan and I loved to play on the jungle gym, but we
didn't just climb to reach the top. We were acting out
our favorite television program -- Rescue 8. It was
one of the first emergency crew rescue shows and Susan
and I were going to be firefighters when we grew up.
Other kids stopped climbing the jungle gym when they
realized we would be trying to rescue them! I don't
think they liked being grabbed and pulled to safety
on the ground. I remember one day our teacher asked
the entire class what we wanted to be when we grew up.
Susan and I called out our ambition together, but everybody
just said "girls can't be firemen!" My temper started
to flare, and it wasn't helped when Kathy said she wanted
to be a mommy. Even the teacher fussed over her like
she'd given world's greatest answer. Needless to say,
Susan and I never bothered to rescue Kathy from the
jungle gym again!
When summer came, Susan and I said our good-byes. We
weren't too sad because our teacher had told us we would
be in class together the next year. Sure enough, there
was Susan the next year, but she absent so much that
I started to make new friends. When Susan was in school,
the other kids made fun of her because she was "slow."
I asked my mother what they meant by slow, and that
was the first time I learned about the word "retarded."
I didn't cry, but I felt very angry when I was teased
because I played with Susan. So what if Susan couldn't
climb the jungle gym anymore -- we could still play
hopscotch under the elms or even just dream about how
we'd grow up and marry the star of Rescue 8!
Now, as I look at this picture of two kindergartners,
I try to imagine what Susan would be like today. I wonder
if her mother is still looking at her copy of this picture
or if other family members still cherish their time
with Susan. In my heart I feel the friendship I had
with Susan as intensely today as I did over forty years
ago. It's the same feeling I have whenever I meet someone
willing to play and dream and be daring. Friendship
itself doesn't die. Not ever. I have another close friend
now who lives an ocean away. We've never met in person
-- not yet anyway -- but knowing Pamela keeps Susan's
smile alive. I think Susan would especially enjoy playing
cyber games with cyber friends, including our never-ending
recipe exchange and bickering about which is better
-- British standards of measurement or American! And
we're particularly fond of salad recipes!!! ::gigglesnort::
Yep, best friends forever!
C. Michele M.
e x t e s s a y -
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