My Friend Pam's Birthday Party When Being Just Like All The Other Girls Mattered
We are the sum parts of so many people from our pasts. I thank all of them for helping make me who I am today
On my first visit to my best friend Pam's house a couple of years ago, she had a photo framed in the guest room where I was staying. It was a sort of "welcome Sallie and do you remember this?" It was a photograph of a group of young girls, dressed in their little girl "go to church" dresses all clustered around the star of the day, my friend Pam, on her birthday.
For someone who can describe every room, every stick of furniture in Pam's house and everything we ever did, I had to admit I dont remember this birthday party.
But I sure could name every, single one of the girls in that picture!
What a blast from the past. I think this was probably her 8th or 9th birthday and seeing that photo brought back more than memories of a birthday party.
Right next to Pam, on her left if you are looking at the picture is Holly who was another of my very close friends. My parents invited Holly to go to Florida with us for a few summer vacations so I would have someone to play with since I was an only child.
I lived with her and her family in those last months of my Dad's life because my Mom was always at the hospital tending to her dying husband. I will never, ever forget the love and kindness from Holly's Mom, Mary, and their entire family. They welcomed me into their home and made a very sad and dark time for me...bearable.
My Dad adored Holly and the night before he died he asked if she and I could come to the hospital to see him. I think it was to say goodbye because the next day, he lost his long battle with cancer.
Ive lost track of Holly and wish with all my heart that I could find her. I know she would have memories of my Dad and I would love to hear them.
To Holly's left, again if youre looking at the photo, is Allison who for most of grade school was my arch enemy. I remember she and I were very competitive. I have no idea why and once we were out of grade school and into different high schools, I never saw her again. But its funny how much of an impression she made on me. Once, in 2nd grade, she and I argued over which one of us could sing the song "Itsy Bitsy Teensy Weensy Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" better. It's odd to me that I remember this so vividly.
The cute little pixie brunette sitting in front of Allison is Nancy. Again another one of our group and one of 10 kids. The epitome, especially in those days, of a good Catholic family! I spent much time with her family also and always felt warm and welcomed when I was there.
They had a live in maid/nanny/housekeeper whose name was "Jeanette" and Jeanette was a rather large black woman who would crush me to her ample chest whenever she saw me and hug me til I thought my eyes would pop. I know she's long gone by now, but I have warm memories of her. That sweet woman took such great care of that family and everyone loved her. Its hard not to love someone who is so loving themselves.When I most needed to be hugged, there was Jeanette who would seem to be the most unlikely person to offer me those hugs yet always did.
Pam's mother, was June Cleaver and Donna Reed and Harriet Nelson all rolled into one. When I was at Pam's house, which was often, without saying too many words, her Mom conveyed warmth and caring to me. I suspect that on some level, she knew that home for me was sometimes dark and scary and she made me feel loved with tuna casseroles and tomato soup in her cozy kitchen.
Had it not been for the love and caring I had and felt from the mothers of my friends, and Jeanette, I am not sure how I might have gotten through those years when I knew that my life was vastly different from my friends lives. Having a Mother who struggled with alcohol and a Dad who was battling cancer, changes you even at a young age and these women all showed me what "normal" could look like. I give a lot of credit to all of them for helping me then as well as later in life when I became a wife and mother myself.
I know that they have all left this world and I wish I could have thanked each of them for their kindness, love and generosity. This is my tribute, in a way, to those sweet, sweet ladies of those days gone by when they seemed to know exactly what I needed when I didn't even know what I needed myself.
As an adult, when I told my best friend, Pam, of how I often felt like such an outsider in those days and knowing I was different, she said that she wished she had known what I was going through back then. I love her for that thought, but I wouldn't have wanted her, or anyone else, to know what my life was like. Being with her or Holly or Nancy, at their houses, gave me places where I could escape and be just like any other kid
Looking at this picture and the girls I knew during those young, grade school years, makes me feel alternately happy and sad. Happy that I have the memories I have and sad because I know that we can never go back to those days when a birthday party was the most important thing in the world.