Monday, January 16, 2012

When do the memories start?

When I was around 3 years old, we moved to a house and had an apartment on the first floor. The house was built on an incline, so we had a really long set of stairs that went to the backyard. Beside the stairs was a huge oak tree. My father decided I needed a swing, so he set up an old tire and a piece of rope, and I played on that swing endlessly. At this point, my sister, Candy, had just been born, so I was pretty much still on my own. 
The yard abutted the newly-built housing projects, a 15-ft tall chainlink fence separating us. There was a girl who lived on the other side of that fence, and we struck up daily conversations, sharing stuff we had found through the holes in the fence. She was tall, gangly, and friendly, with red hair and more freckles than anyone could count.  We spent hours sharing whatever it is kids share.  I couldn't go out of the yard, and neither could she, but somehow we built a friendship through the holes of that fence.
One day, I found a baby chickadee on the ground with a broken wing. Therese (my new friend) called her mother out of their apartment to show her.  Her mother said she'd try to fix the bird and I should pass it through the fence. (My mother was grossed out by such stuff, so I thought Therese's mom was the coolest in the neighborhood). Reluctantly, I gave up the warm and furry little thing in my hand, uncertain that an adult could repair it.  However, she found a shoebox to hold it and did fix the bird (I'm still not sure how) and there was an actual "ceremony" when we released the bird back "into the wild" a few days later. 
That tire, the bird and Therese made it into my children's books (The Jenny Books), and Therese and I have had a 55-year-long friendship that's often been separated by many miles (she spent the majority of her adult life in Alaska, while I was moving around New England and the Eastern Seaboard).  It's funny because now when I see pics of her and her grandkids on Facebook, I'm reminded of the way Therese looked when we first met -- red hair, long skinny legs, and lots of freckles.  Now she has a stairstepped-group of little ones that are spittin-images of her. 

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