Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Cultivated Childhood Friendship Grows Over Decades

Summer 2011
First, I want to thank you all for enduring my sporadic posts over the past few weeks.  A jaunt to the mountains – which resulted in a shoulder injury – and then international travel had set me back quite a bit. 

Try as I might, I am just not able to keep up with my posts when I am not sequestered in my writing lair at home.

But now I am back in action and feeling like I really wanted to lighten up the mood on my blog in more ways than one.

With all the traveling we have been doing and all the time that my little guy Shane – who is an only child – has been spending with all his buddies, I realize that he has matured by leaps and bounds.  He is growing up so fast and, when I look at him, I hardly recognize my boy.

At seven and a half, he is missing both front teeth and knows more about science (both celestial and earthen) than I do.  He loves space rocks and is inquisitive beyond my wildest comprehension. Shane's exuberance can overwhelm me at times.

Last night, Shane was on fire and there was no way to curb his enthusiasm for life; no stopping his questions (Can we look up a picture of a person with two noses?); and his energy level was out of this world.  I thought to myself, I wish I could bottle his high energy.  I was fantasizing about how much I could get done and how successful I would be in my life if I just had one ounce of Shane’s mojo.

But those thoughts took me back to my own youth.  I recalled a time in my younger years when I did indeed harbor that same gusto which allowed my imagination to carry me away. 

Being an only child just like Shane, I would create my own fantasy worlds to keep me from boredom, but it did not always suffice, so I was forced to go out and find real playmates.

The summer before I was to turn nine-years-old and not much older than Shane, I had a life-changing experience.
Tomboy Tracy and Glamazon Dina

While at Nagle’s Pharmacy and Soda Fountain – just like in the movie “Back to the Future” – in my little town called Ocean Grove, I ran into a girl that I knew from school. We shyly said hi and that was when her mother took charge.  She said, “See here is a little girl you can play with.”

This was the beginning of a friendship that has spanned more than three decades and is still going strong.

My best buddy and sister-friend Dina and I spent almost every waking moment together until we went to high school and my mom remarried and I moved to another town. 

As little kids, we would play dress up – sometimes as sisters named Bertha and Bertha (scary) – or Charlie’s Angels (Why was I always Kate?). 

In the summers of my youth, Dina and I would head out to the beach first thing in the morning.  Most likely, one of us would be at one or the others house but, if not, we would meet half way. (I lived on the first street to the west in Ocean Grove and she lived on the first street to the south.)  
On our way to Jazzercise - Circa 1984

On occasion, we would meet Dina’s mom, Diana, at Nagle’s and she would treat us lunch or we would head to whomevers home had the best food to nosh.  It was almost always Dina’s house since she had two older brothers and her mom wasn’t a vegetarian.  On occasion, we would pack our own lunch but not too often.  We lived in the moment.  (Another thing I wish I could do today is live vicariously like my younger, former self.)

If we were lucky, we would scrounge the $1 it cost to rent a raft at the beach for the day.  Sometimes, we were rich and could each afford our own raft.  Yet most of the time, we shared.

We would spend all day at the beach and would only head home when the sun was setting and our bellies were growling.  But it was a different world back then and an 8-year-old could be gone all day in our little town called “God’s Square Mile.”

As Dina and I got older, our interests changed.  Instead of heading down to the beach to ride the waves and lay our goose pimpled bodies directly in the hot sand, we started to look for the boys.  Functional once piece suits were traded in for bikinis covered with OP shorts and a comb peeking out the top of our back pockets.  It was a tragedy if nary a piece of sand got on our baby oil laden bodies as we spritzed Sun In on our orange locks.

In front of our guy crushes, we were too cool; but, in the privacy of our own bedrooms, we were still just little girls and as goofy as ever singing ONJ in front of the mirror.

Over time, we added to our little Ocean Grove posse: Nancy, Lori, Tracey, and Andrea could also be found around town with us.

When my mom remarried, I transferred to another high school.  Dina and I kept in touch, especially since she is a whole six months older than me, so she got her driver’s license first and would come and pick me up. However, after high school, new friends and boyfriends took us down different paths and we lost touch for a few years. 

But somewhere in our 20s, we reconnected. It was as though no time had passed and nothing about our friendship had changed.  I knew that when she sent me a CD Mix of our favorite songs growing up that she was still my BFF. 

Over the years, I make it a point to get together with Dina every time I’m back in the Motherland; and Dina even made it out here to visit me a few years ago.  Just like any relationship, our friendship has ebbed and flowed over the years but I am grateful to have had a pseudo-sister. 

And I am certain that Shane will find the same type of brotherly friendship as he is already growing a few best buds.

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