Nostalgia reigns this time of year. We went to Sarah’s 7th grade band concert last night and I remembered her aunt’s senior band concert- the last school concert I thought I would ever attend. Afterwards I watched the Three Amigas, Elizabeth, Shelley and Kim, who had known each other since first grade, running around back-stage in their black concert dresses wearing propeller beanie hats. They were thoroughly enjoying the idea of graduating from high school. This month Shelley’s son will graduate from high school and Kim is expecting her fourth child but they are both frozen in my mind’s eye in those propeller beanies or around a Girl Scout campfire.
The kids on Glee graduated last night. Facebook keeps us posted on everyone’s next step. Susan’s daughter will graduate from college next week (What? She was four years old that last I noticed.) Darby, Leanna, and Landon are taking their last walks through Sachse and Rowlett High School. (I remember your baptisms, girls.) Jennie is finishing up her freshman year of college and going to Africa this summer. Madison is spending the summer at UT in Austin taking Organic Chemistry (huh?) Everyone is moving on to the next step.
And Betty Sue has graduated to heaven. And like the current kids in my life I have frozen Betty in my heart forever young.
She and I roomed together in a two bedroom apartment on Live Oak Street in Dallas when we were in our 20’s. Live Oak and Gaston were parallel streets with about a mile or so worth of apartments built in the same design of a horseshoe around a swimming pool. They were both notorious for the party life but Gaston was much wilder. They never had to call the cops on the Live Oak people.
Betty watched Beaven and I fall in love. Neither of us had a car but Beaven did. Part of the mating ritual was taking us places in his car. When he took us to the grocery store and waited so patiently I knew what a catch he was. Betty was my maid of honor. A year or so later she moved back home to West Virginia and married a coal miner.
Any time Beaven balks that I’m taking too much time at the store I remind him he could have married Betty Sue and that always shuts him down instantly. He has seen Betty shop.
She had been to beauty school and would cut my hair once in a while. One memorable Saturday we stirred up a pitcher of daiquiris and Betty commenced to cutting my hair. When we got to the bottom of the pitcher and managed to stop laughing Betty decided that it would be in my best interest to abandon the haircut. I had to live with half of a haircut until the next day when she sobered up enough to finish.
When she moved back to West Virginia we turned into Christmas card friends. Then, a few years ago we started emails but soon discovered to our mutual horror that while we weren’t looking, the other one had fallen prey to the wrong political persuasion. The emails became awkward and I seldom opened them. But even in the rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth Tea Party multiple-times-forwarded ones, Betty would enclose some good natured note to the effect that she hoped I would someday see the light and wake up to her view. I could feel the earnest love in her efforts.
She called me on the phone a couple of weeks ago to say she had terminal cancer and asked for my prayers. The cancer was in her liver and lungs and I could tell it was hard for her to talk so we kept it short. We told each other “I love you” and goodbye. It seemed like only a few days later when her sister called to say Betty had died. I found the obituary on the Internet.
But there was some mistake. The photo in her obituary was of an old woman. A white-haired woman with a soft grandmotherly face. A very gracious looking, matronly woman. This was definitely not the Betty Sue I lived with for two years. This was not the woman who spent the summer of 1969 in a bikini on a quest for the perfect tan.
I wish I had a picture of her from 40 years ago but we were too busy having fun to take pictures. The sounds and images are burned into my memory, though.
She was perhaps the least complicated person I’ve ever known. She was just a simple, good-natured, gal who grew up on the side of a mountain in West Virginia. Nothing bothered her--until you messed up her kitchen and then she could be indignant as hell.
She could spend all night dancing to Aretha Franklin or the Supremes and then cook Saturday breakfast for the guys in the apartments if they wanted to stop by. We had a deal: they bought the food and we cooked it.
Our apartment was robbed once while we were at work. Apparently the thieves had lots of time because they went through our stuff, taking what they wanted and leaving the rest. To my embarrassment, they took most of Betty’s records and only a couple of mine.
One sad Valentine’s Day we were between boyfriends and took ourselves out to the International House of Pancakes (pre-acronym) for a miserable, full-blown pity party and talked about what losers we were and would never find Mr Right. She was Laverne to my Shirley.
We lived with each other for 2 years. And 40 years later she is still frozen in my mind as the lanky, good-time gal dancing in the living room wearing the perfect tan.
Isn’t that the way all the graduates today want it to be? The Madisons and Darbys and Leannas will always be young to some of us. Frozen in time.