Paula and I had chicken pox together. And once you’ve had an itchy contagion during childhood, you are connected for life.
Then there was the time we ticked off the boys’ gym teacher for insisting on playing soccer with the boys instead of field hockey with the girls. (Thanks Paula! Also, thanks Title IX.)
But my friend Paula, second from the left in this photo from our preschool graduation (I’m to her right, looking unhappy in that frilly dress), was my best friend through much of our childhood.
Together, we made a secret club in the chicken coop in her backyard, complete with homemade latrine, and we made up a game where we’d have to come up with a song given just one letter. “I… ‘I Love You, Baby’.”
When I think of Paula, I think of playing. Hours and hours of doing not much else but running around her yard or mine, playing some sort of game we’d made up. Or, when we got older (though not really old enough), driving her mom’s car around the driveway. (It was the 70’s and early 80’s — nobody paid that close attention to what we kids did, really).
When I had cancer two years ago, I laid awake one night, listening to songs on my iPod, when I remembered playing soccer in the snow, under the moonlight, with a huge group of kids in Paula’s yard. It was just so much fun — fun in a way that can’t be planned or recreated. It’s one of my happiest memories of my childhood, when life was simpler and less structured. When we just played. When Paula was my best friend.
Paula and I still keep in touch. She sent me the photo yesterday with this short note:
Just going through some stuff for my mom’s 80th… time flies!!!
Now, nearly 40 years since preschool graduation, I remember time with Paula like it was yesterday– and not just the itchy parts. After all, we are connected for life.
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