A writing workshop with Jill Swenson convinced me that if I wanted to add information and color to a memoir I’ve been working on, I’d be wise to interview people.
“Hmm,” said I to myself. (I spend a lot of time talking to myself. This time the conversation that proved fruitful.) “Call Karen!”
Karen and I go back 65 years. Now that’s a long time and yet, despite the fact that we haven’t seen each other for years, the spark of our old friendship reignited a camaraderie that I didn’t know I missed.
I’d told her that I wanted to talk about the toys and games we had and that, of course, led to not just a list but to warm memories of what we did with them.
“Do you remember riding no-handed on our bikes? I used to stand on the seat with my arms extended.”
Now I never thought of Karen as a dare-devil. In fact, she was always (to my mind, anyway) the safe, calm, pragmatic one. It was Karen who, on our first solo foray sans moms into downtown Minneapolis at age 11, bought socks. Me? I bought a black and white poke-dot headband with a bow.
Not only did I not recall doing such a thing, I never would have had the guts. The idea of Karen risking life and limb on her blue Schwinn? Unheard of! We reminisced about how furious Joey became every time one of us won his prize marbles. Summers sweltering under wool Army blankets that our moms helped us stretch over clotheslines, reading book after book that we checked out from our local library. And this, of course, led to memories of the yellow, lined cards in their little envelopes, glued with precision to the back of each book. We’d take a 3″ pencil from a wooden box, fill in our names and the date, and proudly present these to the librarian who made us feel special when she had time to chat with us about our choices. (The Sue Barton series was among my favorites, until Sue fell in love with a doctor. Yuck!)
How I lusted over the Karen’s stilts! Always the smallest among any group of my peers, here was my chance to gaze at the world from heights unimagined! The stilts must have raised me all of six inches off the ground but they felt like six feet.
Pick-up baseball games in the field behind Karen’s house. (“Come home when the arc lights come on,” mothers told us.) Peeling each other’s sunburns. Arguing over which of our neighborhood park’s kiddy pools was deeper. We watched mosquitoes bite us, fill with blood, then squash ’em. (We girls in the mid-50s were discouraged from being violent. This no doubt was our answer to an unwanted pacifist life.)
Pardon the cliche, but oh my — I’m flooded with memories.
But best of all was to find out that one of my mother’s neighborhood contemporaries is still alive and still sharp. She’s 98 now, which leaves me little time to pump her memories of the old neighborhood. Karen and I plan to visit her soon. I can’t wait.