Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I knew a little girl and she was my very first, best friend. Do you remember your first best friend? The one you never did anything without and thought the sun rose and set on? Well, that is who this little girl is, on the right, in this old photo . Her name was Dawn and she was my very bestest, "pinky finger" friend from the early 1950's until we were in Junior High School.She was everything I was not. She was talkative, brave, cute, smart and determined. She was the reason I got on the school bus and went to school everyday and when she was sick I didn't want to go to school without her.
This photo ( probably in the Spring of 1953) shows from the left... a neighborhood boy named Barry, Me, my little sister(in the basket) and Dawn in my backyard in Pleasant Hill, Ca.
Life was wonderful back then. Kids were free to walk to each others houses and play in the creeks and orchards nearby. We were home a lot and so were our moms. People knew each other and the neighborhood was a friendly place where children learned social skills with parental supervision and had plenty of free time to learn about themselves. It was a place of protection and care. Whatever folks say about the repression of the 50's, life was (I think) a much more comfortable place that had boundaries and limits that felt safe. These were happy years.
Look at Sis. Isn't she cute sitting there with her arms resting on the rim of the basket. Looking quite smug and , oh my gosh, like our Dad. Sorry Sis, I never noticed the resemblance before.
So, this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that got me through the years of my early school life. Dawn and I did everything together only she was the one who ran into the wires around a new lawn on Halloween and got hit in the eye by a foul ball at a baseball game at school. She was the one who fought her neighbor to protect her brother and stepped on a piece of bread and ate it just to prove she could.
She and I took ballet lessons. She was small and could do all the "positions" required. I was big and tall and could not, for the life of me, control my body, so I took piano instead. She could cry "on demand" and I thought that was really cool. I read poems to her and she was a willing audience.
Then, the sadness struck. Dawn's parents got a divorce. She and her brother moved with their Mom to Alameda, Ca. I think it was 1957. I went to see her a few times. We still had so much fun together but now we were getting older and all of a sudden it became all about BOYS. We did some wild things that will remain unwritten and when my Mom got a hold of a letter ( yes, we wrote letters then.) that talked about the fun we were having... she told me I couldn't go see Dawn anymore. I was probably 15 at the time and I did what I was told. I called Dawn and told her that I couldn't come to see her anymore. She was furious and we parted ways on a very bad note.
For years, when I was married and raising babies, I tried to find her. I would look in phone books and when computers became a part of my life I would research her name but nothing ever come up.
Then, last year, when I was down at my sister's for our Mom's memorial, I got an email from a friend. " Hi, got this inquiry today. Told her I'd pass it along to you. Do you know her??"
It was from someone in Michigan and it said, " Are you by any chance ...( lots of info). Had a black cocker named Smokey?..., I lived at .... If so, please email me at..."
My friend Jan, who was raised in Pleasant Hill too, had written a post on her blog about milkmen and phone numbers with letters in them. My sister left a comment and SOME HOW Dawn made the connection. I wrote back saying," Wow, Jan, you are not going to believe this. This lady was my best friend in school. This is amazing."
We have not stopped since.We have 50 years to catch up on.
So ,my little friend with blond hair. Here's to friendship interrupted, to coincidence and to old photos that bring back memories of long ago and the wonderful days of mustard weed "forts" in the walnut orchard behind our house.
I truly believe that our Mothers were in on this one.
Late tonight I got this response from Dawn...
Dawn’s turn: As Connie knows, I love to write and everything is a story with me. I was just delighted to see “our story” in print but I decided this is Connie’s blog, not mine, so I’ll keep it short. Well, short for me!!Not only was Connie my bestest friend, beginning with the first day of first grade, but I always regarded her as the sister I never had. It’s true, for many years we did everything together, and shared secrets, and I got Connie to do things I don’t think she would ever have dared to do otherwise, and she had a way of egging me on!! I don’t think I actually needed too much instigation!
Life WAS wonderful back then. In the almost-ten years I lived there, there were only two occasions in our entire neighborhood when the police had to be called; once when a child was missing (he climbed a tree and couldn’t get down) and once for a domestic incident. No one ever locked their doors. And you knew that even if you were out of sight of your mother, you’d still better behave because there was always some adult around to chastise you if necessary, and/or tell your mother. In those days adults were not afraid to call a child to task for misbehaving; even one they didn’t even know! I remember being told, “You go home right now young lady, and tell your mother what you did”. And I did too. Because my mother always said that if she got a report of bad behavior and she hadn’t already heard about it from me I would be in about 4 times as much trouble as I would have been otherwise.
Connie knows now, how my heart was absolutely broken when we were forced to end our friendship. And after my immediate reaction of anger subsided, I spent the next 50 years lamenting the loss of my “sister” and wishing I had some way to find her.
I have absolutely no doubt that our mothers were, indeed, responsible for getting us back together. One day, right out of the blue, for absolutely no reason I could identify, I had an urge to “google” my old address in Pleasant Hill. To my total amazement I got a hit. My old house had just been sold and there was a real estate listing. Right then and there I felt Mama’s spirit sitting on my shoulder where she often sits when she comes to visit. We talked about our old house and the changes that had been made. Then she put the idea in my head to try “googling” Connie’s old address which is what led me, via a very circuitous route, to the blog “Little Pink Houses” (I’m forever indebted to you Jan) where I found the post that I was POSITIVE had to be from Connie’s sister. A couple of days later Connie emailed, “Is this really you Dawn E. Hanson? Do you know how long I have looked for you?” Among other things, she told me about her blog. When I went to check it out, her last entry had been almost a week previous and there was one of her beautiful photographs showing a dark night sky, the moon peeking through clouds, and a single star. Her final line was, “The star to the right of the moon was twinkling at me through an opening in the clouds. Do you think it was Mom, saying Hi? I think it might have been.”
I think it was more than that kiddo. I’m sure it was your mother chuckling and saying, “Just wait til you see who I have found for you!”
I like to picture my mom and Connie’s mom sitting at a cozy kitchen table, enjoying a cuppa, sharing stories of how proud they are of their beloved daughters. Then giving each other little conspiratorial nudges for getting their girls back together again. Thank you Mama. Thank you Mrs. W.