I was born in California, but my father (from Texas) and mother (from Oklahoma) uprooted the family just after I’d turned seven. We were one of the tumbleweeds rolling southeast on I10 in 1964, complete with a Dachshund named Blacky. Perhaps you saw us blowing through New Mexico, ’53 Chrysler station wagon pulling a cute little camper?
Guess they relocated for the same reasons as other people – be closer to family, maybe have a better life? Instead of renting a nice house in La Puente, they bought a run down shot gun shack in Conroe – but it came with land. They had friends and frequently threw parties in California, but all that changed after we moved. I don’t know why. Children don’t think about those things until it’s too late to ask the reasons. Or maybe that’s just me.
I missed those parties, because they always let me stay up to partake of the festivities. I don’t know if my brother still has them, but there were reel-to-tapes of the fun. I always think of them while listening to Dave Brubeck. My favorite people were always there; Irene and Nadine, the lesbians who gave the best gifts… and the Mexican woman who lived on the next street… whose name escapes me.. that wonderful lady cobbled together the best meals of anyone, anywhere.
So now you know: It’s all about the gifts and food.
Well, poo. This is not about my family. I only started with the move because that’s how I came to live in Texas, about 40 miles north of Houston. That’s where, in second grade, I met one of my best friends.
Her name was Gwen and she and I struck up an instant friendship, as little girls are wont to do. We chased boys on the playground, ate honeysuckle off the vines on the fence and often had sleepovers at each other’s homes.
I went through high school with these people, yet I can only name three of them. Too much time has gone by…
Gwen… and my natural urge is to wax rhapsodic here, about her fire red hair and indomitable spirit… was just another little girl of course, but she and I went through much together. The highs and lows of growing up.
She dropped out of high school in our sophomore year and I saw less and less of the still red hair. I heard things, but discounted any rumor I couldn’t substantiate.. but it was distressing.
I went my way and she went hers. Hers included drugs and motorcycle gangs while my way was all about school and jobs. She did get clean, years later, but the hard living had taken a toll on her health.
I went to Texas in November 2005, right before my mom passed. My brother took this picture of us. I’m on the left. Of course our hair isn’t light blonde and fiery red anymore.
Almost immediately after this, her first foot had to be taken off. Then the second. It’s been such a horrible, pain-filled life since… in and out of hospitals, almost dead several times… until she passed recently on February 20th. I miss her.
I hope she’s running through a vast, lush playground, tasting honeysuckle and chasing boys…
OH, people called her ‘Shine’ later in life, but she’ll always be Gwennie to me.
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