Sandy and I held hands on the playground to face the bullies together, since we were two of the smallest girls at Huss Elementary. Our homes were not close together, and since neither of our moms drove, we were only together at school. By first grade we each had a bike. Hers was red, mine blue with a red seat. They were two-wheelers, but small. We could ride the two miles mostly on sidewalk, after school and on Saturdays. We slept over, usually at Sandy’s; she was an only child. One Easter we happily discovered we had matching Easter dresses. Our moms had shopped at Lord’s downtown. Sandy’s was a floral print, mine was yellow, but otherwise alike.
Many Saturdays we rode our bikes to the park. There was a little water wheel along the edge of the river. We parked our bikes and took our sandwiches and dolls out of our bike basket and picnicked in our secret spot. Sometimes our bike ride would take us all the way to First Ward to Kellogg’s Gardens where we wandered around looking at the flowers. I remember riding bikes to the movies on Saturday. We’d stop at the dime store and buy nail polish, then sit in the last row of the theatre under the little wall light and paint our nails. We turned a shed into a playhouse, with curtains and walls painted with poster paint and baked in an Easy-Bake Oven. Across the street from Sandy’s was Hart’s Hill. We pulled our sleds up and rode them down until we were so cold we could hardly move.
In seventh grade in Sandy’s neighborhood, Joyce, a young married woman whose husband was away in the army, befriended Sandy and all of us. She wanted to take us places in her car. My mom wasn’t happy about it. Then one night when I stayed over at Sandy’s, the woman rounded up all the kids in the neighborhood and drove us for a night swim at Stone Lake in Indiana. A few days later I told my mother, and we…she…decided I’d be spending less time at Sandy’s.
We started high school in eighth grade. Joyce drove Sandy to school, and though they passed my house, I walked. By ninth grade we both had boyfriends and hung out in their circle of friends, and we got involved in different activities. We spent less and less time together.
I enjoy scrolling a Facebook page “You know you are from Three Rivers if…” that posts regularly with pictures, shared memories, comments, that take me back home to TR. I can’t relive any of those days without thinking of Sandy. I enjoy the memories of her and all the fun we had together. I tried to see her whenever I visited MI, but rarely did that happen. I was determined this year at class reunion to take a picture of Sandy and me. I wondered if she’d remember all our time together.
But, I learned this week Sandy died. When did she get old enough to die? “Hey, Sandy, wait up!” the child within me cries out. Sandy liked Pepsi with peanuts and Big Red chewing gum. Her mom gave her a Toni perm called a “poodle.” Her mom was Babe who played the steel guitar, her dad was Shorty who worked nights. We took baths in a galvanized laundry tub in her kitchen. Her Grandma lived in Allegan. The memories are trying to catch up with my dear departed friend.