When I first moved to Victorville CA at the ripe old age of 8 years old, I knew right off that I would have a hard time making friends. It was a while before I had even one friend, and that was my Great Dane named Lady. The neighbor girls Rachel and Rona were friendly, but both were quite a bit younger than I was. They were ok to play with, but we didn't become real friends until we had all been neighbors for a few years. Tina next door was older than I was and nearer my brothers age than mine, and her younger brother was still in the "girls have cooties" stage of life. By the time I was 9 I had all but given up on making any real friends.
I think Kathy and Louise moved into the "Circle" around the same time. They made friends with one another before I discovered the two of them while walking my dog one day. They invited me to play with them. I still remember the game.
It wasn't long after Christmas and all the scraps of used wrapping paper were fluttering in the ditch looking very much like one large gift to us, while to others it looked like a massive junk pile. The three of us (and my dog) spent the day right there in the ditch. We would pick up little bits of trash like old coke bottle lids and discarded nickles and then wrap them in the old bits of paper without using any tape. Then we would give them to one another and play "Christmas Morning" over and over until all the bits of paper finally blew away. They were never bits of trash to us though. That old coke bottle lid was a Barbie hat. The discarded nickel was exactly that - money! Even the used Popsicle sticks had a purpose when we were building rock castles for our toys.
Once all the paper was gone and we were looking for another fun activity, we went to Kathy's front porch where we would pick up the flat desert rocks from the garden and build things on the sidewalk with them. We would build as high as we could before they would tumble all over and we would have to sweep them up. Eventually we developed the Pony Playhouse system. We would build open-top castles for our toys at first. We couldn't figure out how to keep a roof from caving in on them. With the Popsicle sticks we collected with the Christmas game, we finally figured out a plan. They would hold the roof and door frame together so things wouldn't go crashing in around the My Little Pony inside. Later on we abandoned that idea though. It was too hard to get the ponies in and out, unless they were in prison.
Kathy and Louise were easily the best friends I ever had in my childhood. I spent every waking moment with them. Sure, we had our arguments and I would spend a couple of days sulking on my own, or Kathy wouldn't come play with Louise and me. But as best friends always do, we got over it and we moved on. In no time at all, we were like the three amigo's all over again.
Both Kathy and Louise had beautiful blond hair. I always wanted to be like them when I was a kid. I didn't know too many blond kids, and both of them were so pretty. They had the faces of angels, while I looked much more like a troll. Kathy had bangs that were often cut too short and usually always had a pony tail, while Louise had gorgeous naturally wavy hair, like Sleeping Beauty herself. Kathy always had an extremely high opinion of herself while Louise was too humble to take credit for anything she did. It seemed the blond hair was the only thing my two best friends had in common, other than an overwhelming love of all animals.
Louise was obsessed with Bugs Bunny (and loved rabbits everywhere) while Kathy shared my adoration of horses. Louise wasn't allowed to have friends over very often, just like me, while Kathy was always wanting us to play in her room. Louise and I both had an older brother, but they didn't get along much that I recall, other than a brief month one summer where they went into the desert and dug a fort into the dirt. Kathy had one older brother and one younger, named John and Mikey. I had such a crush on John back then. I didn't dare ever tell Kathy that. Kathy and I were both very competitive while Louise was very relaxed and patient with us. Louise was always kind and gentle to all thing and people, while Kathy occasionally had a cruelty streak in her that frightened a lot of other kids that didn't know her very well.
Finally one year at school, Louise and I had the same class with Mr. Steinerson. It was the 5th grade and there were a lot of exciting things coming our way. And yet...
As was the way of Military life, eventually we had to part ways. Louise was the first to move, and Kathy went two weeks after her. I was left alone in that town without a friend to turn to. I went to school the day after she left and Mr. Steinerson asked me to come up to his desk.
"Louise wanted me to give this to you," he said, handing me her eye glass case. I gasped. Did this mean she was coming back? Surely she would need her glasses! I opened the case and I began to cry. There were no glasses inside, but instead a note and a photo of her from the previous school year. I was nearly inconsolable for a week. Every time I started to miss her I would open that eye glass case and see her picture and I would feel better. I truly loved Louise. I missed her terribly. Military life destroyed my childhood, but Louise and Kathy had somehow saved it from complete disaster.
Kathy and Louise had become more than my friends. They had grown to become my sisters in those years we spent together. Kathy sent a Christmas card once, but as with all kids, we loose interest in writing and the three of us completely lost contact.
That never stopped me from looking though. I never gave up the search.
TO BE CONTINUED...