Mary PickfordI have a friend I met when we were nine. This picture of Mary Pickford reminds me of her, the solid gaze, the bold spirit, and the curls. She’s the only person I’ve ever known whose hair fell into perfect ringlets. Recently, she called out of the blue and we were chattering instantly as if almost thirty years hadn’t passed since we last talked, but merely a couple of hours. I was worried about some health issue, she instantly set me at ease. She bossed me around, I made her laugh. Some old patterns are beautiful.

We met on a school bus. She was seated near the front wearing a jacket and a pair of furry pants with a huge kind of appaloosa spotted print and I was climbing the stairs looking for a seat and she declared, “Come! Sit next to me!” So, I did.

Later, in class, I poked her in the back and said, “You have to come to dinner at my house, now. That’s what friends do.” That night at home she told her mother, “I have a friend,” and soon we were inseparable. She lived in a sprawling Tudor with slate floors and diamond mullioned windows and a living room with groin arches in the ceiling. There was a stereo built into a nook and we would drop the needle on “Swan Lake” and twirl across a space that felt like an auditorium until we got giddy and collapsed on the floor.

Her mother was an early computer scientist, her father a chemist. We always ate dinner in the kitchen. We were expected to eat everything on our plates and left to our own devices would slip what we couldn’t manage to a succession of huge dogs, Great Danes and St. Bernards. Dogs who were probably twice our weight and endured us pulling and hugging and sometimes prying open their jaws and squirting Binaca on their tongues because we found their doggy breath just too overwhelming. Can a dog achieve sainthood? They certainly deserved it.

Mom introduced us to lobster and Dad would sprinkle unidentified powders on our food and tell us he was “experimenting”. I don’t know what kind of doses of vitamin C or papaya enzyme we received but, we turned out just fine.

I remember at one point a hamster died after developing a suspicious swelling and her mother instructing us through the dissection we preformed. The little creature had a tumor the size of dime. We folded it back together and wrapped it in cotton gauze and placed it in a shoebox for burial. We’d used up all the rubbing alcohol doing the exploratory surgery (I guess it really should be called an autopsy) and so Mom, vigilant about sanitary conditions, had us stretch our hands over the sink while she poured the entire contents of a bottle of vodka over them. Then, we put on Sunday dresses and gave the hamster a nice send off in the garden.

Looking back it’s no wonder my friend went into medicine – a friend to mend, and a friend to mold, and a friend forever.

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  1. March 17, 2013

    This is a lovely story. Nothing beats having a lifelong friend.

    • March 17, 2013

      Thank you, I was going to say the older I get the more I appreciate it, but in fact I cherished her from almost the first moment we set eyes on each other…

  2. March 17, 2013

    Great memories! Your friend sounds like a gem, the real deal. It amazes me that we continue to be the same people we were in our youth – “Some old patterns are beautiful.” Indeed.
    Thanks for this, Vickie. I loved it.

    • March 17, 2013

      It made me so happy to write about her, have a good workshop today and afterwards I hope you kick back with your blush roses (gorgeous) and sit in your beautiful kitchen and have a cup of cocoa and write post 201. I’m looking forward to it.

  3. George Kaplan
    March 17, 2013

    So beautiful a post. The story of your first meeting with your friend is exquisite. Two perfect girls!
    “We dropped the needle on Swan Lake and twirled across a space that felt like an auditorium until we collapsed to the floor”. An image so exhilarating and sweet it almost hurts, I can imagine it so clearly. (ah, you can’t drop a needle on a cd or a download thingy) What with the above, your description of your friend and her family home, the Binaca’d doggies, your father’s experiments, your mother’s lobster, the hamster autopsy, the life and wonder of that undimm’d friendship, and the sheer inspired warmth of your writing I think this is one of your finest posts. Such fun, such *beauty*. And I mean that. No false flattery ever!
    “Some health issue”, you are all right, aren’t you dear Vickie? Hugs from here, Robert
    P. S. More later elsewhere.

    • March 17, 2013

      This one came straight from the heart and is flat out honest – but I did spare everyone the details of when we sashayed into our disco years 😉 I am fine, spooked for a couple of days, but all is well. xox, V

  4. March 17, 2013

    This is one of my favourites of all of your posts.

    • March 17, 2013

      Thank you, darling. She is one of my favorite people 🙂

    • March 17, 2013

      Talk about early imprinting… When I need to disinfect something on the fly I always use vodka.

  5. March 17, 2013

    I love stories of friendship like that! Thanks for sharing. Of course, it was a bit heart-breaking; a whole bottle of vodka wasted like that!

    • March 17, 2013

      Back in the day I remember quite inexpensive half gallon jugs… At least I assume they were inexpensive!

      • March 17, 2013

        I think most vodka in half gallon jugs is inexpensive.

  6. March 17, 2013

    Splendid. Simply splendid.

    • March 17, 2013

      And you! And, a double thank you 🙂

  7. March 17, 2013

    Dearest V
    A recollection as clear as cut glass with myriad facets gleaming every bit as beautifully.
    How lucky you are to have uncovered this hibernating friendship after so many years, it was merely resting all this while.
    And such splendid words too.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • March 17, 2013

      This friendship really does make me see much more clearly the truth in the phrase: she’s a treasure.

  8. March 17, 2013

    Terrifically moving. Isn’t it wonderful how our lives change and evolve with the passing of seasons and the waxing wisdom of age but some heartprints remain as fresh and precious as the day they came into being?
    It is memories like these that make life worth living,
    Lots of love,
    A xoxo

    • March 17, 2013

      The cadence of our speech is similar still – heartprints indeed.

  9. March 17, 2013

    Lovely post, V! So nice for you to have reconnected with your friend after so many years. Your recollections depict beautifully a time of innocence and pure joy. I was right there with you, twirling around the room to Swan Lake 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • March 17, 2013

      I still to this day remember learning life skills from our ballet teacher – the tag on your leotard (or any garment) always goes on the left… Miss Schisler would be so proud! 😉

    • March 18, 2013

      Howdy! I have been rotten about not doing these, and now that I’ve declined so many times I can’t say yes now. Proposal: I’m going to head over and see what your questions are and make them the basis of a post that I’ll dedicate to you? Or, you can give me an assignment, like, write a post about the first movie you worked on (where I met my husband), or, who is the nicest working actor today, or… Let me know!

      • March 18, 2013

        I’m very flexible, Vickie. Any of those ideas sound great to me. Go with whatever works for you, my friend. Thanks.

      • March 18, 2013

        My pleasure, I’m leaning towards frightening people with pictures on set from the mid 1980s – let me see what I can dig up. xox, V

  10. August 4, 2014


    • August 7, 2014

      Yes! Friends are a delight—near and far—just wonderful.

  11. August 6, 2014

    Great post! I have a friend I met just like that – only now she lives in South Africa (well, that’s where she was born… she moved back to South Africa, I should say) and I haven’t seen her in over 20 years. I miss her every day.

    • August 7, 2014

      And I bet if you bumped into her tomorrow you’d feel like you hadn’t skipped a beat, let alone 20 years.

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