My parents had just moved our family to Ponca City from Tulsa. Dad’s job transferred him from Tulsa, giving him an opportunity to hone his retail management skills and prove he had the chops to run a store on his own. It was a great chance he couldn’t pass up.The little boy next door had an older sister whom I quickly became friends with. Jennifer and I played countless hours together. We dressed up, made mud pies, played “shop” and dolls. Her brother and I would play Star Wars with his now-very-valuable action figures and Enterprise collection. 26 years later, I can still tell you their phone number, the layout of their house, the smell of their rooms, the decorations on their walls. My memories of that era are vivid. I was so happy. 5 years of peace.
This was a snapshot in time that I can never get back. We walked to school every day. Me, my sister, and our neighbors, side by side, no parents chaperoning us--just gradeschool kids with our backpacks. If my mom dared to put my hair in a bun, I would have it freed form such ridiculousness and into a pony tail by the time we hit the school perperty. If one of us was sick at school and we couldn’t reach our mom, we could always reach the neighbor to pick us up. We were spanked as punishment, as was typical at that time, and we didn’t dare cross our parents. We ran amok in the neighborhood. Bicycles were our transportation of choice, and we would ride to the high school or donut shop with a friend. Trick-or-treating was universal—everyone walked the neighborhoods and begged for candy, as we wore costumes from Gibson’s or TG&Y. We played outside until dusk, at which time my mom would stand on the front porch and yell, “Girls! It’s getting dark!” That was our warning, and we came running from behind whatever bushes we were playing. That was a time when my mom forced me to play outside, because exercise was important. We sold rocks to neighbors for a penny each (large rocks were at least a nickel!), and some actually bought them to humor us. I played on the monkey bars until my pelvis was bruised. I raised my hand in class and prayed I would get called on. There was no Wal-Mart in town, so we shopped local businesses. I remember the smell of the library downtown and the brick roads leading to it.
When I was 10, the world as I knew it changed. Dad was transferred to Tulsa. The year was 1982, and that was the first time I ever saw him cry. We planned to stay in Ponca City indefinitely, but a great opportunity was presented to my dad. So, we packed up, and said goodbye to Ponca and to our friends. We returned to our roots. It was hard to leave Jennifer behind, and we vowed to be friends forever.
Life gets busy, and you lose touch. We wrote occasional letters, and there was the phone call and visit. But the next time I really connected to Jen again was in 1991, when she had moved to Tulsa with her new husband and baby. We became close, as she struggled with motherhood, married life, making friends, and all the trials that go with it. I moved away to Norman in 1993, and again we lost touch. We did reconnect through the years, the occasional phone calls and dinners. But I haven’t heard from her at all in 6 years. Until now.
I found her on facebook. We’ve been reminiscing and contemplating our paths. You see, our worlds fell apart once my family moved to Tulsa. Jen’s parents had a few more kids, but ended up in a nasty divorce. It caused division and chaos in their home. My parents relocated to Tulsa, only to encounter financial hardships like we had never known and a school system I was never comfortable with. My sister went from playing on an all star softball team in Ponca to being benched in Sand Springs, because she hadn’t grown up with the girls playing together. She was never allowed to use her talent, because she didn't know the right people. Everything changed, including us. I became more secluded and depressed. Honestly, I shut down for a variety of reasons.
So, those 5 years of my life were golden. My dad told me that they were golden for him and my mom as well. I am fortunate that I had 5 years like that. Many don't have such purity and freedom. And I can share them with Jen, and laugh about the details. And hope we create some golden years for others as well.
Jen says that God keeps bringing us into each others’ lives for a reason.I agree.