JEAN – MY FIRST PLAYMATE AND FRIEND
We seemed to be kindred spirits from the start....Jean and I. This mutual attraction we felt might have had something to do with the fact that we lived only a block apart, were the same age and shared many similar interests. In appearance we were opposites...she was fair and slender and I was dark and pudgy.
My first recollection of us together was making mud pies in her backyard when we were about three years old. Later, we loved playing house in the elaborate child-size playhouses our respective doting fathers had built for us. When we tired of homemaking, more active games, such as hopscotch, jacks and performing on a horizontal bar captured our attention. Jean excelled in everything athletic and in addition was absolutely fearless. I was her admirer, as were all the other neighborhood kids.
Jean’s mother was a progressive-educator and she and her sister had organized one of the first pre-kindergartens of that time. Jean and I were her star pupils and we met a group of children with whom we later graduated from high school and became life-long friends. Her mother also made sure we learned how to swim and enrolled us in classes offered for children at the University of Oregon. I still remember the “butterflies” I experienced when floating facedown in the beautiful white and blue tiled pool. I barely passed the course, while Jean went on to become an excellent swimmer, diver and later a scuba diver. Somewhere her mother heard about a Chautauqua that needed child actors, so we were taken to the try-outs. I have a very faint memory of acting in the performance, but a very vivid memory of getting separated from our parents after the show. When we were about eleven, the popular Mickey Mouse Club matinee was the highlight of the week. Participation in all these enriching experiences would never have occurred, had it not been for Jean’s doting grandfather, known as “Pauzy”, who seemed to delight in taking his special granddaughter and her friend wherever she wanted to go in his trusty Model A.
We had a mischievous side too. I can’t remember whose idea it was to cut my long corkscrew curls. Jean had just whacked off two in the middle of the back when her mother discovered us. I paid double for this escapade. I had to endure an unbecoming Dutch bob for the rest of my grade-school years, and a generation later my own daughter cut her friend’s hair and I was forced to pay for a permanent in order to placate the girl’s mother.
Looking back over our childhood, we grew up in a “charmed” era. As children in a rural area, we could roam freely without fear. We discovered fragrant pink lady-slippers, lush green and cream trillions, multi-colored bachelor-buttons or luscious wild strawberries. When the creek was running full in the spring, we could wade on our way home from school. Our parents were never the wiser for our little escapade.
Our close friendship faded, but never ended when her family moved to the city in our 13th year. Later my “nomadic lifestyle” after marriage caused us to lose contact until our high school graduating class started having reunions at 25, 40, 50 and 60 years. Then a small group of us including Jean and some of our former pre-kindergarten friends started meeting even oftener.
I was so glad I had a chance to get reacquainted with Jean and tell her how much she and her family meant to me....because the 60th reunion was her last.
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