The old house was nothing at all like what she had described to me through the years. From her vivid recollections, I saw in my mind a lovely, well-kept home with spacious rooms and beautiful furnishings. According to her, it was a glorious place that remained alive with the laughter of children and happy conversation around the kitchen table. Now I stood in the doorway of this dilapidated structure, and found it all but difficult to disguise my shock. She walked slowly into the rundown keeper of her childhood memories, and raised her head as if to draw in the yesteryear aroma of homemade bread cooling on the kitchen counter. She smiled with utter delight, her hands clasped tightly to her chest. It was in this moment I realized she had described precisely what she would always remember. ~ Deborah L. Norris
We were best friends right from the start of the fourth grade at Roosevelt Elementary school in Boise, Idaho. It was September of 1962. We lived two blocks apart, so we walked to and from school every day. I lived in a quaint little yellow house shared with my parents, and she lived in a big gray building with lots of other children. Her parents had abandoned their five daughters a year before and now Carrie was a resident of the Idaho Children’s Home. She always had a smile, her sweet face accentuated with deep dimples. But, her soft brown eyes told far more of a story than her happy disposition ever did. No doubt, Carrie was acquainted with sadness and loss.
Her charming personality afforded her many opportunities for friendship. Teachers adored her. Despite several attempts by classmates to befriend her, she was my shadow and stayed close by my side. Carrie spent many a weekend at our house, and gravitated to my mother for the maternal affection she craved. I was always more than happy to share the blessings of my family and home life with her. She went to church with us frequently, and we even attended a week long summer camp together. She accompanied us on weekend camping trips along the Payette River and in the Idaho mountains.
Just before the beginning of fifth grade, Carrie sadly informed me that there was a family from Texas that was interested in adopting her. Unfortunately, their interest did not extend to Carrie’s sisters, the youngest of which was only two-years-old. We were both frightened at the prospect of her being taken away – especially to Texas. I promised her that I would talk to my parents about adopting her so that she wouldn’t have to move and live with people she didn’t know. Neither of us was aware that the adoption process was well under way, and that we had very little time to spend together – or very little to say about her eventual destination.
A couple of days passed and I walked to the Children’s Home to see if Carrie could come to my house and play. A social worker met me at the front door and said that she was already gone. What? How could this be? I would not be able to write her or have any contact, she said. Carrie had moved to Texas to start a new life. I cried all the way back home.
I never had the chance to say goodbye to Carrie. I still miss her – after 54 years I think about her and wonder where she is. I can only pray that she found all the happiness she sought.
It was pretty much the same routine every Saturday morning, but, believe me, it never grew old. Really. The kitchen always smelled of waffles and warm maple syrup. Bacon sizzled in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. The wonderful aromas, along with gospel music from the record player drew us all to the table for breakfast and happy conversation. Sometimes my Grandpa would walk the ten blocks from his house to ours and join us. He loved bacon, and I loved to hear him pray.
Saturday morning household chores were a family affair and everyone was involved – even the dog. Princess was our miniature black and tan dachshund. She had learned very quickly that she could earn a special treat if she gathered up our slippers and delivered them to their respective closets.
Mom always made cleaning and organizing fun. She would get a piece of colored paper and list all of the chores to be tackled. Then, she would cut the paper into strips, fold them, and place them all in a round metal bowl. We would each take a folded piece with a corresponding task. Once the job was done, we’d take another strip, and so on until the bowl was empty. Before we knew it, the house was clean and tidy.
Then there was the yard work. Dad wasn’t so much about making the task fun as just getting the job done. I loved working alongside my Dad and being his helper. He mowed the grass and I raked the clippings. We were a team.
Once all the chores were completed, Mom and I would get dressed and walk to the corner to catch the bus to town. I had my allowance tucked away in my red purse – 50 cents went a long way, even with 10 cents set aside for church the following morning. A trip into town usually meant lunch at the JJ Newberry counter and then a little shopping in the store. Of course, it never failed that we would have our pictures taken in the little photo booth. I always got a small white sack filled with favorite candy. Something was inevitably put on layaway for the start of school in September or for Christmas. Mom usually made a few small purchases; embroidery thread, crochet needles, and handkerchiefs for Dad.
After a stroll down the streets of town to do a little window shopping, we happily carried our treasures back onto the bus and made our way home. It had been another wonderful Saturday, with memories made that would last a lifetime and beyond.
Believe me, if I ever had any inclination of jeopardizing the blessed freedom I had been afforded due to my trustworthy nature, it was quickly banished from my thoughts. I loved being able to run the neighborhood in the summertime, and I knew how to assure that it stayed that way. It was more than easy. Pay attention to simple instructions, and watch for the porch light at night. Nothing else was quite so important in my young life. I already had it down about strangers and looking both ways before crossing the street.
These were days long before the introduction of cell phones, so it was imperative to remember what you were supposed to do before you left the house. It really wasn’t that difficult. Usually, it was to be home in time for dinner. That left the whole day for a myriad of fun times.
Most of my summer escapades involved a friend or two that lived nearby, and our adventures were endless. We especially loved riding our bikes and screaming to the top of our lungs as the neighborhood dogs chased us down the street. Everyone had a dog, but none of them were even remotely purebred. In fact, most of the dogs in the neighborhood were related to each other. When we got tired and hot, we’d stop for a drink of water from someone’s water hose and a quick run through their sprinklers. Of course, we’d always make our way to the little neighborhood market for a Popsicle and some penny candy before riding to the pool – we had our swimsuits and plastic swim caps in our bicycle baskets. After several hours of swimming and jumping off the high dive, we’d ride to the school playground for awhile before heading home. According to the watch I got for Christmas the year before, it was almost time for dinner – and I wasn’t about to be late.
Once dinner was over and dishes were done, there was always more playing outside – usually until it was dark. Fireflies, hide n’ seek, and sips of water from the spicket. Finally, I’d see it. The porch light came on, and I knew exactly what it meant. Good friends exchanged goodbyes and promised more adventures the next day. Ah, memories of summers gone by.