I haven’t written a fluff column in a long time. Mainly, because I stay in a bad mood about every possible issue worth discussing. Also, I have readers who tell me that my columns should have a profound message or be “edgy” if I’m to be taken seriously as a journalist. I keep telling folks I’m no journalist, just a space filler in a local newspaper.
Well, today, phooey on that. I’m Polyanna happy, and I’m going to tell you all about it.
My 2013 has begun with an end to a search I began years ago. After retiring from 36 years of teaching, I began to wax nostalgic about my own school days, spent in many different places. As an Air Force brat, I moved from base to base and left precious friends behind in every town.
I never forgot several “best friends,” the boy who gave me my first kiss, my first love, or even the mean girl in Greenville, Mississippi, the one who called me cruel names and pushed me down the stairs at E.E. Bass Junior High. Sometimes, when my dark side surfaces, I fantasize that she came to a bad end. But, since I know that’s an indecent, un-Christian attitude, it’s better to think she is a healthy, happy, terrific, loving grandmother to 5 brilliant, beautiful grandchildren.
Well, anyway, I started with Classmates.com, Facebook, random internet searches, and emails to people who might have known the whereabouts of my childhood friend Carol Ann Patrick from Del Rio, Texas. When my dad was transferred out of Laughlin AFB in 1957 to Greenville AFB, I said a broken-hearted goodbye to her. We promised to stay in touch, but the promises of two 6th graders don’t usually endure the passage of time. Some years later, I heard from her mother that Carol had gotten married. That was in 1962 when we were stationed at Harlingen AFB, Texas. I was in my junior year of high school. I’ll never forget her mom’s words in that letter” “It nearly killed me when she married.”
After that year, I no longer heard from Carol or her mother Bessie.
I thought of my dear little friend from time to time over the years of college, marriage, two sons, teaching, foster parenting, collecting stray dogs and stray foreign students, and being a good Southern church lady. During that time, my husband’s diabetes continued to ravage his body, so I devoted more and more time to being a caregiver.
I’d already found my senior year English teacher easily enough on an internet search (creepy how simple it is to find people). I was able to tell her how much she meant to me, and how she inspired my professional life as an English teacher. She was touched to hear that she had meant so much to me.
But I kept coming up empty on Carol. Knowing that my own 50th high school reunion would be this year and that Choctawhatchee had a website dedicated to finding 1963 graduates, I tried the website for Del Rio High, a school that no longer exists.
A helpful fellow from Del Rio’s class of 1954 put me in touch with the coordinator of the 1963 master list. I contacted her but received no response after two months. So, I wrote back to Robert Brockwell letting him know I still needed his help. He came up with some more contact names, one of whom knew the whereabouts of my first boyfriend and that he is a wealthy man from the import-export business in frozen meat.
Another contact was a classmate I remembered. Would YOU forget a wonderfully quirky name like Cookie Gulick? When I mentioned Cookie to my 92-year-old mother, the memories came flooding out. From her recollections and with Cookie’s help, I was able to go through a series of names until finally someone gave me the name I’d sought for years: Carole Ramsey Robicheaux, living in Houston. The minute I saw her picture on Facebook, I recognized the childhood face and lovely blue eyes of my long ago friend.
We are now corresponding. And I’m thrilled.
She even has a granddaughter who looks a lot like my little Catie Bug. As for Cookie, she, too, is looking for lost friends, and can’t seem to get them off her mind. I guess that’s what we do when we’re 67, retired, and have enough time on our hands to wonder how, wonder why, and wonder where.
Sorry, there’s no political, economic, or social message here. The only message I have for you, dear reader, is to treasure friendships. If you’ve lost touch with someone you loved years ago, try to find them. The search is well worth it.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.