I’ve maintained contact with several friends from my childhood; elementary, junior and senior high, over the years, however, Facebook has expanded the group, and there’s been something about us all turning 50 that has stirred our desire to reconnect in person in addition to our weekly online back and forth. Recently three girlfriends came to visit me here in St. Pete, and we had a weekend filled with catching up, great laughs, reminiscing, and a promise to not allow so much time to pass before next time.
We grew up in a small community in Western Pennsylvania, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, and attended Karns City High School together. We had just over 120 in our class, a class that was very competitive academically (at that time, we had the highest percentage of graduates ever who attended a four-year college after graduation), athletically, musically and socially. To me, our life was incredibly insulated, safe, and to some degree, clueless of what was going on in the world around us. Karns City and the Petrolia Valley were home to oil refineries, so many of our fathers, grandfathers, uncles and eventually brothers, were employed at one of the local refineries. We were a community of hardworking families who went to church, attended school events (sports, drama and music), enjoyed hunting and fishing, and watching Steelers football and Pirates baseball.
At a very young age, although I enjoyed our lifestyle, I never really felt as though I completely fit in, and by my junior year of high school was plotting my escape. I started getting involved in activities in Butler and Pittsburgh, and eventually applied to be a Rotary Exchange Student, yearning to see the world. This attitude was not incredibly popular among many of my peers, interpreted as me feeling as though I was too good for the area, and therefore, for them, but that wasn’t it at all. I just had a deep desire to travel, see things, meet people, and I knew that I was supposed to leave.
Immediately following high school I left for Semarang, Indonesia, and upon return from Indonesia, I attended college in Ohio, and have never lived back home again. Life has taken me to many places, and I have no regrets, however, there’s a part of me that finds comfort at home like no other place on earth, and it was important to me that my children got to spend time there while they were young with my family. Until today, there’s no place like fall in Western PA; Friday night High School football games, the beautiful foliage, trick-or-treating, the first snow fall and getting ready for the holidays. Ironically, I married a man who grew up just 14 miles down the road from me, although we didn’t know one another then (he’s much older than me ;), and our relationship is evidence that being with someone with whom you share a similar history, moral foundation, and work ethic, is very important to a long lasting love.
I’ve made many new friends since the early 80’s, some who are still very important in my life, and some who’ve moved on, but reconnecting with ladies from my childhood has brought a new level of depth to my life that I am so very grateful for. Patty, Marsha, Julie and I spent the weekend together, and oh so much has happened since we sat around and talked for hours.
Patty and I have had the opportunity to catch up in the last few years. She was moving to Ohio as I was leaving, so that sparked our new connection that we’ve enjoyed since 2009. Patty was that girl is high school that everyone liked. She was always cheerful and optimistic, and crossed over many groups; athletes to band geeks, academics to drama students. She has a beautiful voice, and along with our fun times during football games; she was our lead majorette and I was the captain of the cheerleaders, we were in drama club together, performing in annual productions, led by my favorite high school teacher, and now friend, Bob Dandoy. All good memories, and she hasn’t changed much, except that she’s even more beautiful and confident now, a wonderful mother, and faithful friend. We won’t lose contact again, of that, I’m certain.
Juliann . . . where do I start. Julie was that one person in my early life that made me laugh, always. I’ve never had a great sense of humor, then or now, but somehow, Julie’s bright wit could always make me smile, and often downright belly laugh. She always knew what was going on, was always ready to listen to a story, but never engaged in hateful gossip. Julie’s mom was a substitute teacher by the time we were in junior high, had taught my mom years before, and was the first woman I heard speak of physical fitness for women. I also have fond memories of Julie’s father, who owned a local business, and always treated my family fairly. I’m so grateful to have Julie back in my life, and look forward to spending time together in Ireland in 2015!
When I heard that Marsha was joining our group, I had to think a little longer about our times together. She and I did not share as many mutual activities or classes. But as soon as we were together, memories came flooding back, and the overriding memory, and feeling, I have when I think of Marsha is strength. She was always the strong one in school, not led or influenced by others, or so it appeared. She was a leader, and comfortable in her skin. No time for nonsense, or high school drama. . . or so my memories reveal. And although we may have been the most different 35 years ago, in many ways, I feel as though today, we are probably the most alike in many ways. Marsha is in Florida, and I look forward to meeting halfway for chats, and anticipate her winter beach visits to the Gulf coast!
No matter how far life takes you away from your childhood, never forget where you come from, and reach out to the memories every now and again and remind yourself just how far you’ve come. Thank you, ladies, for a weekend of fun, but most importantly, a weekend of rekindled friendship, and the beginning of a new lifetime of love and support.
Grateful Friday . . . peace to you all,