We met in Mrs. Barrett's fourth grade class. She was the new girl in every way -- new to our class, school, neighborhood, city, county, state, and country. As if those weren't enough new experiences for the skinny girl with liquid brown eyes, add new to the English language to the list. When Mrs. Barrett asked for a volunteer to help our new classmate learn English, I wanted the job and lucky for me, I got it.

Although I don't recall how we communicated for the first few days, I have to believe that language was not an issue. It didn't take long for Peggy and I to become inseperable -- we were BFFs in a big way. Whether it was at my house or hers, school or Girl Scouts, we were attached at the hip. In 6th grade, Diana became the third appendage, and the rest is junior high history. The three of us had some glorious times in junior high school but when it came time for the transition to high school, the tale of the fourth grade BFFs took a tragic turn -- Peggy's family moved to another city, leaving Diana and me to go off to high school without her. After Peggy moved, we lost touch. Diana and I remained BFFs all through high school, and it is to Diana that I owe an eternal debt of gratitude for helping me get through the last half of my senior year in the wake of my mom's sudden and unexpected death.

Over the years, I've looked for Peggy but had no success. I knew from Diana that she had returned to Holland, but that was just a year or two after we finished high school. And then, on March 16th, during my morning email check, I found a message with a subject line that read, "Hi Carleen, this is Peggy (4th grade, Dutch speaker)." After 30+ years, Peggy found me! I fired off a quick response, got one back, sent another with my contact information, and a few days later received a phone call from my 4th grade BFF who is still living in Europe!

I was thrilled to have reconnected with Peggy and thoroughly enjoyed catching up with some of what we had missed of one another's lives over the past three decades. We strolled down memory lane, and Peggy reminisced about my mom and the time she had spent at our house when we were kids. And although it was absolutely wonderful to have shared the tales of times past, nothing could have prepared me for the meltdown that resulted from it.

My mom died when I was 17 and she was 37. Her death came unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, just 3 months and 3 days after her own mother had died unexpectedly in a car accident. In such a brief span of time, my whole world fell apart. Whomever it was that said that time heals all wounds had to have been a complete lunatic; nothing could be further from the truth! The passage of time does make it easier to deal with the pain associated with the wound, but the wound itself never heals completely. Talking to Peggy and hearing her memories of my mom -- memories that I did not have -- devastated me.

My mom would have been 70 years old on March 28th. I have known my husband almost twice as long as I knew my own mother. Reconnecting with Peggy at such a crucial time, just days before my mom's birthday, reopened the wound that should have healed long ago. Because her memories of my mother were not ones that I shared, a tremendous feeling of guilt settled over me. Had I forgotten my mom? I truly feared that I had, and the possibility of that ever happening thrust me into an abyss with which I am all too familiar.

I needed the reassurance of someone who knew my mother, felt her absence as much as I, and would understand why I couldn't stop crying. Not wanting to upset my father, who is still sensitive to special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, I called my sister. Nobody was home. I called my two of my mom's sisters, but neither of them was at home. Finally, I called my stepmom who, in addition to being my dad's wife, was a very close friend of my mom and is still the BFF of my favorite aunt. Not everyone is as lucky as I am when it comes to the stepmom. Mine happens to be one fantabulous lady who, without batting an eye, immediately understood my upset and talked me through it. The doubt lingered for a few more days, but I'm dealing with it more effectively now. I have good reason to . . .

. . . Peggy is coming to the States in May, and the three fourth grade BFFs have planned a renunion!
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1 Response
  1. Anonymous Says:

    My mom has been gone for 9 years and would have been 77 this year. I, too, am blessed with a step-mom who has been wonderful to my dad (and to my family and me as well) for the past 8 years. It sounds like you have a good support group of people who remember your mom and understand your feelings.

    How wonderful that the three fourth grade buddies can share some real time together again after all these years! That will be so exciting and I can't wait to hear all about it (and maybe even see pictures!!) when that time gets here!

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