Am I still friends with anyone from grade school?

Yes. About 40 years after we moved apart, Susan Gove and I found each other on Facebook. A decade later we’re still keeping in touch and moving closer to the face-to-face part.

She was my next-door neighbor when I moved to Westfield, MA, the summer before sixth grade. Back then, our parents would meet, compare their kids ages and, after determining they had boy/girl same age matches, tell us to walk “just walk over there and say hi.” No profile searches or selfie previews, we boldly stood on our adjoining turf before swiping right or left Sixties-style by deciding to run off and play together or retreat back inside our houses.

Soon Sue and I were reliving our favorite Star Trek and Dark Shadows episodes or just scampering around the neighborhood. We shared fantasies starring Captain Kirk as our future husband and Barnabas Collins sucking the life blood from our enemies. We listened to Three Dog Night and built a model of the Starship Enterprise in her basement. Well actually, she built it. I mostly watched and listened to Eli’s Coming and Mama Told Me Not to Come over and over.

Sue was super artsy-craftsy. While I honed my fledgling artistic gift with pen and paper and hours of pecking out stories on my mother’s Underwood typewriter, Sue was drawing and painting and crafting beautiful things. By the time we were in high school, she had a business making 3-D flowers out of a liquid plastic that, when dry, looked like stained glass. She’d walk to the bus stop with a handful of psychedelic blossoms for her eager customers at school. I can’t remember how much she sold them for, but her flower power was obviously way more lucrative than my allowance chores.

And horses! I went through the typical adolescent girl infatuation with them, but it phased out when it took too much energy away from cute boys. I mean, why eat, sleep and breathe horses when actually having one was even less likely than having a boyfriend? Susan, however, was full-on horse crazy. She finally got her own when she married and moved to upstate New York. But, back then, she mooned over her horse figurines and fed so many apples to the horse that lived nearby I think her mother starting putting bananas in her lunch instead. And then there were those glorious better-than-Christmas days when the big field in front of Stanley Park was turned into a polo tournament! If you waited around all day and were really lucky, a rider might let you walk his horse for a couple laps in between games. And if you were really, really lucky the rider might tip you a dollar, too. When it happened for Sue and me, it was the best day of our summer, probably our lives so far.

“Where exactly do you live,” she asked recently. We were still on each other’s lists after the Great Facebook Reckoning of 2020-21 so, besides having the same love for rescued dogs, blues guitar and travel photography, we knew we could probably share some comfortable quality time just being ourselves.

I told her to Google “Height of Land Overlook” and look at the lower left corner of the pic to get a feel for my neck of the woods. It’s always best, I’ve found since my Big Move to Rangeley, to acclimate new visitors gradually. It goes something like this: I live in the western mountains of Maine on what the locals call The Big Lake. Because it is, and its real name is an Abenaki tongue twister. Are you familiar with the Rangeley Region? Ok, good. We’re in that general region, miles down dirt roads before we get to town and anything resembling a Starbucks or a Planet Fitness. Sue was still interested after that, so I figured we had some reunion potential.

“How close am I to where you are?” she asked last October, sending me a picture of the view from her camper, a classic Height of Land fall foliage calendar shot. “Pretty darn close!” I responded. “Come on down.” But it was the end of her road trip and she had company coming herself back in NY, so she took a rain check. She knows where I am, though, for next time. Till then, we’ll just have to wait and see how much we’ve changed since sixth grade, and how much we’re still those next-door besties from Westwood Drive.

For more autobiographical Q&As than you’ll have time to read, see
Building my life story one question at a time

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