My friend Patricia and I grew up together from the time she was in first grade, and I moved to her town when I was in second. Patricia was the only child in first grade that year. We had a five grade schoolroom and we sat in rows according to grade. The teacher knew Patricia could handle skipping, so she transferred her to the second-grade row. My friend was so small that on the way home from school two of us would hold her down to keep her from blowing away in a strong wind.
When Patricia and I got a bit older we walked down the dirt road to the Grape creek bridge on the outskirts of town talking and playing word games. Our favorite was to top each other with bigger words that all meant the same thing. Big, huge, gigantic, etc. We loved to stand on the bridge and eat salted peanuts in the shell and say a word each time we threw a shell into the creek. They floated away like tiny boats bearing messages. On our walks, any time we said the same word at the same time we linked pinky fingers and said, “Jinx, you owe me a coke.” Then we’d go to the hotel and get chocolate cokes and sit at the soda bar and drink them and talk to the hotel owner.
In the one solid block of businesses we called Main Street we went in to say hello to Mr. Cope at his pharmacy. He’d hire one of us and then the other to look after the little girls when he took his wife to my parent’s restaurant for a meal out. He also gave us comic books with the covers torn off. The company he got them from refunded his money on the unsold ones. I remember getting a whole stack and thinking I was the richest kid in town.
As we wandered, we sometimes came to the Catholic Church into which Patricia was born and raised. One time she showed me how to “do” the Stations of the Cross. You kneeled at each Biblical picture to pray. I liked that a lot. I attended the Community Church across the street and started teaching Sunday School there at the age of 12.
We’d go to Patricia’s cousin, Louise’s house to play Her backyard had an old barn where we put on our own dramas. Louise had plenty of siblings to act in all the scenes. It’s amazing how much fun we had when there was nothin’ to do.