I believe that everyone should have the pleasure of knowing that they have a best friend, at least at one time or another in their life, and I’m so fortunate that I can say that I have. As a matter of fact, I have a friend who has been a lifelong friend. Her name is Laurie. I met her in 1960 and we are still friends to this very day! We were only five at the time, and she was my very first friend.
There have been periods throughout these many years – actually, decades – in which we have not had a chance to communicate with each other for two to three years at a stretch, but when we do, it’s as though we had just seen each other the day before. The fact that we can do this is a testimony to our friendship. It shows that the sands of time have not broken our bond of friendship, and I am forever grateful for this blessing. There’s a song that the Brownie Girl Scouts sing which summarizes how old friendships should be compared to new friendships, and it’s called: Make New Friends:
Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold. A circle is round, it has no end. That’s how long I will be your friend. A fire burns bright, it warms the heart. We’ve been friends from the very start. You have one hand, I have the other. Put them together, we have each other. Silver is precious, gold is too. I am precious and so are you. You help me, and I’ll help you, and together we’ll see it through. Across the land, across the sea, friends forever we will always be.
And speaking of Brownies, I will tell you my favorite story about the two of us when we were six years old and in the first grade together. Laurie belonged to the local Brownie troop. I remember every Tuesday she would wear her Brownie uniform to school. I was so jealous of her. I wanted to be in the Brownies, but my parents could not afford the cost of the uniform. So I had to settle for Laurie’s accounts of every meeting. One day she came home with her Brownie handbook and showed me a story about Brownies. Now these Brownies were good deed-doers, and in the middle of the night, when everyone was fast asleep, the Brownies would come out and do good deeds. When the people arose in the morning, the good deed would be apparent, but of course, no one knew who did the good deed. The most important part of doing a good deed was to never reveal your identity. If you told anyone it was you who did the good deed, then the good deed would be erased out of the Book of Good Deeds.
Of course, Laurie and I, being six years old, were quite impressionable and wanted to be Brownies. So Laurie arranged for me to sleep over at her house one Friday night. Laurie knew her parents went to bed at eleven o’clock every night. The plan was that at midnight we would sneak down the stairs and into the kitchen where we would set out breakfast for everyone—bowls, spoons, glasses, cereal boxes, orange juice and milk. Since we were only six years old, we didn’t think about the milk spoiling or the orange juice getting warm. We were just concerned with the task at hand—to be Brownies.
So that evening, I went to Laurie’s house at suppertime. I remember we had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I can still smell the fresh tomatoes and the toasting cheese sandwiches. Naturally, the meal which I ate at my friend’s house tasted so much better than it did when I ate the same meal at my house. Mrs. Larson even brought out an apple pie for dessert. Mrs. Larson made the best apple pie. I can still taste the sweetness of the sugar and cinnamon mixed with the apples and the flaky light brown pie crust. It makes my mouth water just to remember it.
After dinner, Laurie and I played the usual game we always played: make-believe. We took turns playing teacher. We even managed to have her brother David and her baby sister Valerie sit in as students. We were allowed to stay up until nine o’clock since it was not a school night. But at nine o’clock we ran up the stairs to Laurie’s bedroom. We were so excited that we were going to be Brownies in just three hours.
Now Laurie’s parents had this beautiful wooden cuckoo clock hanging on the wall in their living room. Every hour on the hour, the little cuckoo bird inside would come out and announce the hour by his cuckoo. If it was nine o’clock he would cuckoo nine times. If it was nine-thirty he would cuckoo only once. This was the way we were going to know when midnight came. We decided that once we could hear the little bird cuckoo twelve times, the coast would be clear, and we would be free to sneak down the stairs and into the kitchen.
So to pass the time, we whispered to each other so her parents would not hear. We whispered all kinds of things that little girls whisper about. I also remember Laurie had a flashlight and showed me how she read underneath the blankets. This was a new trick to me. So we read stories. I remember our favorite book at this point was a book that Laurie owned: The Big Book of Mother Goose. There was one more book which Laurie owned and was also a favorite of ours: The Fairy Tales of Grimm.
I remember listening for the cuckoo clock and sure enough, just as Laurie had promised, we could hear it in her bedroom. The time seemed to drag by. We were so anxious to do our good deed that there was no way we would fall asleep.
Then finally, the time came. Midnight. We crept out of the bedroom, tiptoeing past the other bedrooms, hoping the wooden floor would not creak. We reached the top of the stairs. We had decided beforehand that the best way to get down the stairs quietly was if we sat on each step and then slip down to the next one, using our backsides instead of our feet. I remember counting those stairs as we descended—there were thirteen stairs exactly. I remember sitting side by side with Laurie, sliding down those stairs. Because of the darkness it was difficult to see, but we managed by holding on to each other’s hand. When we reached the bottom of the stairs we tiptoed into the kitchen. Of course, we had to do our good deed in the dark because Laurie’s mom and dad slept in the downstairs bedroom.
Into the kitchen we tiptoed, as slowly and as carefully as we could. Finally we reached our destination and began to whisper into each other’s ear about what to put out on the table. We set about our work, knowing that one day perhaps our good deed would be rewarded. I admit that it was hard not to giggle as we set out the bowls and glasses. We were having a wonderful time being Brownies.
As a matter of fact, we were having such a wonderful time that we didn’t notice Laurie’s mom walking down the hall. Laurie saw her mother first and darted underneath the sink. There was no cupboard under the sink, so it was the perfect place to go. When I noticed my friend hiding beneath the sink, I knew something was up. I turned around and there she was—Mrs. Larson in her pink nightgown with her big fuzzy slippers. She was standing there looking at me with her hands on her hips. Now when I think about it, I know she was suppressing a smile. As soon as I saw her, I hurried to where Laurie was, but it was no use; the jig was up. Mrs. Larson flipped on the kitchen light and said, “Girls, it’s not time for breakfast yet. You still have about eight hours of sleep time left. Go on now. I’ll finish up in here; you two get to bed.”
We scurried out of the kitchen and upon passing the cuckoo clock in the living room, Laurie pointed it out to me. It showed the time to be only 11:15. I guess we had miscounted the cuckoos! We giggled all the way up the stairs and into Laurie’s bedroom. We never did try to be Brownies again. But I think our good deed counted, anyway.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” ~ John Leonard