Hello, dear Farmgirl Readers! I hope you are all staying cool in the summer heat, and that you had a great Fourth of July weekend! Our little family had a wonderful June, and I am still giddy with happiness from all of the excitement!
My story this month starts when I first met Jennie, forty-four years ago, as a five-year-old kindergartener, when we both attended Sharpstown Christian School, a private elementary school that was in Houston, Texas, from 1969 to 2016. Jennie was the most adorable little girl, with curly blonde hair, a bubbly personality, and the prettiest smile.
Her parents were both the nicest people! My mother thought the absolute world of Jennie’s sweet mother. One year, my mama and her mama were even room moms together.
As a child, until my late teens, I had horrible, life-threatening allergies. I was deathly allergic to all dairy, including whey, which was also used in the 1970’s in a lot of commercially-baked goods, like sliced bread, for example. I also almost died several times from fire-ant stings. One bite from one tiny fire ant could make me anaphylactic, so my mom was very careful whose homes I played at. Jennie’s mom was one of the few mothers my mama trusted with my life-threatening allergies, so she and I would often have playdates at each other’s houses.
My favorite childhood picture is one where Jennie and I are playing dress-up. I remember that day like it was yesterday. We are dressed in our mothers’ clothes and shoes, with tea cups and makeup, holding our little dolls. In the photo, we are sitting on the 1970’s screaming-orange couch in my family’s living room, so engrossed in play we were totally unaware of my mom snapping our photo.
I attended Sharpstown Christian School for kindergarten, first, third, fourth, and fifth grades. I went to a different school for second grade, closer to our home, but was promptly put back to SCS where I was happiest. The school only went up to grade five back then, so I attended public junior high and high school nearer my home. I never saw most of the kids from elementary school ever again. Those years at that little elementary school were the happiest years of my childhood. I still have my yearbooks and a pair of decorated shoelaces, with blazing red and white stars and the words, “SCS Superstars”- so very ‘70’s!
It was at that school that I developed a life-long thirst for reading, an interest in history, and a strong belief in God. I had wonderful, warm and nurturing teachers. Students attended “chapel” every day, in the church part of the building. There was a long corridor leading from the church to the school’s classrooms. After “chapel”, all grades would line up and walk back to the classrooms, all the while singing hymns in rounds. I can still hear all those voices – sounding like angels singing- as we headed back to class.
My mama was a Brownie and Girl scout troop leader there. She taught us to sew and did various crafts with us. Several times, our troop all got to stay at the 53-acre ranch my parents had in the Texas hill country, about three hours away from Houston, for weekend getaways (like camp, only better)! Later, when we were older girls, one of my favorite teachers at SCS was scout leader. I loved every minute.
Those were such fun times when Jennie and I had play dates and were scouts together. Later, I saw her one other time, when we were about fifteen, I think. She and her Daddy were in line behind me at the grocery store. It was a brief moment, where we caught up a bit and hugged each other before going our separate ways. Back then, there was no internet with Facebook, or cell phones to share each other’s information.
About two or so years ago, I joined an alumni Facebook group for students of my old elementary school. I was thrilled when Jennie and I found and “friended” one another, chatting and getting caught up on what had transpired in our lives over forty years. Never did I dream we would ever see each other in person.
Then, a few weeks ago, Jennie posted about a road trip she and her sweetheart, Joey, were embarking on. Friends of theirs had purchased property in Maine, and they were driving up to visit them. When she posted about driving through New York City, I messaged her asking if she was there, and if so, did she realize how close she was to me (where we live is considered a “suburb” of New York).
She then sent a photo of a freeway exit that is near our home, asking if we were close. Unfortunately, by the time I saw it, they were too far away. We crossed our fingers that maybe we could meet for coffee when they journeyed home, if they ended up taking a similar route home and making good time (traffic here is AWFUL). They needed to be back by a certain date for a special graduation. I gave her my address and phone number just in case. We both hoped it would work out. What are the chances of seeing someone, living so far away, from childhood?
Then, about a week later, Jennie messaged me, saying they were heading home. They could stop by but would not arrive until about 9 pm, was that okay? I said, “Of course!”. It would not matter how late they arrived, we would be thrilled to have them stop. I offered to make dinner, and Jennie texted a home cooked meal would be lovely. The timing was perfect – my husband had a day off from work, the weather was beautiful, and plans that we had originally that evening had been rescheduled earlier that day. It was like the stars aligned – just for us!
Kim mowed the lawn, and Audrey helped me plan dinner. She loves to bake, so for dessert we would have her homemade devils-food cake with chocolate icing. I made my chicken breast in a cherry-balsamic vinegar sauce – easy, baked in Pyrex that could be covered and kept warm if they ran into traffic. We set the table with my favorite dishes and vintage napkins.
Living so far away from any family, we’ve always been a house with frequent guests, but with the pandemic, my guest room has been unused for at least two years now. I stripped the bed and washed the sheets so they would be crisp and fresh – just in case it got too late for Jennie and Joey to travel after dinner.
They were pulling a trailer, so my husband met them at the top of our driveway to help them park. When Jennie came walking down my driveway, she was the same little girl I met when I was five. She is still so very beautiful and so sweet! We hugged and she said, “I would have recognized you anywhere! You are the same!” Funny how we always remember the people we knew long ago as we first met them.
It was such a happy evening, with laughter and stories. I don’t get to see many people up here from my home in Texas, and my husband and daughter have met very few people from my childhood. Meeting Joey was also awesome; he and my husband instantly connected, and we all had the best time.
Before Jennie and Joey arrived, I pulled out all my SCS yearbooks, along with photos I had from my elementary years – precious pictures of “field days”, playdates, and birthday parties. We had so much fun reminiscing and remembering classmates. Amazingly, several times a day I can’t remember where I’ve put my phone, keys or glasses, but I can still name the first and last name of every school mate from early childhood!
We had so much fun together and the evening flew by. I was so happy that they took us up on our offer to stay in the guest room. I would have worried about them driving so late. The next morning, we all had a great breakfast of fresh eggs, coffee and homemade pancakes before Jennie and Joey hit the road for home, and my husband left for work. It was one of the happiest days we have had here in a very long time. We promised that when we come home to Texas in the future, we will get together again.
My mama and her husband, Richard, go to bed early, so she did not get to see the photos of Jennie and me together until the next morning. Mama got teary on the phone as she looked at the photos, exclaiming, “Look at my two little Scouts”! She wanted to hear about everything we did and said.
Childhood is a special time, and I am so grateful the stars aligned and I got to see my dear childhood pal. When we reconnected a few short years ago, I never would have dreamed then that Jennie would be standing in my Connecticut kitchen – all the way from Texas!
Speaking of Girl Scouts, also this month, we had another exciting weekend in June. My daughter finished her first year of college this spring (albeit online, due to the pandemic). Last year, due to Covid closings, she missed so much of her senior year of high school, and she missed ALL of the pomp and circumstance of graduation. Audrey was awarded her Gold Award in January 2021, and finally, a few weeks ago, Girl Scouts of Connecticut was able to have a ceremony to honor their Gold Award recipients. It was a wonderful day, (though a very hot one outside under the tent)!
We were so very proud of our daughter, and happy that she could have a bit of recognition for all the hard work she put in.
My beautiful Mom turned eighty this past month. I wish we could have celebrated together, but I sent her a box of goodies and Audrey and I sang Happy Birthday to her over the phone.
I have more good news! Last month, I promised to share with you how our little chihuahua, Pip, is doing. He is much better, and just this past week turned eleven! I swear he has nine lives like a cat. We have so many reasons to be happy!
Sadly, however, just this past week, our precious pet snake, Noodle, suddenly became ill. We immediately traveled to an exotic pet veterinarian at the first sign of distress, but unfortunately, despite all efforts, our little snake boy passed away on the evening of July 3rd. He was a small albino corn snake that Audrey had received from a special teacher back in high school. He was part of our family for five years, and that little snake taught me so much. (For example, snakes can have distinct personalities, and not all snakes are to be feared. He was so docile and even loved to watch tv from his tank). RIP, sweet Noodle.
We had been invited to spend the following day with dear friends for July 4th. It was hard to get motivated to go, but we knew they had gone to special trouble to have us. It turned out to be a wonderful day with good food and great people. Spending time in the beautiful outdoors, celebrating a holiday for the first time in two years, was spirit-lifting.
Life is like that, and we have to take the good with the bad. Aside from that recent loss, it has been a wonderful start to the summer so far. Thank you for letting me share with you. Wishing you all a very happy summer!
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Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole