Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"The Girls"

Over the weekend I received an oh-so-welcome email message from my Alaskan friends, Liz and Louise. The story of our friendship began in 1957.

That summer I was eight-years-old, and we moved to Juneau, supposedly for one year, to help my Grandpa out in his bakery. [edit: my mom wanted me to mention here that, for her and my dad, that "one year" stretched into 30 years in Alaska.] Grandpa was having some health problems. Sometime during those early months my Grandpa, whose health was failing faster than we had thought, made a business arrangement with my Dad, that if he would work one year without a salary, the shop would be his at the end of the year. So we lived, very frugally, on my Mom's salary as a secretary at the Northern Commercial Co.

Because we hadn't planned on this being a permanent move, my folks had left all of our worldly possessions (not that there were all that many) in storage in Oregon. We moved into a little apartment that only had one bedroom, so Mom would put me to bed at night in their bed, then, when it was time for them to go to bed, move me to a sofa bed in the living room.

When fall came, I started third grade. My young teacher, Miss D., who had only a year or two of teaching experience (in Mountlake Terrace, WA, if I remember correctly), was new to Juneau as well. I, being the little over-achiever that I was (think "Lisa Simpson"), worked hard and adored my young teacher, Miss D. I loved her so much that often I didn't want to leave school at the end of the day. What teacher have you ever known who, at the end of a long day of teaching two dozen sleeve-tuggers, was willing to keep one of them after school and give igpay atinlay essonslay (for you who are not bilingual, that's "Pig Latin lessons")? That was Miss D.! And, of course, I began sharing with her my sad tale: My dad worked but didn't get paid; I didn't have a bed; we didn't have a TV, and we had almost no furniture. AND (most grievous in my mind) I no longer had a bicycle.

Miss D. began to wonder if my family was some sort of charity case that had slipped through the cracks. So she talked it over with her roommate, Miss L., who was also a teacher. They decided to go down to that bakery and coffee shop, where "my Dad worked but didn't get paid," and investigate for themselves.

That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Miss D., later known to me as Louise; and Miss L., later known as Liz, (but, together, more commonly known to us simply as "the girls") were quickly integrated into our family. To me the phrase "the girls" was synonymous with "FUN!" They were a part of every family celebration, outing, and event. I adored them and was happiest when we were all together.

When I was eleven years old, and ready for sixth grade, it was Liz's turn to be my teacher. By then I knew her well, as "Liz," but I also knew better than to call her that in school. She would have to be "Miss L." But "Miss L." just wouldn't roll off my tongue. What to do? My round-about solution, for an entire school year, was to call her nothing but "Teacher," whether in the classroom or out.

Fourteen years after first setting foot in Miss D.'s third grade classroom, I graduated from college and came back to Juneau, with my husband, to teach school there, myself. And, to my delight, I was assigned to the same school where Liz and Louise were then teaching. We were colleagues!

The years have slipped by, and Liz and Louise have since retired. We remain more like family than friends. On those rare occasions, now, when we're able to get together, there's a part of me that still sees them through the adoring eyes of an eight-year-old child. They're no longer so young (and, for that matter, neither am I!), but "the girls" haven't lost their sense of adventure nor their propensity for fun.

Aketay arecay, earday iendsfray. Iay issmay ouyay!


Anonymous said...

Oh, Linda, you brought tears to your old Mom's eyes with this one. We did have some wonderful story making times with these two "girls" , didn't we? I think you should have mentioned that this year we planned to stay in Alaska turned in to more than 30 years. I love you...Mom

betty said...

Just a note to say that our firstborn was blessed to have one of "the girls" as his sixth grade teacher. She retired before child #2 got there.