Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Guest Memoir. FRIENDS, by Donnetta Lee


The first time I saw Elizabeth, or remember seeing her, was in junior high school in home economics class when we were thirteen years old. I was seated at one of those long classroom tables that accommodated ten or more girls. Another friend named Sheila was sitting beside me. I remember remarking to Sheila as Elizabeth walked by us that I thought Elizabeth was such a pretty girl. Sheila responded with, “Yeah, but she needs to stand up straighter.” No doubt, Sheila was just a little jealous.

So there was Elizabeth seated at another long table that formed an “L” with ours. Sheila filled me in on her. Seemed she was the daughter of a doctor in town. She had two brothers and a sister and was a nice person.

I don’t know how it ever came about that we actually spoke, but somehow we got to know each other. I believe it was in that very home- ec class.
I had been reading books about magic, spirits, and séances. In some conversation or other, I was brave enough to mention these things to Elizabeth and a couple more girls in our class. Well, that did it. We decided to hold our own séance. We decided to contact the spirit of John Kennedy. Whatever made us think of contacting John Kennedy is beyond me!

For days, we met on the steps of the porch to the home- ec building. We sat in a circle, chanting. We commanded the spirit of the president to come to us and speak. I don’t think he ever responded. If he did, he likely whispered and we couldn’t hear him. It’s a thousand wonders that some teacher didn’t catch us and think we were doing the devil’s work or some such.
It just seemed as if Elizabeth and I thought along the same lines. And I was so flattered that she actually liked to have me as a friend. I mean, really. She was the daughter of a doctor for heaven’s sake! That was special in my books.
So, we wrote stories, we held séances, and we laughed. Our friendship blossomed. Of course, I didn’t tell her our family’s secret. She would never have been my friend if she knew that. The secret was that my dad was a chronic alcoholic. So I would not be worthy to have her as a friend if she knew about that. That’s how I felt.

At lunchtime, we walked the short distance from the school to the small downtown. I usually did not have enough money for the school meal but could get a Coke at the drugstore. We drank vanilla cokes as I remember. They were a dime. Then I took to saving my lunch money for Beatles records.

I don’t recall how many times I stayed over night at Elizabeth’s house. I really didn’t like to stay away from home, but I had such a good time when we were together that it was worth it. Even when Elizabeth’s little brother Richard gave us a hard time. I felt sorry for her for having such a pain for a little brother. It seemed to me that we hardly saw her brother, Robert, or her sister, Susan, but when we did, they were always nice to me. So were her mom and dad.

Just when I was feeling secure at school and having a great best friend, Elizabeth told me that her family was moving to another town far away from the one we went to school in. I was crushed. I thought I would never see her again. But she assured me that we could get together in the summers.
Elizabeth was right. During the school year, we wrote letters back and forth. We made up pretend lives, make- believe characters, wonderful, beautiful dreams. Every time my mom, brother, and I drove the ’54 Ford into town from the farm, I could hardly wait to go to the post office and pick up the next letter Elizabeth sent. There were times I felt, in the loneliness of living on the farm, that those letters were all that kept me connected to the world. Those letters gave me something to look forward to, gave me something to dream about. They were magic to me and just as good as gold.

When summer came, I couldn’t believe it when Elizabeth’s mother actually brought her out to the farmhouse to stay with me. Sometimes, she rode the bus from her town into the town where we had attended school. Mama, my brother and I would be there in the old ’54 Ford to pick her up. Typically, if my dad was not home for whatever reason, we just stayed out on the farm. If he were home, Mama spirited us off into town to stay at my Granny’s house. We were happy wherever we were, as long as we were together.
There were even a couple of Christmases that we got to spend with each other. One Christmas, Elizabeth, who could sew, made us matching dresses. She still has a picture of us together in our dresses. We also had look-alike hats that we wore when we pretended to be spies for U.N.C.L.E. (fromThe Man from U.N.C.LE. TV series). We were very cool.
We wrote stories. We wrote songs. We made up dances. We wrote and performed skits. We held séances. We worked with the Oujia board. We tried to make wine out of the grapes from Granny’s arbor in the backyard. We cooked lunch for my Grandpa. We tormented my brother. We took on secret identities. We played many, many pranks. We were always dreaming and scheming. We were going to be famous writers some day. We were going to go to Hollywood. We planned to buy clothes at an army surplus stores really cheap. Of course, Elizabeth could alter clothes to fit us since she was the seamstress. And more of the plan: Travel and living would be simplified by securing a travel trailer. It would all happen for us. We knew it. We had to stick together.

Eventually, I shared the story of my dad and his arabesques with Elizabeth. As I should have known all along, it never mattered to her. I was what mattered to her. Our friendship was what mattered.
Those were the best times of my life. I am blessed to have had them. I still remember the empty, lost feeling that enveloped me when I watched Elizabeth’s mother driving her away at the end of each visit. I have felt that depth of loneliness only a few times in my life. I hope to never feel it again.

Of course, the day came when I started running around with a local group of girls. We went into town every Saturday night, looking for boys. Then the day came when I actually started dating. I wrote Elizabeth fewer and fewer letters. I was growing up and in a new direction. I eventually had a “steady” boyfriend and all my attention focused on him.

My mom grew emotionally stronger and gained the courage to leave my dad. She began managing and operating the town’s café. Mama, my brother, and I bought a small house and moved into town. We were emancipated, free.

Approximately fourteen years passed. During that time, I had a recurring dream of seeing Elizabeth far away in the distance. She was too far away to hear me calling, and she walked away. I woke up from this dream with, as Elizabeth calls it now, “dream dregs.” Those were sad moments. They took me hours to shake off. In fact, at any significant time in my life when I was sad, I had that dream.

I thought of Elizabeth often as my life progressed. I went to college. I married. I had a son. So did Elizabeth.

One day, by happenstance, I ran into Elizabeth’s cousin Mike at Mama’s café. Mike was doing some work in town and stopped in for lunch. Imagine my delight when Mike told me he had Elizabeth’s address.
I took a chance and sent a letter.
Of course, Elizabeth sent one back!

I remember when I received that letter that I sat down and cried tears of happiness. It was as if no time had passed between us. And that was that.

We continued to stay in touch. We vowed we would never ever lose contact again.

If I could have a sister, it would be Elizabeth. She has "been there" through my moves, my divorce, my marriage, and everything in between. She is always there. She is always supportive. She always listens. She is the definition of a true friend.


Since receiving that letter, so long ago, I have never again dreamed the sad dream of Elizabeth leaving. That’s because she won’t. I didn’t realize it then, but she never really left. She was just waiting for me.


--Published electronically by Island Grove Press, 2007.

Donetta Lee holds all rights.


55 comments:

islandgrovepress said...

Sorry, Donnetta.
I snarfed it up. Should read Guest Memoir.
Give me a little time to fix it.Should have run a test blog, but I liked the story so much, I got buck fever.
Sorry to be such a klutz. Final version should work better. Going to take a little while.

Ivan

HeiressChild said...

this is such a beautiful story of friendship. when one can find that special best friend in life, one has found the most precious gem. my best friend and i have been friends since we were both 15. thankfully, she never moved away, so i've never felt that loss.

at first ivan, i thought this was your story, so when i read the part about elizabeth making a dress for both of you, i had to go back to the top and make sure i was reading your blog. i was trying to understand why you'd be wearing a dress. *lol* that's when i saw this was donnetta's memoirs. *lol*

beautifully written story and what a beautiful tribute to your's and elizabeth's friendship donnetta.

islandgrovepress said...

Egad.

When I worked at the Toronto Star as a cub reporter, I would meet other little bears who told me they were "overwhelmed at their own incompetence."
Well, now that I'm into beta, I'm getting a bit of the same feeling.

At least I put the "t" back in "guest", instead of having the headline come out "Gues".

So much to learn. So overwhelmed.

Amazing that this old coffin-dodger learned anything at all. Heh.

Should read better now, patient Donnetta.

Ivan

islandgrovepress said...

Hi heiresschild,

Fear I wouldn't make a very good cross-dresser, though my wife, way back, once said, "you like my green dress so much, why don't you wear it?"

Doen't Donnetta give us a wonderful account of friendship?

Ivan

Donnetta Lee said...

Ivan: Nice job! It's great for readers to see that there are really selfless people left in this old world. People who accept you just as you are with no silver strings attached. Well, that's Ms. Lizzy. I so appreciate the publishing of the story. Blessed to have good friends. Donnetta

Donnetta Lee said...

P.S. I also love the picture. Not far off either. I had the long brown hair and Liz was more blonde. That could actually be us.

Donnetta

islandgrovepress said...

Thanks Donnetta.

I could have done even better for you, but it's my darned inexperience with Word and blogger.

Next time we are going all out, italics, l2point type and all.

Yes, doing for others is somehow more rewarding than merely serving the self.
Everybody's throwing ancient wisdom out with the bath water.

Ivan

Sienna said...

Ivan you are just the greatest, don't be so tough on yourself, why under that skirt and nice corset I believe there beats a heart of gold..:)

I want to name all our horses after you people, the most talented and funny and clever, and educational! I read all your posts with a dictionary handy, learning a lot.
This is just a wonderful corner of cyberspace.

Pam

islandgrovepress said...

Funny how our CBC out here always has this dead-serious drama about some kid growing up and always trying on his mother's clothes.

In the Sixties, when people still had a sense of humour, it would be "telling it like it ith."

Thank you, Pam for your kind words-for all of us.

I am about to mail those books you requested. Still interested?

Ivan

Sienna said...

Hell yes, still interested!

I'll email details...sub plan section 1 (b)

Pam

Donnetta Lee said...

Well, you know what they say about throwing out that bathwater. Hold on to the baby!
Donnetta

islandgrovepress said...

Babies are tough little critters.

But yes, it's best to hold onto them. Michael Jackson? Heh.


Ivan

EA Monroe said...

Hi Ivan! Thanks for publishing Donnetta's story. You did a wonderful job! Hey, that does look like us -- the summer we went on our starvation diet and Donnnetta's brother got even by eating huge ice cream sundaes in front of us! All we had were orange sherbet Flintstone pushups! Haha!

EA Monroe said...

opps! Got one too many "n"s in Donnetta's name!

islandgroverpress said...

Donnetta has two n's.

Was it t's?

Funny thing. Remember ens and ems
from your old typography?

Printers ink now. Donnetta in ens.

Ivan

islandgrovepress said...

Liz,
The new logo.

Well, I'd say you are certainly not the wicked witch of the west, if I know good witches.
There are days when I feel like a marching broomstick.
In the past, good witches seemed to glom onto me as if I were a really good ride. Heh.

Not too much up on my mythology these days.

Diana?

Latter day Isis?

Darn, do I have to go through a whole bunch of genre illustrations to find the right babe?

Ivan

http://www.cretivewriting.ca said...

Liz,

Five hours on this machine (interspersed with American Idol (Yea!). I am becoming an addict!

Has sort of made my soggy, hard to light and a bit ungracious.

Thanks so much for appreciating my set-up of Donnetta's wonderful memoir.

The picture.

Yes, a little serendip seems to be working out here.

Cheers,

Ivan

JR's Thumbprints said...

Ivan,
I enjoyed this story a second time around. It's so very different than anything I've ever written.

On a different note--do I hold "all rights" to that hot tub photo? I sure wouldn't want it to fall into the wrong hands.

Donsie said...

Excellent!!! So well written, it feels like I was there... could live myself into it!!!!

islandgroverpress said...

Hi Jim,

I guess you know for sure the hot tub picture is high art and you're going to sue my sorry ass off for plagiarism.
Island Grove Press with its full financial commitmentof fifty cents should easily be able to hire top lawyers. Wonder if R. J. Baker is busy...R.J. was onto a real blogging streak as a mystery writer then he suddenly stopped; we fanatics keep right on going.

Yeah, the rendering of powerfully-felt sentiments on white space is quite an accomplishmen for Donnetta. I am trying to compile a rading list for her because big publishers like an author to really know her field.

Your hot tub picture is probably already in the wrong hands, now that it is out in cyberspace. I shudder to think of what some dour perv is doing while perusing your hot tub picture. Heh. Never trust a naked teacher. Double heh.

Cheers,

Ivan

islandgroverpress said...

Donsie,

Your appreciation will cause Donnetta to do still another cartwheel.
She says she is very happy with the little publishing.

Ivan

eamonroe said...

Hi Ivan,

The logo pic is a Maxfield Parrish. I love his art work, and NC Wyeth's, too, even though they were considered "illustrators."

En & em spaces and dashes and "thin spaces." Even, in the computer age of "typesetting," I deal with "forgotten" typographical terms. Although one shop I worked in still used the old hot lead, I never had to deal with lead poisoning. I do remember wading around in "ticker tape" up to my knees though. Now days, we go directly from computer to platesetter to press.

Hah! Remember agates and picas? I still use picas.

Josie said...

Ivan, I just popped over to say hello. I miss all you guys. Keep your fingers crossed that my computer is back at home tonight.

Cheers,
Josie

P.S. You can tell JR that I have his hot tub photo fridge magneted onto my fridge. :-)

islandgrovepress said...

So it's Maxfield Parrish.
And you like NC Wyeth. Well, I used to know of Andrew Wyeth and his son Jamie.
NC Wyeth not immediately familiar to me, but it looks like now I have come across still this other Wyeth...Will have to check if any relation.
Yeah, picas, em and ens...Good Scrabble words if you're stuck in a place of three spaces.

And agate.
I once said to Chuckercanuck, a brilliant political blogger that I write so much I might as well set it in agate and he had no idea of what I was talking about.
I explained that agate was composed of TLF's--Tiny little ..ers of characters; you can barely read agate.
Nowadays I get all marble-eyed anyway.
Wonder where my energy is coming from.

Probably you guys.

Keep me energized, lke the Engergizer bunny, I suppose.

An early happy Easter all!

Ivan

islandgrovepress said...

Hi Josie,

Thought we'd lost you out there at Scratch and Dent's Computer Service.
If they are anything like Bell Canada, they'll get you to do half the work...you're very clever and can probably handle it.
But these Persian rug dealers seem to screw up the work all the time and blame it on you.
I sincerely hope your computer is back, say by tomorrow, dry cleaned of viruses, spam and all those other things that come to plague us.

I guess it's the new Windows that you've got.

I am strongly hinting to my poor family that I want a Mac for next Christmas--apparently Macs never go awry...or have you got a Mac?

May the fleas of a thousand camels fall upon Habib and Hakim.

Windows. Yeah. More like Hakim Optical, I suppose. One-day service. Hah.

Ivan

eamonroe said...

Ivan, NC was Andrew's father and Jamie's grandfather.

Josie said...

I'm familiar with the Wyeths. Fabulous painters.

Kumar just told me I will be getting my computer back tonight. My goodness, I didn't realize how much I would miss it. I use it for everything.

Josie

islandgrovepress said...

Liz,

Whoops!
So much for my pretensions toward American art history. Jay Wells, where are you? Yead, looks like NC was the granddaddy of all the Wyeths.
...Just me. Christina with the clubfoot.

Ivan

islandgrovepress said...

Josie,

Luck on you!

Friend dropped by the other night and said blogging was a religion.

Uh, Repeat after me...

"Our Gates,who art in Heaven..."


Ivan

JR's Thumbprints said...

Okay Ivan,
So what are you saying? I should've put the "c" thingy with a circle around it to make everything official looking? Huh? Is that where I went wrong?

Donnetta Lee said...

Hello, guys. Cartwheeling, cartwheeling! I also am familiar with the Wyeths.

Honestly this picture does remind me of us. Oh, the starvation diet! The afernoon that Lizzy went home that time, I actually fainted. Mama made me lay down on the couch at Granny's and eat a bowl of cereal.

Hope Josie gets the computer soon.

Donnetta

islandgrovepress said...

JR: you mean this at the bottom of your picture @- ?

...Whoops. Can'lt reproduce it. I'll have to google back to the Copyright Symbol Web Page.

Gotta watch that Ivan. If Diogenes come around looking for truth, Ivan will steal his lamp!

islandgrovepress said...

Ah Donnetta,

Memories of starvation diets. Seems funny now, doesn't it?

I often go on starvation diets.

Most times it isn't my idea.

Friggin government and their monthly pension cheques.

I am svelt and very trim, largely from running from bill collectors and other optimists.

Ivan

Josie said...

Ivan, are you guys staying out of trouble over here?

Josie

EA Monroe said...

Ivan and Josie! Where did all the clowns come from? Hope you are all having a great Friday afternoon!

islandgrovepress said...

Liz,

Ever since my son beat me at checkers, he's taken to calling me r.Emmett Kelly.

So I'd said, "OK genius, your toom is a mess!


Ivan

islandgrovepress said...

Josie,
Everytthing is suddenly fine, fine fine over here.

I think I'm going to stop belly-aching.

Sela Carsen says somewhere that Ivan is always writing about "what comes up, must come down."

We are suddenly up. Must be Donnetta's good writing.


Ivan

Josie said...

My radar sensed that Ivan was feeling "down" but I'm glad he's not.

I just walked across the street to the little mall, and my feet are soaked. I don't know where all the water comes from.

Sigh...

islandgrovepress said...

Josie,

I was a bit down, but I just came back from a walk and it was like Kentucky. Sunshiny, nearly tropical in Toronto area. It is warm!

Feel a bit concerned from Sienna, or Pam. Terrible sandstorm in south Victoria, Australa, where she lives. Check the pics she has up.

I am donning my Shaman's rattles and beads as I learned to do from my MD of the rain forest in Dominica. Conjure. Conjure. Conjure good weaather for Pam.


Ivan

islandgrovepress said...

Hey,
Pam reports that the sandstorm has passed and the sun is out.

Good thing I majored in R&D (Rattle and Dance) at that conjure school.

Ivan

Josie said...

Ivan, can you conjure up some good weather for Vancouver now? My favorite shoes got ruined today.

Sigh.

Josie

islandgrovepress said...

Gee, Josie, that's a tough job.

I am inundated with requests from Oregon and most of the Pacific northwest, upset over their own inundation.

Let's see...We'll try the Philippino Shaman trick.

"What colour is your wet weather?
"Is it a light or dark shade?

Is it moving or is it standing still?

"What colour is your weather now?

"Has your weather already improved compared to when we first began?

"What colour is your weather now?"

See?

Heh.

Ivan

Josie said...

It's grey. Just grey.

Did you see Liz's comment about the lion tamer? Ha!

I remember a long time ago I had a boyfriend who was very jealous and he never believed me. He once said to me, "You're no lion tamer, you're a lyin' b***ard." The friendship ended. :-)

Josie

islandgrovepress said...

Yes, Josie,
I can see why you parted company with that guy.


Lion tamer!
Liz is a sweetheart.

There are male writers (and dates?) who think they have class in what they say. Unfortunately, a lot of the "class" is lower.

Ah, what do I know.
I just wrote to an important book editor, noting that many her authors had their MD's.

I began, "Oh my. That's pretty august company...I am just a simple shepherd."
This, for some reason drew great ire.

They had recently bestowed a Giller prize upon a Chinese doctor literally just off the boat.

Talk about a United Nations.

I am going back to the former U.S.S.R , come to Canada again and appy as an expatriate dissident Russian writer.

That'll get their attention!


Ivan

Josie said...

Ivan, and Co., I just realized today how boring my blog is, and how boring I am, and I have decided not to blog for a while. Maybe by then I will have something to day :-)

I'll talk to you later.

Josie

EA Monroe said...

Ivan, what is Josie talking about? Boring?? Hardly!! I thought I was doing boring!!

islandgrovepress said...

Josie,

Like many another masochist I somehow think you are considering pulling back on your blog because of something I might have written.
I mean, you never know when Ivan does an unexpected "one-eared elephant."

Don't even consider quitting. You are a fine writer and never, never, have I caught you making a grammatical or stylistic mistake; you are a natural.
And we are still waiting for that archway painting you are working on.
You are gifted.


Hey, do you know what they call someone in Newfoundland who has actually completed Grade Eight?

Gifted.
(Whoops, there I go again).

Don't quit, Josie. Yours is a quality blog and you have a good hundred readers, certainly me and the others who prowl through these pages.

Ivan

islandgrovepress said...

Liz,

I am pretty sure it's the forty days and nights of rain that is getting Josie down.
...I mean, Water World was a crappy novel and even a worse film.

I've got my conjure bones out, but after seeing Vancouver's flood footage, I may have to set up a "cargo cult" and we can all pray together to have the sun return.

You don't do "boring", Liz.

I'll bet some lady bloggers are wishing they had your writing talent.
We need to get Josie an LST (Landing Ship, Tank). Then she can just jump off the ramp without ruining her shoes on the way to work.

Ivan

Josie said...

Ivan, no, no, no, it was nothing you had written. Good grief! You're too much fun, and very interesting. You know, I showed one my co-workers your picture that you posted of yourself when you were in - what - high school, university? And she thought you were very cute!

Someone who visits my blog a lot, and I thought was my friend, gave out four "blog awards" today to other folks, and I felt left out :-( And I didn't necessarily agree with all of his choices. I hate that sh**. So then, I immediately thought I "didn't" get one because he thought I'm stupid and boring.

I just need some sunshine.

I hate memes and I hate blog awards. They're meaningless and exclusionary. People should know better.

I'd like to thank the academy...

Anonymous said...

That was my university graduation picture, though good old Ryerson was, until lately, considered "Rye High."
Try to get into Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson now--you have to be an Eaton or a Clarkson! The Ryerson degree leads straight to television or Hollywood work these days...Andy Alexander, lately of SCTV is a Rye grad, including Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies. Mr (Dr.?) Cameron of Titanic fame, holds a Ryerson degree.
Yeah, yeah, so what am I doing blogging?
Because it is addictive and somehow very satisfying.
I have always held the opinion that if you do what you love, the award and financial thing will follow. Most times, I have found this to be true.
So let's just blog on. Island Grove Press is starting to make waves and you have been published by Island Grove Press--a very, very tough market. I don't publish bloggers who produce a spaghettiwork of oxymorons.

Dang it all, let's have our own awards.

I do recall, at Ryerson, when we published our fiction and poetry, everybody got $20 (about $2oo today). Nobody was placed above anybody else. Payments and praises for all.
Which, I suppose, makes me something of a commie, but it seemed so much better that way.
The actual competition was getting into the literary magazine in the first place.

Ivan

Josie said...

I guess I must be something of a commie too. We'll start our own awards.

When I was a kid my dad belonged to Kiwanis. He was the treasurer. Then my Dad and some of his friends broke away from Kiwanis and started a club called "The Do-No-Gooders Club". The purpose of the club was that they would do no good for anyone but themselves. Their mission was to collect dues and use the money for entertainment. Maggie and Nels, Jack and Helen, Clive and Sally, and my mom and dad were the members, and they used to go out all together for an evening, and come back to our house for a "nightcap". My dad would be pounding on the floor with his shoe, "This meeting will come to order" and my mom would make the martinis. They were all very bright and intellectual and witty, and I used to stay up late so I could listen to their conversations. They could put Dorothy Parker to shame.

So, we will start our own blog awards.

Josie

islandgrovepress said...

Starting our own blog awards.

Stranger and more exciting things have happened.

I have this eerie feeling that somebody is going to bestow something on all of us.

How to succeed at blogging without really trying?

Well, it's a two a.m. reverie over here.

Ivan

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