This blog post has only a marginal connection to Kitties, Bunnies or Chickens, but you’ll forgive my digression, as I intend to pay homage to some dear friends who visited Casa de Burlingame last week. Way back in the day (1986) I began graduate school at Mississippi State University (Go Dogs!) with four of the best friends I would have for the rest of my life. The five of us all finished with our Masters degrees in English in 1988, with the exception of yours truly. I popped out a baby that fall, and had to lighten may academic load to make it to the finish line. (I did finish the following summer.) I’ll never forget the first day of class. I was painfully aware that I was the dumbest in the group, and if I was going to survive I needed to glom onto some smart people to help me get by. The first girl to catch my attention was Marcie. She was a fully-growed woman with three children but I did not know that at the time. My first impression of her was of this tall kid with the fresh and happy attitude of an eight year-old. She smiled all the time and she bubbled like champagne when she talked. I was a newly minted Air Force wife still learning how to cook and clean, and this single mom working her way through graduate school blew my mind with how she managed to do everything with grace and humor. When she walked in the door for last weekends visit, I was struck by the fact that she does not age. I mean, she’s drinking some kind of Voodoo juice and I do wish she would share!
She still speaks and acts like a kid, and it is impossible to be in a bad mood around her. Everyone needs a “Marcie” in their lives and I’m glad I have my very own.
Marcie lives and teaches in Starkville, MS. On her way to my house she drove through Tuscaloosa to pick up another member of the gang. Donna Jean was, and is, the Glamazon of our group. She furthered her education after grad school by attending USM and earning an MFA. She teaches English and Drama in the Tuscaloosa Public school system and she has her own history in film acting and theater. Look for her waving on a float at the end of the Miss Firecracker Contest starring Holly Hunter. (1989) Donna Jean intimidated the few boys in our group who were getting their MAs, but she did attract the attention of many of our distinguished professors. She walked like a queen and had the kind of posture that reminded me of a movie star from the 40s. She had a long tangle of black curly hair and a body modeled after the classic Coke bottle. She spoke with a sultry, throaty tone exacerbated by a college smoking habit. Naughty girl! She retains her looks and her regal bearing and it was a joy being with her and Marcie for a whole weekend.
Another member of our little group couldn’t be with us because her mom was undergoing some medical procedures and she had to help out. Dee Anna lives in Cabot, Arkansas where she teaches college English. She was always a professional little power house of a girl and she reminded me of the tightly wound Holly Hunter character in Broadcast News. Hmmmmmm…two Holly Hunter references in one post. What’s up with that? I attended her wedding at 8 1/2 months pregnant which made for an exciting ride back home with false labor pains and a desperate search for a hospital exit before the days of GPS! We have Air Force pilot husbands in common (both now retired) so we travelled a lot in our married life. I use this as an excuse for the fact that I have never had a full-time teaching job, and have only taught on a part-time basis, while my colleagues have not only managed to maintain families and full-time jobs, but inspire and lead so many kids during their many years of dedicated service. I have not laid eyes on Dee Anna in over 20, years, but judging from her FB posts she’s still the powerful pixie I remember and love.
Sadly the fifth member of our tribe died in 2008 from breast cancer. Lauri was the smartest of us all. Of this there is no doubt. She routinely held three jobs, partied hard, slept little and finished papers at the last minute after putting them off for weeks. Her work was always stellar and she made me a nervous wreck. I was the kind of goober who finished work early and turned in papers before I could misplace them. Lauri existed on coffee and excitement, and was the kind of girl who dated often and with great variety. She was brave, brash and BALLSY! (pardon the French, but that word was INVENTED for her!) None of her boyfriends were ever good enough for her, (Right ladies?) and even though she eventually did marry and have two beautiful children, her match was not one that dreams are made of. Despite this, she became a wonderful mother and much-lauded teacher for many years in Katy, Texas. Lauri fell victim to a particularly brutal form of disease known as inflammatory breast cancer. But don’t call her a victim. After months of going to doctors who could not find anything wrong with her, she diagnosed herself with the help of a medical library and the burgeoning internet. She was able to get treatment for her cancer but her recovery was short-lived. Marcie and I made a journey to see her during her illness and we were astounded to see our friend fighting bravely and with dignity and humor. Here is a picture of us together then. My hair is just growing back out after chemotherapy and she is wearing a wig to cover her baldness.
Yes, not, one, not two but THREE of us are members of the “BC” club. Laurie’s health rallied and then she began to fail again within the year, so this time Donna Jean and I made our way out to see her one final time. We stayed in a hotel room along the way where I was treated to a tour of the scars criss-crossing Donna Jean’s body after her very recent breast reconstruction. She was proud of the work and I was impressed as well. She took the opportunity to have her new “bionic boob” (club members are allowed to talk like that!) downsized and had the other one made to match. The effect was great and she was much more comfortable with her frame. I did not opt for reconstruction so I list to one side. Too much information? Sorry! But my mammograms only take HALF as long as yours! 🙂 Lauri died after a terrible and lingering struggle, and left her two kids behind to be raised by her beloved brother and his new wife. We all miss her and talked of her many times during the weekend. Here we are toasting her on our big night on the town in Montgomery.
This post has gotten long and I haven’t even mentioned our great visit to Tuskegee to visit another girlfriend of mine, Daisy Chicken. Now that I’ve introduced everyone, look for a fun post tomorrow with some “chicken” in it. I wish for everyone to have such friends and not to wait too long to get together with them as we have done. The best part of any of our lives is having people to love, and love us back and I count myself a lucky girl. I wish the same for you. Life is short. Fill it with good stuff while you can. 🙂