Sunday, February 24, 2008

Remembering Weedle -- by Edie McBride

My first memory of Weedle was before she was born. My heavily pregnant mother had gone to the hospital in Orofino, Idaho for a checkup, and she was huge. The doctor did an x-ray and found TWINS. I was only 3, but remember how amazed my parents were. They already had everything ready for one baby, but two? Both of them were normal sized babies—I think Weedle was just under 7 lbs, and our brother was over 8 lbs!

Orofino was a lovely little idyllic town in North Idaho on the Clearwater River. It was in a deep valley, with hills seeming to go straight up on both sides. Many members of our mother's family lived there or nearby, and there was a warm welcome when the twins were born on June 25th, 1948.

I remember the first day Weedle walked—some weeks before our brother. She actually sort of trotted, smiling a big smile, both hands up in the air at her sides. She was so delighted with herself. To set the record straight, I gave her the name of "Weedle". Her full name was Donna Louise Montre, and her twin, our brother, was Don Lee Montre. I think some of the family called her "Weezie", and I somehow devolved that to "Weedle", and it stuck.

When the twins were 2 and I was 5, we moved to Topeka to be near my father's family. Also—I remember long monologues by our father about how dangerous it would be for us to drive the "river road" when it was time to go to college at the University at Moscow, Idaho. Talk about planning ahead! I can't remember a time when it wasn't clear to all of us that college, whatever that was, was in our future!! I used to wonder if it was something like a little "cottage", or "cottage cheese", but was too shy to ask.

We arrived in Topeka just after the big 1951 flood, and it was hard to find a place to live. We ended up in a nice older house with big shady trees and a deep porch at 2017 Lane street. Brick sidewalks, brick streets. The Baughman's ice cream wagon would come every day—pulled by a horse!—and our mother let us stand on the curb and wait for it. You could hear the bell from far away, and I remember all 3 of us on the curb, leaning forward as far as possible without toppling over, to spot it.

When we lived in that house, Weedle loved to collect locust shells in her little red wheelbarrow. It was heaping with them, and she would always say, "See how many I have?!" One time Butch, being a boy and full of mischief, dumped them out and she was heart-broken!! I remember Mama consoling her and scolding Butch. It was also in that house that once at dinner, Weedle was trying to be SO polite and grown-up and asked, "Please pass the catshit!"

We had a lot of fun at that house, even though we were only there for 2 years, I think. The yard was deep and shady, there was an alley, lots of foliage, and an old grape arbor—plenty of places for kids to play. When I was 8 and the kids were 5, we bought a new house—in a development of the type that were springing up all over the country, to accommodate veterans and their growing families. It was at 3429 Adams Street, in Highland Crest. It was just an ordinary rectangular box, but we were so excited about it! We would drive out nearly every evening to see how things were coming along. We each had our own room…the yard was a rough and bare former pasture, muddy, no grass, no trees. But we loved it. Weedle's room was pink, mine was blue, and Butch's was sort of gray.

Anyway—it was a wonderful place to live, a neighborhood FULL of kids and dogs, no fences, and a feeling that things could only get better—a time of great optimism. In the summers we roamed the block, playing soft ball, kick the can, hide and seek, statues, and a game our mother taught us called "New Orleans" where you act things out—it was our favorite. Lots of times Weedle and I would work up little "shows" (only for the family), often involving dancing and me swirling her and flinging her about—she was really tiny, and I was tall and strong.

We had a piano in that house—an old upright—and we all took lessons. Our mother played and we would sing sometimes.

We both, Weedle and I, had a lot of good memories of living in that house and neighborhood. We didn't have a dog, but we had LOTS of "friend" dogs—Pootsie and Andy, for two. They practically lived with us, and we loved them.

When the twins started first grade, it was in East Avondale Grade School, a brand-new school a few blocks from home. We were the first kids to go there, and it was new and sparkling, new desks, new everything. It was light and bright. Weedle had a hard time leaving Mama, but got over it…she was always a "homebody", I think. There were lots of activities at the school, and I remember a talent show, sponsored by the PTA. All 3 of us had songs to sing. Butch was called first, and he stood up there on the stage, about 7 years old, and sang all 14 (or however many) verses of "Davy Crocket, King of the Wild Frontier". We had the sheet music at home, and Mama would play it while we sang. When it was Weedle's turn, her selection was—guess what—the same thing! I remember hearing a murmur of adults chuckling, and kind of wondering why.

Our parents often had us "perform" at that age. Every Saturday night, our paternal grandmother, "Gim", as we called her, and her sister, "Aunt Tu", would come over to watch TV. TV was still a new thing, and Mama would prepare snacks. Sometimes we would sing or play piano before the evening of TV began. We watched "Gunsmoke", "Have Gun, Will Travel", "Your Hit Parade", "George Gobel", etc. One evening the adults were wondering why Paladin of "Have Gun, Will Travel" didn't have a first name, and Weedle piped up, "He does!" When asked what it was, she replied, "Wire". Everyone thought that was pretty funny—his business card said, "Have Gun, Will Travel, Wire Paladin, San Francisco".

When the twins were about to enter 6th grade, our father decided we should move. We bought a house on the west side of Topeka, but it might as well have been in another country. All our friends, the people and places we had grown up with, were gone, and we were in a new unfriendly land. In our "old lives" we were known for being "the smart kids", we were confident and comfortable with our social station, our mother worked at the school as a cook, and was active in PTA, Girl Scouts, etc. Suddenly we were sort of "the poor kids", and no one knew us or treated us very well. Before long, though, the twins were established again as "the smart kids". At the spelling bee at Capper Junior High when they were in 9th grade, Weedle and Butch were the last two standing on the stage…we could never remember which one of them won!

I think we remained pretty much "outsiders" all the years we lived in that house on West 15th Street…but we had each other, thank God!! We used to congregate in our brother's room, where he would play records ("Listen to this—just for a minute!"). He loved Ray Charles and so did we. Weedle and I would often dance in front of the full-length mirror on the back of Butch's door. We spent MANY hours debating what was "cool"—white socks (NEVER), madras shirts and skirts (yes), etc. We were sort of fixated on that stuff for a couple of years. Weedle and I wore each others' clothes quite a bit, and would laugh about being the cool "Montre girls". In a way, we thought we were…in another way, we KNEW we weren't! We would lie awake at night (we shared a room) and play "word games" long into the night. Our poor mother, who had to get up very early, would come and ask us to keep it quieter, and we would TRY.

One memorable evening, Weedle and I decided to make "toothpick sculptures". We spent HOURS making very intricate, elaborate structures—we even kept them in our closets for a long time. We ran out of glue, so started using airplane glue—the odor drifted through the house and our brother woke up and had a fit! Mama came into the kitchen, and exclaimed, "Toothpicks! All over the floor!". We looked around and saw maybe two, so that made us laugh even more uproariously!! That phrase, "Toothpicks! All over the floor!", became one of our little "phrases" to use over the years.

I should have mentioned that our father died when the twins were 17 and I was 20. Our family had grown into sort of an armed camp. It was pretty terrible. Our father had been in a bomber shot down over Germany in WWII, and was severely burned—his face and hands, everything not covered by his flight suit. He lost an eye and was extremely disfigured, spent nearly 2 years in an Army hospital getting skin grafts, etc. He only weight 100 lbs. when his camp was liberated, and he had been a tall man, very handsome, black hair and blue eyes. He lost his teeth, and generally starved, nearly to death. His life, of course, was never the same. We, as kids, didn't really comprehend the pressures he was under, going into the public every day, etc. I know now that he also suffered from PTSD. At any rate, as the years passed and as we got older and more independent, things got worse for him, and he sort of turned on us and there came a point of no return. Our parents had separated a few months before he died. A few days before he died I went to see him, and he begged me to intervene and ask our mother to take him back—I of course declined.

Our father's death marked an end to a certain very controlled, rigid way of living, and everything just burst loose that had been so controlled. That summer of 1966, before she left for KU and began her "new life", we just lived wild, and loved it.

I'm not saying anything much about Weedle after she left—she always said her life sort of began when she went to KU…and in many ways it did. But—she used to like to talk with me about the times "before", when we were kids and adolescents. Also, of course, both she and I shared in the ensuing years things like marriage, kids, divorce, deaths of our brother and mother, our thoughts and feelings and triumphs. She was SO HAPPY during these recent years—I am very grateful for that. And she was ALWAYS there for me—I hope I was for her too.

Our mother was in a nursing home in Olympia, WA for just a few weeks before she died of a stroke on February 15, 1997. Weedle came out here while she was still pretty much OK, and Mama asked us to sing for her. Weedle and I both used to have such high, clear soprano voices that blended seamlessly—and in that nursing home room, we sang her every song she requested. I'm so glad we had that time!

And now—I'm the last one left. It reminds me of that "Farmer in the Dell" song, where at the end, "The Cheese Stands Alone". As a child, I can remember always wanting to be "The Cheese", but now that I am, it isn't that much fun. More than ever, I look forward to joining them all.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Share Your Comments, Prayers, Stories, Wishes about Weedle/Donna

Please share whatever you wish here (see sidebar on uploading photos, videos, etc., but you can also comment below). Paul and Weedle on New Year's eve at the home of Ken Lassman & Caryn Goldberg, and some of Weedle's pies. How in the world can we go on without Weedle or her pies?

The Sacrament by Weedle Montre (Caviness)

The bowl--pale yellow outside, smooth white inside. A bowl made so the sun shines through it when I hold it up to the window. A silver spoon for stirring, simple and heavy--made to fit in my hand. A gathering of ingredients on the counter silently beckons to me: Come let the sacrament begin.

Hot, hot water, pebbles of yeast, globs of oil, silken honey, and cool, soft flour fall into the bowl one at a time. And each one works a change in the look, the texture, and the smell of the ordinary mixture. The silver spoon slips through it easily and rings against the sides of the bowl as the common ingredients begin to bond together into a fragile yet powerful union.

Out of the bowl and onto the floured board it falls and as I touch it, I feel again the wonder of this transformation. How glad I am then for strong simple hands and busy fingers who know and love the bread in a way that my mind never can, no matter how eloquently I describe it. Fold, pat, push, fold pat push, make a circle, fold up the edges and push it flat again, over and over. I hear and feel the rhythm of the kneading, and I love to change the shape again and again.

All too soon, there it is--finished--rounded, smooth, and placid on the floured counter, one final hand print on top. I plop it into the buttered bowl, cover it with a warm towel, and set it on the stove. The house is silent, except that the clock ticks, and I love the solitude.

The dough is busy on the warm over. Soon it fills the bowl and pushes the towel up. I get the bread pans ready and divide the dough, a little reluctantly, into three pieces. A few minutes later neatly folded rectangles go into loaf pans, ready for the oven.

Often in the past they all went to the woods for the afternoon and left me, most happily, to bake and cook and welcome them in from the cold to hot bread and melted butter. Sometimes I could hear the busy chain saws in the distance, the thud of logs landing in the truck bed, and the shouts and laughter carried to me on the wind.

Through all the comings and goings of the people in my life, the bread has been a constant thread, connecting me with the ones I have loved. Wiggly babies have grown into curious toddlers, busy thoughtful youngsters; hurrying hungry teenagers, and young men out on their own, all coming home to countless, crusty slices cut from steamy loaves. How I love to remember those shared experiences--Will proudly carrying his very own "little loaf" around the kitchen, Laurel carefully buttering slices "all the way to the edge, Mom", Kelly bringing his friends out to dinner ("Is there any of your bread, Mom?") and Kevin taking his sandwiches to law school every day.

And so it continues: the constant, the consecrated, the celebration, the sacrament.

Well, Well, Well Spring 1992 (transcribed by Dan Bentley). Photo at bottom shows Weedle (Donna) and twin brother, Butch (Don), on one of their joint birthdays.

Memories of My Brother by Weedle Montre (Caviness)

His bedroom was across the hall and down a bit from mine, but I could see it pretty well from the doorway of my room. It seemed smaller than mine did , maybe because it was full of all of his toys and lots of mine too, because we always played there. In my memory, the floor is still cluttered with the tin western town, the battered metal yellow dump truck, our rubber Donald Duck car, and countless Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys and plastic cowboys and Indians. We played there so many, many hours of our childhood, fashioning elaborate stories filled with unlikely heroes and villains-- our favorite rumpled bear, simply called "Teddy" , the evil "Richard", a saggy, sad-looking panda, "Martha" my tiny plastic nurse doll (really a witch in disguise), and so many other characters of all different sizes and personalities.

His room was drab. I remember even as a little girl gazing at the walls trying to decide just what color they really were - gray, brown, or a combination of both. His bed was pushed into a corner out of the way, a plain dresser beside it, with drawers that always stuck horribly. I was always glad that he had that dresser and not me. The one window in the middle of the west wall looked out into the back yard, with its sloping lawn and the houses of our friends beyond. My room across the hall was light and airy, with pale pink walls, a pretty white bed and dresser and double windows looking out on the road and nearby fields. Still, I loved his room- the coziness of it, the welcoming of it, and I remember it much better than any other room in that house.

We became teenagers, left behind the toy-scattered room, replaced with a desk, shelves, record player and old easy chairs. Our evenings then were filled with homework assignments, made bearable by the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown, Roy Orbison, and eventually the Beatles, all turned up loud enough for us to concentrate on them and our homework at the same time. Our dad always went to bed before we were ready to, and we had to turn the phonograph down so low we could hardly hear it. It seems that's when we really finished our homework.

We did finally grow up and apart, I guess, although we always tried to get together on our birthday. If we were both home, our mother still made two cakes, mine white with white frosting and coconut, and his chocolate with chocolate frosting. We talked by phone every few months, sharing our latest news and sometimes engaging in heated discussions about the state of things in general. He'd grown into a tall, kind looking man with deep-set eyes, and I was always aware of him in my life- companion of my youth, childhood and infancy. It felt good just to know that he was in the world, in my reality.

A bright snowy morning is always linked with the saddest call, that he was dead, suddenly and forever. How completely strange to know that I would never find him again in the world, no matter how far I looked.

I came home on the airplane, and my children greeted me ecstatically, overflowing with clinging touches and close, searching looks. "Will you be different now, Mommy? Will you be different?" Laurel asked, holding my face still to look into my eyes. And memories of life with my brother, all of our days together, swept over me. I knew I would never be quite the same for having lost him. But how fine it was to have known him and to have shared so much of my life with him.

When we were little and got into trouble, our mother routinely sent us to our rooms. We sat cross- legged, exactly even with our doorways (We are in our rooms, Mama!" ), whispering across the polished hallway, waiting to get back to our play. We are in our separate rooms again now, in a way, farther apart than even before we were born. Yet I do still find myself whispering to him across the gulf, and sometimes I hear him whisper excitedly back to me.

Reprinted from Well, Well, Well (transcribed by Debbie Parks)

My Ms. Weedle -- by Debbie Parks

Weedle Caviness is related to me by marriage. I am married to her cousin, Edward Parks. Weedle's mother - Edith Squires Montre and Ed's mother - Tope Squires Parks were sisters. It has always been somewhat of a mystery to me that Weedle and I did not officially meet when my Mother-in-Law was alive. Tope always thought so much of Weedle, and visited her quite often. I rememeber Tope commenting on how very sweet she thought Weedle was, and how much she enjoyed their time together. Weedle returned Tope's visits as well whenever she was in Topeka, so they saw each other frequently. My Mother-in-Law and I had a very close relationship and we did many many things together, but unfortunately 20 years passed before Weedle and I were actually introduced.

Two years ago, our paths finally did cross when the house where the Squires family lived for 20 years and raised their 8 children was totally renovated and put on the market for sale. It is a beautiful huge stone home in North Topeka which dates back to the early 1900's. It features stacked curved bay windows on the upstairs and downstairs levels on 2 sides of the house , giving it much of a Victorian tower effect. Ed called all of his family to make them aware that the house was available for viewing. This we now know was an oppurtunity of a lifetime for the many generations of Squires family members. Weedle was very interested in the history part of the house, and of course Paul being an architect was equally interested in the structure of the house. Weedle and Ed arranged to have our very first meeting at the house to look at the exterior, as no open house was scheduled for the weekend that we could fit getting together into our schedules .

Our planned meeting day finally arrived and Weedle, Paul, Ed, and I were having so much fun we continued on with a little tour of North Topeka sites that were cherished by the Squires family- The Curtis School where both of their grandparents worked and all the children attended - North Topeka Methodist church- where some of the children met their spouses, and Great Overland Park Railroad Station where the hobos got off the train and headed towards the Squires home to be served a meal on the back porch by Grandma Charity. We finished the morning activities with a delicious breakfast at Brad's Country Restaurant. That was the first of many wonderful times ahead. I think that all 4 of us would agree, that the times we have met the last several years are truly cherished times. I have so many great story's about Weedle, it is hard to chose just one. Reminiscing on just a few: The day we met at Ward Meade Park for a picnic and having the park to our whole selves - Fried chicken- home made pickled beets - 24 hour salad and peach pie. Walking through the beautiful gardens there and peering through the windows of the little mini town of historic Topeka buildings that adorn Ward Meade's premises.

Another fond memory was seeing Weedle reuniting with many of her cousins at last years Family Reunion at Garfield Park and Shawnee Lake . Weedle was very active in helping with the history of her family- the Montre's - and trying to help Ed fit the many pieces of the Geneology Puzzle with her reflections of past history of her mother's family- the Squires side.

There was also the day that 20 family members decided to attend Apple Festival in Topeka. I could never do her performance in the one room school house justice by description. Many of us got to see a different side of Weedle that day, as she acted out the role of school teacher and had us all hysterical with her theatrical expressions. The kids adored her when she got her problem pupil - cousin Ed - to come to the front of the class, for a scolding - sweet Weedle style and a punishment of wearing a very long pointed dunce hat in front of her pretend classroom full of various ages of Squires Pupils. My most special memory was the day our family met an got to tour the inside of what we lovingly refer to as the old stone house. The tears, the laughter, the extreme emotion that we all shared being in our mother's bedrooms, and wondering what they would think if they only knew. We marveled at the gorgeous rose carvings on the very exquisite bannister and stairway that led to the upstairs. Imagining what it was like in their days of no electricity and running water. Weedle was so overcome that she called her sister Edie who lives in Washington, sharing every detail of that special moment, and then representing Edie's presence by holding up her cell phone in all the pictures. The heartfelt gratefulness she extended to new owner Tim Buser, for sharing the house he so dearly loves with us.

My one Special Memory that I would like to share about my MS. Weedle is one that I will forever hold very near and dear to my heart. It is a Pie Story- Just one I am sure of the many about Weedle and her pie baking talent. At this time I was not aware that pies were Weedle's signature trademark.

It was the day of the Squires family reunion -2007-. Edie and Weedle were coming to the family reunion for the first first time. It was one of those times when all family members united and agreed that this would be the year we will all try really extra hard to be there, doubling the usual yearly attendance. Weedle and I were enjoying our newly found friendship. I had never met Edie but had developed a friendship with her via E mail. Edie and I were so excited to get to meet in person. Weedle was equally excited to see other family members that she hadn't seen in years, and meet their family's . For our covered dish family reunion dinner Weedle brought 4 pies. It was immediately quite obvious to me that she had learned pie baking skills to perfection. Her pies looked like masterpieces. She cleverly had cut out crust into letters and spelled out Squires reunion 2007 on each pie. All the letters were perfectly matched and spaced. I remember my mouth dropping open and making a huge fuss over her pies, and Weedle making very lightly of the huge audience her pies by then had attracted.

After a wonderful day of family sharing and fellowship, we packed up to go to the hotel and spend more family time together during the evening Weedle had one whole pie left - a cherry pie- My FAVORITE- . Being somewhat of a thrifty person she had wrapped it in an empty hamburger bun bag and left it on the counter as she went and said her good byes to the family that wouldn't be attending the reunion the next day at the lake.

I was gathering my belongings and I remember my exact thoughts thoughts as I came across Weedle's pie . TREASURED GOLD wrapped up in an old used hamburger bun sack. My next thought hit me like a ton of bricks. My mother was also an avid pie baker, and much like Weedle had very unique ways of decorating her pies. My mother used a toothpick and dotted peoples names in the top crust. These she always gave as gifts to people that she wanted to show her appreciation too or make feel special for birthdays or anniversaries. My mother was well known in the community for this sweet act of kindness, but my dad did not think much of the whole community walking out the door with one of my mother's delicious pies. I'm sure he would have liked to have kept them for himself. About the same time I met Weedle, my parents had chose to make a move to the nursing home due to their failing health., As I looked down at Weddle's left over pie, I then just realized I would never again eat a piece of pie made by mother. I just couldn't seem to help myself, so I STOLE Weedle's pie.

By then several days had passed and Ed and I had invited Edie and her friend Linda and Weedle and Paul to our house for dinner, before Edie's farewell return to Washington. Weedle suggested that I grill hamburgers and she would bring all the rest of the fixings. I guess by then I must have been feeling somewhat guilty about stealing Weedle's pie, because when she arrived I told her that I had a confession to make. Giving me that puzzled ''Weedle look" she commented that she wasn't quite sure she wanted to hear my confession by the way it sounded. After telling her my story of my mother, and my confession as to why I stole her pie, in her very kind Weedle gentle style , she kinda muttered under her breath but loud enough for everyone to hear, that I would have to answer to God about my horrible sin. "

We all chuckled, but Weedle understood the depth of what a mother's love meant , and the little things that mothers do that get taken for granted until they are no more. From then on it, was a very special bond between us. One of which we embraced and wrapped our love and hearts around. Everytime we got together after that, Weedle always made sure I had pie to take home and as she bear hugged Ed goodbye, at the same time she also threatened him with the fact that he was not even allowed a crumb of my pie. In true Weedle style , she always knew it meant more to me than just eating a piece of pie. As I savored every bite, I always referred to the pie she sent home with me as "Weedle Love." I am so honored as blessed for the great times we shared and MY Ms. Weedle will "forever" hold a very special and dear place in my heart.

Photos: Top photo shows Weedle's cousins -- Vivian Kochanowski, Sylvia French, Ed and Deb Parks -- and her sister, Edie MCBride, and Weddle; 2nd photo: Squires house in the past; 3rd photo: Squires house more recently with in-set photo of Squires family; 4th photo: Some of Weedle's pies for the event; 5th photo: Edie McBride, Ed "Red Hot" Parks, and Weedle. Thanks to Debbie Parks for these and many other photos.

Remembering Donna by Holly Robertson

I met Donna in 1982 in an English class in Wescoe Hall at K.U. Neither of us really liked the professor as we studied the "shoat storeh". Donna scribbled that on a piece of paper and it made me laugh. That little scrap made it into my scrapbook and it's still there today. We were an unlikely pair, she a 34 year-old mother of four and me an 18 year-old coed. But something clicked with us and we became fast friends. We went through the School of Education together, started teaching and our career paths took different turns, until in the last two years we both returned to public schools. We were both thrilled to be back in a school again. We talked about how we just loved schools - the kids, the course of the year, celebrating the holidays, bulletin boards, the smell of the hallways, and the summers in between.

During the last 20 years Donna and I would meet every few months, since she lived in Vinland and I lived in Topeka. We usually met in Lawrence, would have lunch at one of our favorite restaurants and then usually stop in at Stitch-On, our favorite shop. We always found some little treasure there. We loved to look at the fabrics and the cross-stitch patterns. Sometimes we'd walk around downtown for awhile and many times we'd stop for ice cream somewhere. Then there would always be a hug goodbye and we knew there would be another time we'd see each other soon when we could catch up yet again.

Once in awhile we met in Overbrook at a little shop we'd discovered there. We'd browse for awhile and then go to a little bar on Main Street and have a Diet Pepsi. Our last get-together was in the fall. The shop is in an old Victorian house. It has two floors and there was always a little discussion as to whether Donna would go upstairs or not. Her knees were bothering her and she wasn't always up to it. We'd joke a little bit about it, she'd ask me to give her a piggy back ride up there or make me go first so she wouldn't fall on me in the event that she'd slip! On that trip upstairs we spied a wonderful stuffed rabbit dressed as a little man complete with shirt, tie, woolen jacket, and pocket watch. She picked him up first and we both cooed over him.

We both wanted him, but since she picked him up first she got him. She convinced me to get the woman rabbit even though she wasn't nearly as cute. I decided I would snip her clothes off her and transgender her into a man rabbit. At Christmas I received a box in the mail from her. It was a surprise as we didn't regularly exchange gifts. Once in awhile we would surprise each other with something we'd seen that made us think of each other. I was so curious as I tore away the wrappings - I couldn't imagine what she might be sending me. Imagine my surprise as I opened the box and found the little man rabbit! I was overjoyed and at the same time dismayed because I knew how much she loved him. I called her right away and screamed with delight. I told her I'd consider him on-loan while I just copied his clothing. I had already bought the fabric for the jacket and ordered a pocket watch on-line. But she insisted I keep him. She said she had tried him in various spots around the house and he just didn't seem to fit anywhere. I don't know if I believed her because it certainly seemed like the sort of thing that would fit at her house somewhere. Maybe it was her plan to give him to me all along.

I just can't tell you what a huge hole there is in my heart that she's gone. She was truly one of my dearest friends and I can't believe we're not going to have our Lawrence get-togethers anymore. I told her things that I have not told another soul on this earth. Donna's been my wise counsel and friend through so many life changes. Through the years we shared laughter and tears. I loved her wit and wisdom, her intellect, and her kind and gentle nature. I loved hearing about her family, pets, school, and other friends. My solace is that someday I'll get to see her again and we'll talk for hours in one of heaven's gardens.

Holly Robertson

Remembering Donna by Kelly Sime

I didn’t choose to be Donna’s friend. She chose me. In fact, I remember not liking her the first time I met her. It was at a library training session, something I’d been forced to go to. And Donna’s sarcastic sing-song-y voice grated on me. I did not like this lady. But I figured I’d never see her again. Donna doesn’t remember me. Who would with fifty people in the room? I certainly did when she was again at a meeting I went to. I wasn’t too thrilled to be sitting beside her. I’d kind of seen her around since now we were working for the same library system, but I certainly wasn’t going to make any overtures to be her friend. That day at the meeting she declared, “You’re different. I like you. Let’s be friends.” Oh, boy. I tried to brush her off. Well, if you know Donna, when she sets her mind to it, she’ll make it happen.

I tried to remember yesterday how long I’d been friends with Donna. Hasn’t it been forever? She had to be the most social lady I know. If she hadn’t heard from me in a couple of weeks, she’d most certainly call me at work, out of the blue, telling me how she was sitting on the bench in Central Park with her daughter, Laurel. I felt so special that Donna wanted to share that magical moment with me. She wanted everyone to know how happy she was. I remember the day I found out her nickname. It was like I’d joined The Donna Club. We had eaten breakfast in Lawrence. Walking out onto Mass. St., someone yelled, “Hey, Weedle”. Donna waved back. Donna made me feel special. She knew everyone, but chose to spend her time with me.

Donna was an excellent storyteller. Many times I’d ask her to tell the same story over and over again. I delighted in watching others have the same reaction I did when she told the story. I’d beg Donna to please bring more of her book. I wanted to read more, more, more. It was highly personal to her. I knew that her allowing me to read it was another sign of how special I was to Donna. Ever since I was a teenager, I’d fantasized about being a hippie. Too bad I was born in the wrong era. But here was Donna, a true hippie. I wanted to know all about it. All about her.

One of the last times I saw her, we went out to eat at a “fancy” restaurant. That was so much fun—inviting unpredictable Donna to a place where you knew she would break all the rules. The rest of the group giggled as she asked for Diet Pepsi, not wine, and complained about the extravagance of the place settings. That’s Donna. She likes it simple. And when she’s happy, everyone’s happy. She taught me to not take things seriously. Really, what is the point of all the extraneousness?

The funniest story I have about Donna is when she came with me to the strip club for my bachelorette party. This was just three years ago. When we got to the door, Donna didn’t have her ID. The bouncer wouldn’t let her in. Clearly, she was over 21, but the gentleman was insistent that no one could come in without his or her ID. Donna put out a call to Paul to please bring her the ID. We were north of the river in Kansas City, at least an hour’s drive from Donna’s house. Paul to the rescue! This is the only time I’d ever seen Donna drink. She didn’t even know what to order. I’m pretty sure she didn’t even finish half of the strawberry daiquiri. The funniest part of this story is Donna’s reaction to the strip club. All of us young gals were curious about what she thought since she’d never been to a strip club. Donna, in the sweetest voice, said, “It was just like the circus.” Yes, it was quite a show.

Donna was, and Paul is, very special to my husband, Scott, and me. In all the times we spent together, I couldn’t help but look at those two and hope that Scott and I would be so crazy in love when we’re their age. I’m Donna and Paul is Scott. I’ve always felt that Scott is my perfect compliment. I saw the same with Paul and Donna. Donna was boisterous, loud and unpredictable—qualities I see in myself. Paul is quiet, contemplative, and doting—just like Scott.

Paul, my heart goes out to you. It is terrible for me to think about life without Donna, but life without my Scott would be tragic. Please use all of us as your support system. We love you just as much as we loved Donna.

And, Donna, your accident and death are so shocking because of the unfairness of the situation. Life seems much more fragile, knowing that someone so special can be taken away so quickly. The world will not easily forget you. Nor would we want to.

-- Kelly Sime

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Weedle -- by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

When Paul called my little cell phone that evening, I was immediately taken by the very still tone in his voice. “I’m afraid I have some bad news,” he said. I wondered if Weedle had a heart attack or a minor accident, but before I could spin out a scenario that ended with everyone intact, he said, “Weedle was killed in a car accident.”

Paul. Weedle. The friends we knew well before they found each other. Paul, who used to live in an upstairs apartment of a small alleyway home, the hermit of Old West Lawrence with his books, architectural drawings, sharp mind and beautiful heart. Weedle, who lived for years in an old farm house in Vinland, where she majored in meat loaf, child-rearing, a weary-but-knock-you-over humor, piles of books, insane genius in any word-focused board game, and the very best pies in the cosmos. Weedle was what you would get if you cross-pollinated Mary Englebreit with Rosanne Barr (the Rosanne before she just had one name) – and by the way, she loved both Mary and Rosanne.

I first connected with Weedle in a large car with her then-husband Walt, friends Dan and Kat, and my not-yet-husband Ken. We drove around Kansas City, laughing uproariously, switching lanes fast on our way home from a Joni Mitchell concert at the Starlight Theater. The night smelled like roses, honeysuckle, car fumes, popcorn, and darkness. Weedle demanded we stop at a quick shop so she could get her mandatory diet Pepsi.

At the time, most of us subscribed to walking the carob road, eating little or no white sugar, chocolate, dairy, meat, and generally consuming a whole lot of tofu, granola, and those awful carob brownies. But Weedle never followed convention in such ways.

Weedle had an intellect of immense sharpness and wit, a heart as big as all the pies (and we’re talking thousands here) she ever baked lined up across Kansas, and God help you if you ever crossed her. Weedle loved her friends, family, and especially Paul and her children like nobody’s business, with a fierceness that rivaled a pack of Grizzlies. She collected quirky and moving tales from the lives of her children that showed just how much she loved watching them grow up, try new things and new places. The thrill of her day was when the cell phone rang with a call from Laurel, Will, Kevin or Kelly. She also adored all their spouses and sweethearts, she was over the moon about her grandchildren – Katie, Allison and Joshua.

She was also the funniest person I ever met.

At a party at our house last year, people were hanging close to the kitchen table, covered with beads of all kinds for making jewelry. Food overflowed the kitchen counters nearby, and there were about 30 of us reaching over each other for a piece of turquoise or another slice of Weedle’s cherry pie. Weedle herself was on the phone, trying to reach Paul to find out when he would be here, but the phone was continuously busy.

“I can’t reach him. He must be downloading porn,” she announced before taking another sip of her diet Pepsi. Now for anyone who knew Paul, imagining him downloading porn was analogous to George W. Bush revealing that he was a gay, vegan, meditating Pacifist with the IQ of Einstein. The next hour, she kept juggling the joke about Paul downloading porn, to the point that when he arrived, a bunch of bead-bearing women immediately called out, “You done downloading porn?”

Weedle cooked up more than jokes. She was the diva of the kitchen in the grand tradition of comfort foods. Nobody made spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf, fried chicken, chocolate chip cookies, mashed potatoes, gravy and especially bread like her. When I was walking gingerly from the car to my bed after my hysterectomy, Weedle was already on her way with an industrial-sized tray of her chicken pot pie.

Of course it was her pie-making ability that trumped all. She could not only make the best-tasting pie (winner of grand prizes in the very competitive pie division of the Vinland Fair, and deemed by my mother-in-law, a fellow pie competitor, to be the best ever), but she did it at the speed of light. I once timed her making a cherry pie from scratch (although the cherries came from a can) to oven: 6 minutes. Really, I’m not making this up. Her hands knew dough.

Her heart knew love. When Weedle met Paul over 15 years ago (at my backroom prompts of, “Weedle, Paul likes you,” and “Paul, Weedle likes you”), she met her match in mind and heart. While Paul is relatively quiet and internal, he fit around her like an exquisite home-made quilt. “You were the love of her life,” I reminded Paul the night she died as we sat in the kitchen, dishes Weedle washed in the drying rack behind us, and to our left, the open oven to warm the room. She was the love of my life,” he answered.

She found in Paul someone who also brought home piles of library books to read on everything from the Black Sea to Harry Potter. They went to farmer’s market together. They walked their pony-sized Great Pyranees down country roads. They took trips to Chicago, New York, and other outposts. They played with their granddaughters. And they sat with us and our friends Courtney and Denise playing board games, mostly “Taboo,” a game where you have to make your partner guess the word on a card without saying the obvious thing. “It’s like a….” Weedle began. “Dishwasher,” I yelled, and we were right, again in a kind of telepathic word-game connection neither of us understood. Together, we prided ourselves on wiping our opponents into the ground, and we never lost when we played as a team.

Weedle was a whiz at any game that had to do with speed, words, imagination, and no wonder: As a long-time librarian after being an excellent elementary school teacher, and a writer, she was always a storyteller. When the kids were little, when the kids were grown, when the grandkids were born, when she took a road trip, when she stayed home.

The first Weedle story I fell in love with concerned her taking Will, who was just a little kid at the time, to see Bambi. When Bambi’s mother died, little kids throughout the theatre raised an intense collective crying chorus. After they were finally soothed quiet by their mothers, the movie’s final scene revealed a pastoral twilight expanse, with smoke from a campfire in the distance. “Is that where they’re cooking Bambi’s mother?” Will yelled out, tilting all the kids in the theatre into hysteria again.

Weedle loved that story for its irreverence and freshness, for its perspective, too, all three of which were ample in Weedle’s surprisingly-tender, full-voiced, fierce and imaginative writing. From her short essays for an old Lawrence publication, Well, Well, Well, to the brilliant memoir she was writing of late, Weedle’s writing brought to the page all you saw of her and so many more layers. The writing was gorgeously funny and poignant, just like the writer. It was one of Weedle’s great dreams to have more of her writing published.

As the news lands, I remember the long after-dinner walks we took from her house to the road alongside the elementary school, watching the sunset through fields of coming twilight. I see her turning to my children – from the time they were babies through their teen years – to hand them cookies, videos to watch, and roll her eyes at wry asides. I think about the last time we were together, New Year’s Eve, with Paul, Ken Denise, Courtney, Marek, Daniel, Natalie and Forest to eat vast quantities of miniature eggrolls and toast the New Year with sparkling grape juice at 8:30 p.m.. We played a game we had come to love because it often made all of us laugh ourselves into falling-over crying.

It’s called, “Moods,” and for this game, there are eight moods, each on a card, displayed at any given time. When it’s your turn, you draw a card with a statement like “It’s getting bigger” or “Would you like fries with that?” and shake the dice in a little cup, look inside, and see which number mood you have to bring into how you say this statement. Everyone else has to guess which mood you’re conveying in your voice.

Life is giving us all a new card to draw here, and the moods on the table, for me this week, are numbness, irritability, fear, grief, despair, spacey-ness, love, and sadness. I know Weedle is on the other side of the table even though I can no longer see her, and my heart is breaking at how far away she is. Yet at home, on the shelf in our refrigerator door, are a few cans of diet Pepsi she brought for herself for New Year’s Eve. I think I’ll keep them there as a fitting and well-placed memorial of someone I can never forget.

Photo is of Weedle in a magical moment from her childhood.

Vinland Magic by Weedle Montre (Caviness)

The late summer sun glows against the old stone garage at the end of the driveway. If I'm lucky and I happen to be standing on my tired front porch at the right moment, I look with respect at those living stones, who have felt that strong warm light on their faces many more evenings than I have. Maybe the soft squares have a light inside, a kindred spirit that recognizes that strong soft glow and moves through the stone to meet it.

A small window is set into that wall, and sometimes our brown-and-yellow kitty curls up there on the window ledge. I've thought many times about walking over there myself to touch the wall and feel the golden warmth of the stones. But I never quite seem to make it. It may be that I am too busy with laundry or kids or baking. Maybe I'm just too tired or lazy to walk across the grass, through the gate and up to it. But I don't think so. To me, the wall of stones is something magical and if I walk there, the color will fade a little with each step I take until it's just plain brown when I reach up to touch it. So I stay where I am and the light stays within the stones. It's kind of an agreement between us.

The best magic happens, I think, when a plain thing is transformed into something extraordinary and yet stays itself too, at the same time. So it is with the stone garage and also every summer with the Vinland Fair. For three days in August, plain white buildings, bumpy dirt arena, square concrete stage play host to the entire community. The big doors of the fair building slide open and the inside gradually fills up with fresh produce, harvest grains and prize winning pies still warm from last minute baking. Vases filled with bright flowers stand proudly on a shelf along one wall and needlework entries line another. Old glass cases house all kinds of baked goods on one side and odd "collections" on the other. The pop stand across the way has Vinland Fair T-shirts, aprons, and buttons for sale, along with candy bars and soda. The food stand next to it is busy all day. People in line ask for gooseberry or blueberry pie, fried chicken or barbecued beef dinners, or maybe just a hamburger, while folks working inside call out orders to each other down the length of the long building, open to the sun and air on all four sides. For those few days, we are under the spell of a different time and place. Even little kids run free in the still dusk, while grownups finally have a chance to catch up with each other's news.

The most magical thing about it though,is that nothing really happens. Oh, there's the tractor pull, and the talent show and the bicycle races, that's true. But there are no carnival rides, games, or booths. It's mostly just folks hanging around with old friends, and maybe making some new ones. It's the only place I know that I can hear the murmur of many different conversations blended into a sort of pleasant rumble.

And during those three days, while we're all busy talking or working or playing, summer slips quietly into fall. It may still be hot, the trees are still green, but something is different. The air's a little crisp in the mornings, the sun's rays shine at a different angle, voices sound different in the distance, and my soul teaks on that comforting melancholy I love. The fair is an end of summer ritual of sorts, and sometimes I wonder, would autumn arrive if the fair didn't gently lead us to it?

In my life the most ordinary objects and simple events are the ones I contemplate. To me, they have a special magic, quiet but powerful. I believe it is spirit. The little garage with its sandstone blocks and dirt floor is quite ordinary looking, maybe even a little dilapidated. The old faded wooden door is broken in places, and has a terrible time staying on the metal track when we slide it open or shut. When I step inside, it's always dark for a minute until I get used to the dim light filtering in through the half obstructed windows. It's cluttered and smells of man things-gasoline and oil and machines-and it's really pretty dirty. There are other things happening here, if I take the time to notice.

The occasional acorn bouncing and tumbling along the slanted metal roof, the persistent trumpet vine taking advantage of the tiniest opening so it can come grow inside! And the mysterious "F.W.," who carved his initials in the soft stone over 60 years ago. The corner where we brought the pale green moth in out of the wind one breezy summer night, and it sat on our hands, calmly opening and closing its wings. And of course, all of the very odd assortment of nuts and bolts and screws in coffee cans, boxes of nails, and grungy black pieces of machinery, each of them important at some time to someone. In the different seasons of the year I have occasion to walk out the gate over to the garage and into its shadowed shelter. But never on those summer evenings, when the light makes the stones so golden brown. If I were to walk over there and look closely at them, touch their roughness, look to find the sun and note the angle of its rays, I might have to admit that it is simply the summer sun that makes the stones do that, no magic spell, no enchantment, no soul of structure.

Throughout the seasons I walk along the dirt road past the fair grounds, too. The white buildings are so quiet there, standing silently on the yellowing grass. Cows graze near the stage sometimes and bright leaves blow across the fair yard. The magic is still there, I can feel it as I walk near: deep, strong, alive, and forever. I stop there by the gate and just watch those buildings, moving through their own time, drifting through their own space, and tugging me along with them.

From Well, Well, Well (transcribed by Laurie Ward)

Reflections on Friends by Weedle Montre (Caviness)

The trees reflect in the flashing chrome strip outside my window. The clouds are there too, but they're gray layers today, and they don't hold my attention like the red and brown trees do. The car is big and heavy all around me and as I travel in it, I feel safe, protected. Like a child, I'm still fascinated by the windows buttons, the little square lights in the dash above the radio, the window wipers with all the different speeds. But mostly I'm fascinated at how you seem to be here in the car, too. I'm not inclined to wonder why I feel you here; I am blessed with the tendency to accept this sort of phenomenon at face value.

I pull into the driveway and park in your spot and purposefully turn off
the radio, one of those odd, old-fashioned things you always do. Favorite days of my life are still spent here in this house, and I am often alone and content, but with the promise of your homecoming carried in my heart. And in the midst of baking bread, hanging up laundry, sweeping floors, I feel you move next to me, funny and quiet and strong. You walk in the door at night, your coat over your arm, your blue eyes shining, eager, and a bit amused. My soul knows you and greets you and holds you before our hands and arms and lips ever touch.

I wear pink and black this afternoon-pink because I like it next to my face, black because it's how I feel: dark, still, total. No stars glitter among the night-color folds of my skirt; it is flat, soft and comforting in its simplicity. The colors of me today contrast so much with the colors of the day-green-brown grass, pale gray skies, yellow and red trees. Fall is here, and the earth is sleepy, drowsing in the cloudlight, warm and alive beneath the leaves. I am like this on a day alone-immersed in fuzzy, blurred solitude, yet sharply awake to some half-hidden sense of my soul's voice.

Now this day this voice speaks quietly and clearly to me of you, dear
fellow-bumpy gray sweater, patient clever hands, steady eyes full of wit and blue depth, and a shining soul that welcomes and pulls me in close and safe. I have thought for some long time about friends, what it really means to have one, how to keep one. It seems to me the most cherished offering I can make to a friend is to welcome him completely into my reality, truly believing that he is as real as I am, that when he looks out at the day, he sees what I see, and knows that I look at all of life with him/ in/ me. So in the day and in the night, you are with me close-kind, accepting, loving. And I go out into the world fearless, light, young, healed and whole.

From Well, Well, Well (transcribed by Laurie Ward)

A Place In My House by Weedle Montre (Caviness)

Ah, there it is again-still and again and always, my favorite, most cherished and welcome sight. As I drive over the crest of the hill, it immediately disappears from view behind trees and hills, so I'm just able to have a quick glance, and yet the world seems to stop then for a moment. And more and more it seems, I have time to purposefully turn my head slowly and slightly to the side and direct all of myself out through my eyes down to the spot in the world where my house lives.

This's taken care of me for so long, it's one of my best friends.
Before I go up to my bedroom at night, I tell the downstairs goodbye. I always leave on one little lamp, and it softly lights up the living room. For a minute I stand there and just look around the room-the worn recliners, "Ben's" couch, the old Victrola against the wall, and the battered wood stove over in the corner.

Upstairs is different-light and open, with a space at the top of the
stairs for Laurel and Will and their friends. An old television sits across from the big couch, and video games, comics and books are scattered around the room. We really don't spend much time up here, and neither do our dog and cat friends, except for Poto, who doesn't count because she doesn't know she's a cat. And then there's Wooly, who off and on for months stood at the foot of the stairs gazing forlornly up to the top, her ears pricking slightly at the sound of Laurel and Will's voices, but never once attempting even the first step. Finally one afternoon we all coaxed her up, just a couple of steps at a time, and much petting and half-carrying Wooly followed. She has since gone back to long, mournful looks from the safety of the downstairs.

Our bedroom is
upstairs, a simple square room with windows in three walls and a door in the other. I like the fairness of that; no wall needs to feel left out-this for those of us who simply must endow inanimate objects with human feelings. A small closet is tucked in the corner, and Poto absolutely must try each night to gain access to it. This despite the fact that it actually closes now, after all these years, thanks to Paul's shoe box full of ancient doorknobs and latches, carefully saved, I think, just for these doors. Amazing. sometimes open and shut it just to hear the satisfying click of the latch.

This room is full, with dressers and a little cedar chest along the
walls, beside and beneath the windows. And our bed, coming out from one wall, takes up space in the middle. It's covered with a bright and colorful patchwork quilt and pillows, and our red and black blanket is folded neatly at the foot. When I run upstairs during the day I always want to lie down on the bed for a minute, this "home within a home," where we pass our nighttime lives of sleep and dreams, love and passion, talk and laughter.

The walls are just plain white, and they provide a perfect background
for our pictures. They are an odd assortment, but each one is special to us, whether it be my father's sketches, Paul's newly framed watercolor of yellow flowers, or our Monet print, fuzzy and pastel and comforting.

Each window offers a different view of the world. The east one to the sun in
the morning, rising mysteriously from slightly different locations throughout the year. I enjoy that mystery, and don't know, don't want to know, why it changes. I just like looking for it. It has woken me too early some mornings, I think, but I do love that view, my first one of the day.

A most refreshing breeze blows over us from the south window, beginning
in spring and continuing all through summer into the fall. There's not much to see here except the porch roof, but just the other day I spotted two purple and black birds fluttering and crowding up under the roof, looking for a good nesting spot.

The north window must have been put there for long, thoughtful gazes at the
garden, and beyond to the cemetery and the creek in the distance. I can lie in my bed and watch the morning sunlight slip slowly over the sleepy garden, and feel a bit dizzy knowing that I myself am slowly rolling backwards towards the sun, in my bed, my room, my house.

The door on the west opening to the world beyond our room brings the sounds of activity from all over the house. In the late afternoon, sunlight streams across the hall from the sleeping porch into our doorway and lights up our room, reflecting off mirrors and doorways and filling the space.

A tree stands in our front yard by the gate, with a sturdy round trunk
leading up to graceful branches. In years past, it has been one of Laurel's favorite spots, whether in a game of hide and seek ("Did you know where I was, Mommy?") or just a spot to watch the world go by for awhile without being all the way in it.

I think of my house and my room in this same way-a safe and protected spot in
the world; a space from which I venture forth each day, but one that I hold close in my mind's eye, until I come over the crest of that hill, and let my soul go ahead of me, unable to wait any longer as the car makes its way home.

From Well, Well, Well (transcribed by Laurie Ward)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Weedle's Memoir

Here are the first 30 pages of Weedle's memoir in the works that she was working on in the last few years. Thanks especially to the guidance of Laurie Martin-Frydman and the good writers in her writing class.

I told my mother goodbye at the door. I wanted her to leave. She was part of the life I wanted to leave behind. I was nobody after she left. And that meant I could be anybody.

I looked around my room then. It was small and square like all the dorm rooms, with the door in the middle of the wall. I had one window opposite the door. It looked out on the circle drive and the parking lot beyond. Everything was very busy that first day, with cars pulling up and families getting out and delivering their daughters. I was drawn to the sounds even with the window shut, and I walked over to it. It had a little hand crank and when I turned it, the window slowly swung open out into the air. My room was on the second floor and the swaying tops of the trees on the round green lawn were right across from me. I watched the people driving up and families unloading luggage and boxes from their cars. The girls looked about the same as girls from my high school, but as I watched them, it dawned on me that I had never seen a single one of them before in my life and that they had never seen me. It was a strange feeling that settled into me for some future contemplation.

After a while, I turned away from the window and looked more closely at my new home. It felt strange having a room of my own, since my sister and I had shared a bedroom for years. I had gotten used to having my half and arranging my furniture and clothes and stuff so it fit and I still felt like I had room to breathe. Edie was so messy with bedclothes and discarded outfits all over the floor. We each had our own nightstands right next to each other and hers was a mess. Books stacked high always ready to fall over, candy wrappers stuffed around her clock and a sad little lamp with a dented shade that never got dusted. After years of living with Edie, I had gotten so I no longer looked at her part of the room.

So now I stood at the door of my dorm room and looked all around it, from one corner to another to another: the desk up against the wall, the dresser opposite, the small closet waiting for my clothes, and the bed along the wall next to the window. Even though my dorm room was only about half the size of a regular room, it seemed to me to be just the right size for me and my worldly possessions. I unpacked everything with my door standing open so I could see and hear the other girls moving in up and down the hallway. It felt less lonely that way. It seemed to me that I was more a part of everything. Still I loved being the only person in my room knowing that I could be alone whenever I wanted to.

Two girls came down the hall towards me with suitcases and paper sacks. Their parents came behind them with more bags, blankets, lamps and clothes on hangers. After they had deposited all their stuff in the middle of the room next to mine and their parents had left, they leaned around the corner and introduced themselves. Both of them were from Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Darby was slender and tan and energetic. She reminded of a little chipmunk, always on the move and busy. Carol was very pale with light blue eyes. She had black frizzy hair and a bad complexion. I hadn’t met anyone brand new for such a long time, they both fascinated me. They had been friends in high school and had worked it out so they could be roommates at K.U. And that was the strangest thing for me. It had only been a couple of months since I graduated from high school. But I knew I didn’t care about ever seeing any of those people again. It wasn’t that I disliked them. I just felt nothing for them. They were gone from my reality forever.

My mother, sister and brother were already becoming distant, too. I loved them just like always, but I knew the person who was their sister and daughter was disappearing minute by minute.

One of the first tasks that week was to decide what classes I would take. I picked up one of the big class catalogs in Strong Hall and started to look through it. I knew I had to take English and Math, but after that I had some choices. Even though I had to take some science classes someday, I decided to put them off for now. After looking through the History offerings, I picked Medieval History.

I definitely wanted to take French, my favorite language. I remembered my dad taking all of us-my sister, my brother and me-aside one evening when we were still in junior high school. It was one of those rare times when he wasn’t yelling at us or giving us the cold silent treatment. He spoke to us gently and seriously and it was such a novelty that we all paid attention. He started by telling us how some of our ancestors had come from France and that he hoped that we would go there someday. I was young enough to believe that I really could go to France. When he added that he hoped we would also learn to speak French in school so we would be ready to actually talk to the French people when we got there, I resolved to do just that as soon as possible. I wanted him to like me and be proud of me.

A faculty advisor had been assigned to me and the next task was to find him and ask him to approve my choices. I found his office in Strong Hall. It was dark and messy and full of books and papers on the desk, lining the walls, everywhere. Professor Johnston got up from his chair when I walked in. He taught in the Latin Department and I loved Latin so that made sense. Professor Johnston was small and thin and dusty-looking. He had bright blue eyes and gray hair and a beaky sort of nose. And when he smiled at me I thought he might have been cute once, but now he was just old. His clothes were baggy and dark and wrinkled. They didn’t seem to have any real color or shape to them. At the same time, they reminded me of the clothes my dad had worn, slacks and dress shirts and black leather shoes. But my father was always perfectly dressed. He chose his clothes carefully from the best stores in town and always made sure they fit right and were coordinated.

Professor Johnston looked like he got up every morning, grabbed some clothes off a chair or the foot of the bed and put them on. I decided it was because he was a super intellectual type who couldn’t concern himself with everyday stuff like clothes. The first thing he wanted me to do was to take the French Placement Exam. He saw that I had taken French for three years in high school and wanted to make sure I got in the right class. He also signed me up for the correct English and Math classes and approved my choice of Medieval History. Afterwards I went to Carruth-O’Leary to take the placement exam. It had been easy to get good grades in high school French without much work. But this was a new challenge. So I tried as hard as I could on the placement test and quizzed into a fourth level class.

I started classes the next week. It took me a couple of days to actually figure out where they were so I was late a few times. There were just so many buildings and so many rooms. A little voice inside my head kept telling me that I really didn’t have to go to class, that I was here all by myself and I could do anything I wanted. I ignored it at the beginning of the school year and went to every class for two or three weeks. It was autumn and it felt right to get up, get dressed and go to school just like I had for years. And I liked the classes, although not really because of what I might learn about History or math or English. I didn’t really care about that.

In Medieval History, our professor completely looked the part of a college professor. His hair was longish and kind of messy and he wore jackets with the patches on the elbows. He was always excited about Medieval times and was very animated. I loved watching him stride around the amphitheatre lecturing on serfs and nobles and the plague. I just couldn’t take notes; it seemed kind of disrespectful. Math and English were boring for the most part, but I enjoyed watching the other students work and take notes and ask questions.

Then there was French. The first day when I walked in I could tell that the other students were older than I was. Even then I could spot a freshman easily and none of these kids were new students. There were only about twelve people sitting at desks scattered around the room. After a few minutes, the instructor walked in. She was a beautiful woman, very young, a little shy and very serious. As soon as she greeted us in English it was obvious that she was from France. She was small and delicate, her hair was perfect and her clothes were beautiful. She usually wore suits with straight skirts and little jackets that stopped at her waist, and high heels. Her hair was shiny black in a soft bouffant style and her eyes were a beautiful blue. We all fell in love with her that day.

She started speaking quickly in French. I watched as the other students got out books and notebooks. They began turning pages and taking notes. I watched what they were doing and just followed along. I had almost no idea what she was saying. By picking up a few words here and there I was able to keep up that first week just by looking at other people’s notebooks and writing down homework assignments. When I got back to my room at night, I had time to go through the book and figure out how to do the homework.

After a couple of weeks of reviewing grammar, we began to read French Literature out loud. The professor decided that we didn’t need the desks anymore, so one morning we shoved them all off to the side of the room and grouped our chairs into a circle. There were only about ten of us and most of our time was spent in reading out of the French Literature books and discussing it. It was all stories and essays and poetry with some questions at the end of each section. I guessed that we were already supposed to know all about grammar and tenses and to have a huge vocabulary. I didn’t, but I knew enough to keep up for a while, and I loved reading out of our books every day.

One day the professor was late and we were standing outside the door waiting for her to show up with the key. I hadn’t gotten to know anybody in there; they all seemed so much older and I was very shy. One of the boys turned to me and asked, “Did you used to live in France?” I looked at him surprised and said, “No. Why?” He looked kind of embarrassed and said, “Oh we figured you probably did because your accent is so perfect.” Our instructor came walking up then and I didn’t say anything else, but it thrilled me to think that I spoke so well. I had noticed that the teacher called on me to read more than other students, but I just assumed it was because she could tell how much I liked it. And it was about the only thing I was good at in that class.

I had settled into life in the dorm. I spent almost all of my time alone, but that was fine with me. My door almost always stood open in case someone wanted to come see me. It faced out and down the hallway past the stairs and elevator in the middle all the way to the other end. I had no idea who lived down there, but it was fun to see girls going in and out of their rooms all the time.

I did get to know the two girls next door to me a little, especially Carol. She spent most of her free time in her room studying. She was taking Chinese of all things which was practically unheard of then. She spent hours practicing the characters writing them over and over in a legal size notepad. Every time I saw her she had this legal pad on her arm writing characters or mumbling them quietly to herself. It was as if it was permanently attached to her arm. We didn’t talk too much but I admired her immensely when I wasn’t thinking she was just crazy.

I hadn’t ever had any real girlfriends; I was shy, for one thing. And when I had lived at home, my sister and brother and I couldn’t ever have friends over because of my unpredictable dad. We never knew what kind of mood he might be in when he got home and it just wasn’t worth it. So I had spent most of the time in high school at home with my brother and sister. I really didn’t “get” the whole girlfriend thing. My best friend growing up had been my brother.

One day my mother drove over from Topeka to visit me. Just her. And just me. We went downtown to the music store. I had been saving my money to buy a guitar and I used it that day to get a small four string guitar. I thought my hands would manage four strings better than six. I loved Peter, Paul and Mary and imagined myself playing and singing on a big stage someday. I still had the completely fantastic dreams of an eleven-year-old, and pathetic as that was at the age of eighteen, I had no idea. I even bought a Peter, Paul and Mary songbook.

When we left the music store it was about lunchtime. There was a Woolworth’s dime store right next to it and we decided to go to the lunch counter there. It was the first time in a very long time that I had been alone with my mother. I had been at school for a couple of months and I’d gone home for some weekends but my brother and sister were always there too. This was so different. Part of me wanted to reach out for her and cry about my loneliness and isolation, about how huge K.U. was and how overwhelming. I wanted to talk about my dad dying and all the awful times before. I wanted to feel her arms around me holding me tight like I imagined she had when I was a little girl. But when I glanced over at her I saw her closed face. Not angry, not sad, just closed. So I kept mine closed too.

Most of the time I just moved along from one thing to another – a predictable cycle that didn’t demand much thought. I finally found all my classes and sat through them with varying levels of interest. Each night I did what homework I could or would do.

Before I went to bed I picked out my skirt and sweater for the next day. I lay down then with my door shut against the new world on the other side. The light from the hallway shined under my door and into my room a little. I watched it and thought about me in that room and everything else in the whole world on the other side. It wasn’t long before I figured out that deciding which dyed-to-match skirt and sweater outfit I would wear and what classes I would go to the next day and if I was going to do my homework or not weren’t really part of the whole equation that was my life. I was away from home for the first time and I was alone. Nobody was telling me what to do and when to do it. I began to realize that I could really do whatever I wanted. And what I really wanted to do was to wander around, watching.

The day after I bought my guitar I opened the case and took it out. The word Framus was written at the top where the strings wrapped around the metal posts. It was in cursive and slanted. I started calling it Framus. It was a little smaller than other guitars I’d seen, so it fit perfectly in front of me with my right hand on the frets and my left hand ready to strum or pick the strings. It felt just right. Of course I had no idea what to do after that.

But I got out my learn- to- play- the- guitar instruction book and tried the first few chords. They were different for Framus because it only had four strings. The book was designed for standard guitars and I noticed right away that it was going to be much easier to play. So I was able to figure out some chords right away. I hadn’t played an instrument since 3rd grade when my twin brother and I had taken piano lessons. It was thrilling to strum the strings and hear music. I immediately began to picture myself on a stage in front of throngs of concert goers. I must get ready for my adoring fans, I thought!

Soon I got out the Peter, Paul and Mary songbook and realized I only needed to know a few chords to play some of their songs. I started with Blowing in the Wind. It was a pretty song the way they sang it and I wanted to sound pretty. The idea of the song being several questions strung together with an extremely vague answer appealed to me. I liked to think that I was kind of mysterious and interesting like that. As for my voice, I had always sung in chorus at school and in choir in church. I had no idea how I sounded, but I knew I could sing a tune.

I walked back to the dorm after class every day. And in the fall the sun was moving further south a little bit each one of those days. I felt its warmth on my back as I took long strides over the cracked slabs of sidewalk. When I got to the dorm and opened the door to my room there was the sun again, shining through my windows, spread out on the floor, the wall, the bed. I had propped Framus up in the corner and sometimes, when I opened the door, the sun was shining on it. It glowed warm and golden and brown in the light.

So I picked my guitar up every afternoon, got my songbook out and started practicing. Only it didn’t have anything in common with practicing the piano when I was little. This was fun and was all about me and my emerging talent. I was amazed every time I mastered a new chord or learned to pick out a melody; it was as if I had this incredible secret that I would spring on the world when I was ready.

One afternoon after practice, I put Framus back in its spot in the corner and opened my door, There was a girl there, sort of ambling down the hallway toward me. And I knew who she was right away. I was so surprised to see her there. I knew she lived upstairs somewhere because I had passed her on the steps. Whenever I saw her, I just wanted to stare. She was completely different from every other girl in the dorm. She was like a visitor from another planet. And here she was, strolling up to me with a cigarette in one hand and a hint of a smile on her face, and saying, “Hi! I’m Lisa. Whatcha doin’ in here?”

All in the space of an instant, I thought, “Are you lost? Are you looking for someone? What are you doing here?!“ Then she was peeking into my room. When she saw Framus she said, “Yeah I thought I heard a guitar. It sounded good! Hey, it’s really nice outside. Do you want to take a walk or something?” I mumbled incoherently, but grabbed my jacket and followed her out the door, still wondering frantically what in the world she was doing.

We must have made an odd couple that day. I still had on my school “uniform” – matching skirt and sweater, stockings and black flats. My hair was in a style. I’m not sure what it was exactly, but it was a haircut of some sort. Lisa’s hair was not cut in a style. It was long and straight and shiny brown, with bangs across her forehead. It fell down and around her shoulders as she walked, and right away I wondered how that felt.

Lisa’s “uniform” wasn’t like anybody else’s in the dorm. She wore blue jeans, which no one else wore except on the weekends hanging around the dorm. They were straight-legged and came down over plain brown leather boots. She had on a sweater, but it had very little in common with most of my sweaters. My sweaters were all pastels and were designed to go with a skirt of the same color or some other neutral shade. They were slightly fitted and very neat and trim. Lisa’s sweater was sort of grayish brown and looked like someone had actually knitted it. It was a little baggy and came down way past her waist. It looked warm and comfortable.

So we walked around that day and got to know each other a little. I was completely puzzled by her showing up outside my room. I had thought I was mostly invisible except to the girls who lived next to me and others I said hi to in the hallway. It seemed like I had never been sought out by anyone my entire life. I didn’t want to ask her why she had been in the hallway that afternoon; I just wanted it to be Fate that she was there and we became friends.

Everything changed for me after I met Lisa. I had been sleep-walking for so long, but suddenly I was awake and I couldn’t wait to catch up on all the fun I’d missed. I found a pair of blue jeans in the back of my closet that I had brought to wear on weekends if I ever did anything fun and I bought a pair of comfortable plain black boots to tuck under them.

The first time I wore my blue jeans to class I didn’t have a big comfy sweater like Lisa’s. So I pulled my pale blue and white sweater out of the closet where it was hanging with the matching pale blue skirt and pulled it on over my head. When I pulled it down over the top of my jeans, something changed. It was a moment of transition – one of many those days. I could wear jeans and that sweater and have a foot in two worlds. One was where I’d lived for the past seven years – a world full of gray shapes and muffled voices. It was a place I wandered through, staying awake just enough to function.

The other one, the new world, was full of colors and sounds and feelings I had forgotten about, a world where I got excited about something as mundane as what I would wear that day. Before long, I found sweaters like Lisa’s and bought more blue jeans. My new look was complete then. But sometimes I wore that blue sweater with my jeans just because it gave me a thrill.

Even then I could remember getting that same thrill as a little kid out of wearing particular clothes. Every year in grade school, each student had an individual photo taken for the yearbook. And each year, my mom bought me a new dress to wear on picture day. My favorite was the one for second grade - a shiny brown taffeta. .It made noise every time I walked across the room or stood up at my desk. At recess it practically rattled when I ran across the playground. The brown taffeta was so shiny it was almost metallic looking and the color moved in waves of silver and brown across the skirt like a mud puddle with a thin layer of ice over it. There was lace around the collar and the sleeves. It wasn’t pink or blue or yellow like the other girls’ dresses – it was brown, the most beautiful brown in the world.

In first grade, my grandmother gave me a whole outfit, complete with white wool tights and black patent leather shoes. It was a dark navy wool skirt with straps that went over my shoulders and buttoned in the back at my waist. The skirt was gathered and stood out like a bell all around me. The straps were adjustable with two sets of clear plastic buttons on each one, buttons that were almost invisible. My mother always crossed the straps in the back to keep them from sliding off my shoulders. Even with that, they still slid off. I didn’t care. When they slid off my shoulders and slowly down my arms to my elbows, I felt kind of helpless and special, and maybe a little daring.

A white angora sweater went with the skirt. It had two tiny white buttons on the collar and my mother always tickled my neck when she fastened them. The sweater was so soft and warm next to my bare skin. Tiny short white threads stuck out all over it. I felt like a little white kitten when I put it on.

I had special play clothes that I had to put on as soon as I got home from school. And again I had a favorite set. It was a pair of corduroy pants and a shirt with flannel lining and a matching jacket. The pants were blue-green and that was a new color then. The jacket was the same color, but it had plaid blue and green pockets. I could get out of my school clothes and pull on the pants fast because they were elastic around the waist.-no belt, no zipper. Putting the jacket on slowed me down because it had big buttons, but I was still quick getting outside.

I remembered only one dress from high school. It was a dark rich wool burgundy that stopped several inches above my knees. Most of the school clothes my sister and I wore were simple skirts with blouses or sweaters. I must have gotten this for a special occasion and afterwards talked my mother into letting me wear it to school. The collar and cuffs were also burgundy but had ivory lace stitched on top so the deep color showed through. I loved it because it looked simple and expensive and I felt sophisticated whenever I wore it. But that’s not why I remember it.

Our high school was set up as a campus with several buildings connected by wide sidewalks and surrounded by very well-kept lawns. One day I had to walk from one building to another on an errand for a teacher. It was a rare sunny winter day with just a little breeze. The campus was so quiet except for the sound of my shoes. As I came around a corner of the building, there were three cool boys sitting on the sunny sidewalk with their backs against the brick building. They were boys who played sports, but who weren’t especially good students. They were boys that my brother knew and sat around with at lunch. They were boys who got in trouble in classes for goofing around, but the teachers liked them anyway.

For just a second I wanted to turn around and walk the other way. But it was too late; they had spotted me. I realized I had to keep going. I had to walk right past them. At first I looked down at the sidewalk. But after a minute, I put my head up and looked straight ahead. When I got up to them, one of the boys said, “Hey, look. It’s Montre”.

That was all. No snickers or snorts, no whispered comments. Just my name. I couldn’t believe any boy in high school even knew my name.

I spent several days wondering about the whole thing. Did they think I was cool? Or weird? Which would also be okay. In fact I kind of liked the idea of guys thinking that I was weird. It was better than them thinking I was stupid or ugly or just invisible. And it meant that there weren’t any rules I had to follow.

After I met Lisa, I realized that I had a lot of catching up to do. First of all, I had to figure out what to do about sex.

My boyfriend from Topeka, Patrick, kept coming over to see me, even after I started spending most of my time with Lisa instead of going to class and doing homework. We had been going together since the summer before my senior year. He lived with his mother, father and little brother.

Patrick’s mother loved me. She was small, had curly grayish-brown hair, and lots of energy. Her name was Margaret Marie and she was always busy cleaning and cooking, or working in her flower garden. She also loved to knit. Right away, she offered to teach me how to knit. I guess she was happy to have a girl around to do that kind of stuff with, and she always made me feel welcome. After Patrick and I had been going together for a while, she began to call me “Sweetness and Light”. There was certainly nothing flashy about me, and I think she thought I would be a good wife for Patrick. She was looking ahead.

Anyway, Patrick always wanted to see me when I went home for the weekends, too. I guess he wanted to save me from Lisa. Nobody then had ever heard of deprogramming, but that’s probably what he had in mind. He’d look at me with searching, worried eyes as if to say,”If I can just get her away from all this…”

Late that fall, he began to talk about getting engaged. It made me feel so old and grownup, but at the same time, I knew I wasn’t. I could feel somebody waking up deep inside me and she was not going to be tied down to anybody from the past.

I did like Patrick, but I knew I didn’t love him. And to me, that meant that he would be perfect to have sex with. I could begin to figure it out and I wouldn’t have to be attached to him afterwards. Besides, he was the only boy I knew. I had to find out what it was really all about. So I’d be ready.

Patrick and I made out whenever we got together and that was okay. But he was a Catholic and a fanatic about waiting until marriage to have sex. He was always talking about getting engaged and planning when we could get married. He really loved me, though, and wanted to be close to me.

I went home to Topeka for the weekend. Patrick and I went to his house in the afternoon and his mother was gone. We went down to the rec room in the basement and started making out on the couch. But this time I was thinking, “I’m not going to stop and I’m not going to let him stop either.” I held him tight even when he wanted to pull away from me. We kept most of our clothes on – too embarrassing otherwise-and then it was over. Patrick and I just lay there on the couch for a while. I wasn’t thinking or feeling or talking. My body and I were just laying there getting used to the new order of things. I thought,” Gosh I’ve had sex now” and the thought scared me a little because it was unknown territory. Would I be different now?

But it was not the same for Patrick. He sat up after a few minutes and said, “Why did we do that? We shouldn’t have done that! I’m sorry!” “It’s okay” I said and I meant it. But he acted so upset that I just wanted to go back home to Lawrence.

We didn’t talk much on the way back to the dorm. I kept going over and over in my head, “I’ve done it. I’ve had sex,” and feeling very calm about the whole thing, followed by,” Gosh, I’ve had sex! I had sex!”

Patrick walked me into the lobby. He looked so worried and still very upset. I didn’t care; I wanted to get away to my room and just think about it all. But when I opened the door into my little cubicle, I looked around it and knew I couldn’t stay there alone that night. My little bed was there, along the wall under the window, with my stuffed dog sitting on the pillow. Framus was leaning against the wall in the corner. I didn’t know who lived there.

The light was off in Carole and Darby’s room, but I knocked anyway. Darby called out sleepily,”Who is it?” “It’s me – Donna. Can I stay in your room tonight? My bed’s messed up!” They were too sleepy to quiz me about what was going on, and I just curled up in one of their sleeping bags on the floor. I laid there for a long time.

The next morning I felt so good. I had done another scary thing that I knew I had to do and it was over. Now if I ever met a boy I liked and he really wanted to have sex with me at least I’d know a little about it. And I wouldn’t have the fucked up virgin thing hanging over my head any more.

I wondered about Patrick that week. Now that we had had sex, I thought maybe he wouldn’t want to see me anymore; I knew that happened sometimes. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to see him. I had had sex with him once and I didn’t want to do it again, so I kind of hoped he wouldn’t call or come over. I thought, “What will we do if we don’t keep having sex? Won’t he expect me to?” He called a few days later and asked to come visit me. When I met him at the desk, he looked nervous. We walked out to his car and got in without speaking. Then he turned to me and said,” Okay I told my mother and she is really mad. She said we have to get married now, right away.”

“You told your mother?!?” I yelled. “Are you crazy?! Why did you do that?!”

“Well, I didn’t know what else to do,” he said.

I hadn’t told anyone and I knew I never would. Nobody needed to know about me having sex. Especially his mother! I told Patrick that I didn’t ever want to get married, and that it was okay – he didn’t need to feel like he had to marry me. At first he tried to talk me into the whole idea, but I could tell that it scared him; he knew he wasn’t ready. After we got that settled, he turned to me and said, “Well, my mother won’t let me see you if we don’t get married.” And I realized how little I knew about him. It was easy then to say, “That’s okay, Patrick. I’m fine with that.” And I was.

In November Lisa took me to see some boys she knew. They lived practically next door to the dorm. But they lived in a regular house. To get there Lisa and I had to walk around to the back of GSP. There were lots of trees and bushes there, but when we moved the branches aside, we could see a little dirt path down the hill to the street corner behind the dorm. It was steep, and we half walked half slid down to the curb. We stood up giggling and brushed off our jeans. Then we were practically across the street from the house where the boys lived. Lisa and I stopped for a minute and looked around at the neighborhood.

I felt like I was running away from home, excited and a little scared at the same time. We crossed the street and the front yard which was mostly dirt with a few patches of weeds, and ran up the steps to the front porch. It sagged a little and was cluttered with all sorts of junk – old furniture, boxes, stuff people had left behind. It was just old-looking. I guessed nobody took care of it. The outside wall was dusty and had lots of cobwebs. Lisa and I walked in the door to the shadowy entryway where there were two more doors. The boys’ was never locked, so we went right up.

The kitchen was narrow and tiny and very messy. But the living room was big and airy and had wide open windows on two sides. That was my favorite thing. I could see the back of GSP looming over me across the street and it was so far away. GSP with its tiny windows that barely opened to a hot parking lot. GSP with a “living room” full of fancy furniture that it seemed no one ever sat in, unless it was the weekend and parents sat stiffly, visiting with their girls.

Phil and Mark and Rick lived in that house on the second floor, and someone else lived downstairs. I’d never known anyone who only lived upstairs in a house. I wondered about the other people – who they were, what they were doing, where they slept, and did they wonder about us?

Mark and Rick were students at K.U., but they were older than Lisa and I. Rick was a film student. He was skinny and nervous, always fidgeting. He laughed a lot even when stuff wasn’t really that funny, but I don’t think he meant to- he just couldn’t help it. There was something a little pathetic about him, and I was drawn to that. I couldn’t tell for sure if I was pathetic too, but I felt comfortable around him right away, as if he was a kindred spirit. I liked talking to boys who were completely unintimidating, and Rick was even shyer and more socially unaware than I was.

His clothes were too big and kind of dusty-looking, like my Latin advisor’s clothes. He wore faded blue Converse All-Star high tops and his feet were constantly jiggling when he wasn’t running around. I didn’t know much about guys’ clothes, but I could tell his were not cool. He was cute though. I liked his messy long black hair and his blue eyes. They were always darting all over the place trying to avoid eye contact as long as he could. He was always dashing off to make a movie with his camera, and he had a little editing machine set up on the table in his room with wheels and gears and a handle to make the tiny picture go round and round in front of us. When I first met him, I spent a lot of time observing him – he was fascinating.

Mark had blue eyes and black hair like Rick, but everything else about him was different. He also had a thick beard and his hair was super curly. He wore jeans and T-shirts most of the time, and old tennis shoes. I was a little scared of him. He was loud and funny and loved to tease me. I didn’t get mad at Mark when he teased me; I was mostly puzzled. Since I knew practically nothing about boys, I didn’t realize he might be teasing me to be funny and to make me laugh, or because he liked me.

But I didn’t want to talk to him. I wanted to watch him, and be quiet.

Being around Mark made me realize I had never understood teasing. I always took it very seriously, as if there was something wrong with me and people were making fun of me for it. When I was little and my sister or brother teased me I always got my feelings hurt. My sister especially loved to get a rise out of me.

It seemed as if every time we had all gone somewhere as a family in the car, Edie and Butch played the same trick on me. My dad and mom sat in the front seat and Butch, Edie and I sat in the back. Dad had a glass eye, and he was always yelling about not being able to see out the back window because of us kids with our heads sticking up in the way of the rear view mirror. Edie was three years older than me and a lot bigger. And even though Butch and I were twins, he was really about the size of my sister. So I always had to sit in the middle so my dad could see out the back better. That was bad enough, just knowing I would probably never get to sit by a window until I was a grownup. But it got worse once my dad started driving down the street.

Edie would lean in front of me and say to Butch, “Gee, it’s too bad Weedle couldn’t come today.” He would lean up and say back to her, “Yeah it’s too bad that she got in trouble and had to stay home by herself” or”Yeah, it’s too bad she was sick and couldn’t come with us.” Then they both looked at me and giggled. I played the martyr, sitting completely still and trying to ignore them, but fuming inside. That made them laugh even harder. They kept it up until I interrupted my parents’ droning voices and said, “Mama make them stop!” My mother didn’t even turn around. She just raised her voice a little and said,’ “Kids, stop.” I wanted her to say, “Oh honey, are they being mean to you?” but she never did. Anyway, that didn’t stop Edie and Butch. They kept right on teasing me, only they started whispering so nobody but me could hear them.

If only I’d laughed or said something clever back to them, maybe they would have quit. For one thing, there was absolutely no way that my mom would ever leave any of us home alone. Those were the days when families went everywhere together.

After a while, I noticed Mark teasing Lisa just like he teased me. She just laughed and punched him or smacked him on the shoulder, and then he’d stop, for a while anyway. Pretty soon, I tried laughing too. At first, it felt unnatural because I really didn’t think he was funny. But it worked so well, I started doing it all the time.

Phil was different. It seemed to me that he was almost a grownup. He had straight black hair down past his shoulders and beautiful blue eyes that I wanted to keep looking at. He looked at me like he knew me, like he knew I was a little pathetic and that I had no idea of what the world was all about. I tried to throw him off by not talking at all in front of him just in case I said or did something stupid.

That habit of staying very quiet in any unknown situation stayed with me. As it turned out, guys often thought I was mysterious and secretive, but the truth was I just didn’t want them to find out how pathetically na├»ve I was.

Before very long, Lisa and I were going to Mark and Rick and Phil’s house every afternoon when we got out of class. We’d run around to the back of GSP and slide down the dirt path, take a look around and cross the street.

The boys’ house was the second one from the intersection. The house right on the corner was different from most of the other houses on the block. For one thing, it had a beautiful grassy yard. All the grass was the same – the same color, the same height, the same texture. It was like my parents’ lawn at home. It was trimmed around the sidewalks and along the curb and around the flower beds up by the house. The house was clean-looking and only had one mailbox, so I figured out that only one person or family lived there. The other houses on the street had several black metal mailboxes nailed on the wall by the door. Sometimes when Lisa and I crossed the street to the boys’ house, an old lady was outside that nice house sweeping the sidewalk or messing with her flowers or something. Right away when she saw us she started yelling at us to stay off her grass. She never gave us a chance to say hi or anything. And I would have said something because I knew I was supposed to be polite to older people. It was just natural. I looked different by then though, with my jeans and India print shirts and long straight hair. That lady couldn’t recognize me. At first the whole thing bothered me, but after a while I stopped caring. It was as if Lisa and I were a different species.

Anyway, we opened the front door to the boys’ place and climbed the steps to the apartment. At least one of the guys was usually there and we just sat around and talked or listened to music. Sometimes I watched Rick edit his little movies. It was kind of like hanging out with my brother – I felt comfortable around him and I didn’t have to think or talk. I always had my guitar with me. I didn’t play it in front of them – I was way too shy. It was really like Framus was my security blanket. Everything was changing around me and I felt safer with my guitar tucked under my arm. I felt very much as I had when I was six years old and starting First grade.

My twin brother and I hadn’t ever gone to Kindergarten. We lived in a brand new neighborhood and the school wasn’t finished that first year. So Butch and I stayed home another year with our mother. I never gave a thought to school – that it meant I would be going away from my mother all day to be with people I didn’t know. I was terrified that first day. The teacher and Momma had to practically drag me into the classroom. All the kids stared at me in silence. My teacher, Miss Gilbert, let Momma stand in the back of the room while I calmed down a little. By the end of the day, I was fine. I had seen Butch at recess and even my sister from a distance on the other playground. But the next day, I was terrified all over again. Miss Gilbert picked me up and carried me screaming over to my desk. That afternoon when I got home, my mother took me down the hallway to my room, sat on my bed and put her arm around me. She was looking a bit amused as she often did when she talked to me. She said,” Sissy, I have a surprise for you.” There was something sticking out of her dress pocket and when she pulled it out, I saw it was a stuffed dog about four inches tall. He was standing up in Momma’s hand on his stiff straw-stuffed legs. I took him out of her hand and felt his rough white fur. There was a gray-brown spot on his back and Momma told me that was his name – Spot. She said, “Spot will go to school with you every day in your pocket and keep you safe.” And he did.

So now I had Framus. And although I didn’t play it in front of the boys, Phil had a guitar too. He sat and played and sang folk songs almost every evening we were there. He was always working on getting the songs just right. I watched him play and knew I would never be that good, no matter how hard I practiced. I’d grown up with Butch, who went beyond boring piano lessons and learned to play like Ray Charles. He’d taught himself to play the flute and saxophone and been in bands since Junior High School. Now he was in a band called simply “Kansas”.

I had learned a couple of songs pretty well, though. Donovan’s song “Catch the Wind” was one of my favorites and was simple enough to play that I actually got pretty good at it.

Every day when I walked up to campus, I passed a big house with a sign on the front porch that said Canterbury House. It was the campus home of the Episcopal Church. And every time I went by it, I had a pressing sort of yearning to go in and join. I wanted the safety of belonging to something familiar and friendly, and I imagined it to be like that. But I just kept going past it every day.

There was another sign there by the side of the house sticking up out of the ground by the gravel parking lot. It was made out of boards that looked kind of burnt. Fiery Furnace was written on it in big red-orange letters that looked like flames. When I asked Lisa about it she said,”Yeah, it’s a coffee shop. You should take Framus down there and play some songs. Anybody can play on Friday nights. “

I kept walking past it for weeks, all the way into late fall. Finally one cold night, I tucked Framus under my arm and headed out into the cold clear night. I walked fast because it was freezing and because I was afraid to slow down. I opened the door of the Fiery Furnace and went down steep steps.

The room opened out in front of me like a cavern. The walls were rough stone and the floor was plain wood. Small tables covered with red and white checked tablecloths were scattered around. A candle stuck in a wine bottle stood in the middle of each table. There were a few people sitting at tables just chatting. They looked up at me for a minute and went on talking. I didn’t play my guitar and sing that night or for a couple of more times. But I watched as people came with guitars and performed. Most of them seemed to know each other. I sat in a corner and tried not to talk.

The third time a man who had played both times I had been there walked over to me and asked,”What kind of songs do you play? Why don’t you sing something tonight?” I looked up at him. He was a grownup man with a wife who came with him sometimes. She was beautiful with long straight blond hair and a good voice. He had red hair and blue eyes and played a 12-string guitar.

I knew they were grownups because sometimes they argued in pretty loud voices when they were at a table and other times they just sat and stared at each other with dreamy looks on their faces. I knew I would never be like that – passionately in love and so intense about somebody. I wouldn’t let myself do that. But I loved watching them.

So after a while I actually got up out of my chair and walked up to the stool where people played and sang. I was too nervous to sit. The only song I knew really well by that time was Catch the Wind so I sang it – fast and quietly. When I was finished I walked over to the door and kept going all the way back to GSP.

Phil was a very good guitar player, but he didn’t like to sing. And I loved to. One night Phil picked up his guitar and began to play “Blowing in the Wind” just the same way as Peter, Paul and Mary. I had been trying to learn how to do that for weeks, and sometimes I could almost do it. But most of the time I just strummed the chords and sang. He started to sing it and I did too. I couldn’t help myself. He stopped singing after a minute and I kept going. “Hey that was good!” he said when the song was over. “You have a great voice!” I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t tell if my voice sounded good or not, but I knew I was so happy and excited and I wanted to sing that song again right that minute.

So Phil and I began doing songs together. Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme was one of Phil’s favorite albums and right away we learned a song called Cloudy. We both liked Joan Baez, so we started working on a couple of her songs. Phil especially liked Farewell, Angelina and he wanted me to learn that song. It was long and a little boring I thought, but I loved singing it too.

We practiced our songs every time I went to the apartment. But that was all we did together. I didn’t really feel comfortable around Phil – there was something odd about him. He seemed like a grownup, but not a very nice one. I watched him watch me sometimes and there was a sort of appraising look on his face that had nothing to do with who I was.

I did like Rick. And when Phil and I weren’t singing together, I went to find him. One night he asked me if I wanted to be in one of his movies. He wanted to make a movie of me walking across the bridge over Iowa Street. He figured there wouldn’t be much traffic so nothing would get between him with his camera and me. So we drove out there one day and parked his car on the west side of the overpass. I had Framus with me of course and Rick thought that was great. We got out of the car and he said,”Look, here’s what I want you to do. Just walk across the bridge with your guitar under your arm. And when I tell you to, look over at me but don’t acknowledge me at all. Act like I’m not even here. Just ignore me and look normal.” He didn’t want it to look like it was a movie. So there I was, barefoot in my jeans and India print and wire rim glasses with the breeze blowing my hair a little and my usual blank expression on my face. “Yeah, like that!” Rick said. “You look like you’re thinking about something really serious!”

So I walked back and forth across the overpass several times with Rick scrabbling along at the edge of the road to get ahead of me and stopping to film me as I walked past. The whole thing was fun and we laughed a lot, but it was serious too, like pretend stuff always is. It was fun just playing with him, sort of another 10-year old to hang around with. And I was so glad he didn’t care about the whole sex thing. I just thought sex was weird. I mean, I’d had sex with Patrick, but that was so I’d know what it was all about and how to act, kind of like knowing what fork to use at a fancy restaurant. It was really sort of an etiquette issue to me.

Lisa and I spent more and more time at the Indiana Street house. Every afternoon when classes were over, we walked home to GSP just to sort of check in. There were always a couple of girls at the front desk, signing visitors in and out and chatting with students returning from campus. The resident director was often there too, keeping an eye on things. She was always smiling and would occasionally ask someone, “Hi! How were your classes? Did you do okay on your English Lit. Test?” or something else friendly.

She hadn’t ever noticed me until I started spending all my time with Lisa. In fact, I had been mostly invisible to everybody at the desk until then.

Now when Lisa and I walked past them on our way to Rick, Phil and Mark’s house, they got quiet. If I looked up, I saw them watching us go out the door. They looked at us as if they were saying,” Where did those girls come from?” The resident director didn’t really look at Lisa, her shiny straight hair bouncing gently on her shoulders with each long stride and a cigarette held carelessly in her hand. I did catch her watching me, though, with a worried, caring look on her face that said, “What are you doing with her? Can’t you tell she’s not one of us?” I wasn’t one of “them” either though. I had wanted to be one of them for such a long time. But I had never figured out the right way to talk, think or act. And now I didn’t care.

Every night Lisa and I had to be back at the dorm by 10:00 to sign in for the night. On the weekend it was 11:00. And when I did open the door to my room, it felt less and less like I lived there. What had been familiar and comforting to me a few months earlier was becoming progressively more alien. I wasn’t the same girl who had moved into that room. At best I was a fast fading version of her, and there was something frightening about walking in and shutting the door, as if there was a ghost watching me from the corner.

Soon Lisa and I were having more and more trouble getting back in time. Often we would be running up to the door with just a few minutes to spare, gasping and laughing. Lisa would call out to me, “Hurry! We’ve only got one minute! They’re going to lock the door on us!” We were always having so much fun with the boys, it was easy to lose track of time.

However, there was a loophole to the curfew. If a girl was staying with relatives or adult friends in town, she could sign out for the whole night. The Resident Director had to have their name, address and phone number. One night we were at the Indiana Street house and we met a real married couple with a kid. They were friends of Phil’s. They lived in a whole house by themselves and the woman had a job. Her husband was going to K.U. We started seeing them other places too – the Rock Chalk and around campus. We even went over to their house sometimes. They lived on Vermont Street, which was just a block from Massachusetts Avenue, the main downtown street. I practically never went downtown, unless my mother came to visit and we went shopping or out to lunch or something. So it seemed like they were very far away from the action.

Their house was small, but it belonged all to them. They had a little boy named Karl. He had white blond hair sticking out all over his head and he was loud. It seemed like he was running and yelling every time we went over there. Amanda liked to talk and laugh with us, but most of the time she was chasing after Karl. She usually looked exhausted. Her hair was a frizzy mess and there were bags under her eyes. She was a little fat and lots of times her clothes were wrinkled and didn’t go together. I figured it was all because of little Karl, and I decided I absolutely never wanted to have kids. I had always been doubtful about the advantages of kids anyway, and now I knew for sure.

Dave, on the other hand, never messed with Karl. He just ignored him, no matter how much hell he was raising. It was amazing. Dave was kind of good-looking in a grownup way. His eyes were big and very clear blue, but they were kind of droopy, maybe from being old. I wasn’t sure. His black hair hung down around his shoulders. He was kind of pudgy like a grownup and wore regular grownup clothes like button shirts and regular slacks. Most of the time he didn’t talk much to Lisa and me. He watched us, though, with a way- too-interested look in his eyes.

Phil met us at the top of the stairs one afternoon a few weeks after meeting Dave and Amanda and said, “Hey, how would you girls like to stay here as late as you want to, maybe even all night?” Before I could even think of an appropriate answer, as in,”Oh we can’t do that we have a 10:00 curfew, besides you are too weird to be around all night, where would we sleep, what does Rick think about it?” Lisa grinned and said,” Yeah! How can we do that?”

It turned out that Phil had been talking to Dave and Amanda about it and they had agreed to let us sign out to their house as if we were staying there all night. Of course we would really be staying at Indiana Street.

Once again, I was both scared and excited at the same time, only a little more scared this time. I was so tired of worrying about being back to the dorm on time, but the idea of actually not returning to GSP at all seemed almost illegal! Still, there was a persistent voice inside telling me that I had to keep going forward. If I didn’t, I would soon be the same sad and isolated girl I had been for years.

The very next afternoon Lisa and I signed ourselves out to Dave and Amanda’s house on Vermont Street. I felt a little hysterical as we walked quickly around the building on our way to Indiana Street. But when we got there, everything seemed normal. We hung around and talked to the guys and listened to music. Later Phil and I sang some songs, and after that I watched as Rick edited the film of me walking across the overpass. It was just a typical evening, until about two o’clock when Mark said, “Hey! Let’s go to Joe’s!”

Joe’s Donuts was only about a block away. It was part of a little strip of businesses on 9thStreet. Late at night it was all lit up when everything around it was dark and closed. I hadn’t ever been there; it was the opposite direction from campus and my reality just hadn’t expanded that much. We all walked down the stairs, past the bare light bulb burning in the hallway, and out into the dark, still night. There were no cars around so we all strolled right down the middle of the street. Even that small act was exciting to me. And there was Joe’s with its lights shining out onto the sidewalk.

The windows were covered with steam so that we could hardly see inside. I thought,”Is there really anybody buying donuts in the middle of the night?” The whole world changed when we opened the door. There was a line of people winding around from the counter almost to the front door. They were talking and laughing like they weren’t sleepy at all. Most of them were young, but not as young and Lisa and I. A big cooler at the side held little cartons of milk - chocolate and regular. The fluorescent lights from the display cases shined strangely on everybody’s faces as they looked at all the donuts and pastries.

I immediately picked up some chocolate milk and started to try deciding which donut I would get. After looking at all of them, I picked out a round thin pastry with sugar and cinnamon on top. The boys were behind us in line, so Lisa and I went back outside into the night. It was warm for December and we sat down on the curb at the corner, with our feet in the street, eating our pastry. The cinnamon and sugar on top sparkled in the street light as I broke off crunchy, flaky pieces. I felt free and dangerous and wild.

Before very long, Lisa and I were staying with the guys two or three nights a week. We always stayed up very late and gradually drifted off to other rooms to sleep. I don’t know where Lisa slept, but I slept in Rick’s little twin bed with him. I could tell that was what I was expected to do, so I just did it. Rick and I were sort of a couple by default, even though we had never had sex. In fact, we both slept with our clothes on, cuddled under the covers! I was so glad he didn’t want to have sex, because I didn’t either. I really liked doing stuff with him, but it seemed as if we were both children. We went to movies up on campus several times a week and sometimes we held hands, but that was about all. Once in a while we kissed, but it was always a little embarrassing and awkward. So mostly we didn’t.

One night in March everything changed. It was a warm night and the stars were so bright. Mark went into the kitchen and a minute later we heard a loud thump. When we walked in, we saw wooden steps going up through a trapdoor in the ceiling. “Wow!” Lisa said. “Can we go up on the roof?” Mark said, “Yeah. Let’s go look at the stars.” Phil went up behind Mark, but Rick was already asleep. So I followed Lisa up the steps through the square hole in the ceiling and out onto the roof. It was flat around the opening and there was enough room for us all to sit there. I felt like I had forgotten all about the stars, but there they were, twinkling all around us.

After a few minutes, Mark reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a cigarette. But it wasn’t like any cigarette I had ever seen. It was short and fat in the middle with a little tobacco sticking out the ends. “Hey, want to get stoned?” Mark asked.

I didn’t even hear what anybody said. My ears shut off and I got a cold sick feeling in my stomach. I was terrified. Suddenly, I wanted to run down the steps, out the door and back to GSP as fast as I could. I had broken some rules since I had become friends with Lisa, and it had been fun for the most part. But this was against the law. Even more important, it was against my law.

I had never smoked a cigarette or taken a drink of alcohol. Never, even when kids sneaked cigarettes from their mothers’ purses in high school or took a quick drink from their father’s beer when he wasn’t looking. It wasn’t really that I thought it was morally wrong. I didn’t have any morals that mattered. I did what I wanted to do, or what I thought would advance me in the direction I wanted to go with my life. I was just simply afraid. I was afraid of losing control of myself. I knew I needed to have my wits about me in this new life even more than ever before.

Mark lit the joint and breathed the smoke deep into his lungs and held his breath. I just watched him. Phil reached for it then and sucked the smoke in just like Mark had. The coals at the end of the joint glowed brighter. The thought crossed my mind,” They’re smoking the same cigarette! What about germs?!” I sat there very still, frantically trying to decide what to do when it got to me. Phil passed it to Lisa. She closed her eyes and inhaled slowly and deeply. She smiled softly as she passed it to me. I didn’t reach out to touch it. My heart was pounding as I said,”Um, I don’t really want any.” Lisa said, “Oh, okay” and Mark reached over to take it from her.

The three of them kept passing it around until all that was left was a tiny stub. I held my breath, waiting for them to act crazy, but it never happened. They giggled a lot and their eyes looked kind of fuzzy, but they were still themselves. Gradually, I relaxed and just enjoyed the night. Later on, we went back downstairs and walked over to Joe’s like we did most nights. I was so glad it was over, and that they still liked me. After that, we all went up on the roof once in a while to get stoned. I never did and they never even asked me why. They didn’t care.

Lisa and I had been spending nights at the boys’ house for a couple of months. It was just a routine by then and we really didn’t think about it much. We still spent most nights at GSP, but it was getting more and more difficult. Then one night the phone rang at about 11:30. I woke up enough to hear Mark answer it. After a minute or two, lights were going on all over the place and everybody was getting out of bed in a hurry. It was Dave on the phone.

The Resident Director from GSP had called their house and asked to speak to Lisa. She said she needed to talk to her about something. Amanda was stalling the Director on the phone while Dave ran next door and called us. We all ran downstairs and jumped into Mark’s car. Everybody was freaked out, even super cool Phil. Nobody said anything as Mark drove as fast as he could to Dave and Amanda’s and stopped at the curb. Lisa jumped out and ran into the house. When we got inside, Lisa was just taking the phone away from Amanda. “Hello? This is Lisa,” she said. The rest of us – Phil, Mark, Rick, Dave and Amanda-just stood there frozen and silent. It was as if we knew the director would see us through the phone if we moved or spoke. Lisa was saying, “Yeah, I was in the bathroom. Sorry it took me so long. No, I have English Lit. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Okay,thanks.” When she finally hung up, we couldn’t believe they had called to ask her about her schedule. The guys and Lisa and I laughed hysterically for a while before heading back to their place. Amanda and Dave were pretty quiet though. I guess because they really were grownups.

Picture on top shows Weedle, her sister Edie, and brother Butch (Don) dressed up with someplace to go.