we sent love letters (she did, i was just her accomplice) to the boys next door, bathing our mouths in her mother's lipstick, planting kisses all over the envelopes, then we ran through the bushes to put them in the box.
we did something else that same year that i can't confess, even now, because my mother reads this blog and would not approve.
we'd slip into the darkened Dixie Theatre with too much popcorn and drink in our hands and get the giggles. once we (she, really) spilled half her drink down someone's back in the row in front of us.
one day when we walked home from town, Miss Hooker, an elderly woman who took care of her mother, ran out of her house toward us and shouted: help me! mother is dead!
i will not say that we rushed into the house, but we did go in, rubbing the old woman's legs until she moaned and we knew that she was indeed NOT dead. i remember calling daddy that day, asking if we had done the right thing.
'as far as i can tell you did,' he said. years later, when miss hooker visited my daddy's office, she looked fondly into my eyes.
things like this always happened to lydia and me. i have used some of it for fodder in my fiction, and i will tell you that each episode makes for a good story.
as lydia and i grew older, we built huts out of wheat straw gathered from the field next to her house. we slipped on our rain boots and crept into the dark woods that by night were inhabited by millions of grackles and starlings swirling above our heads. by day we stomped through knee-high bird droppings, just because we wanted to see for ourselves what the whole bird story was all about. writing about it in fiction, i made it night, though it was pretty scary to go there by day.
when we were in junior high school, we got into decoupage and antiquing furniture in her playhouse, not knowing that we were ahead of our time. we sneaked scuppernong wine her grandfather made from the attic. we set up a beauty parlor on her side porch and i actually let her give me a perm, promising i wouldn't take the curlers out for 24 hours. hours!
on to high school and boys and once, when we stood talking in her back yard as a storm loomed miles away, we watched (and felt and heard) as a beam of lightning shot down and struck the chimney of her house, sending bricks flying toward us. years later when we were together and a thunderstorm approached, i don't know who headed for the car first. we have not liked to be together in storms since.
in college, lydia lived right across the hall from me our first year, down the hall the second, and she was like my sister. applauding me when i did well, putting me in my place when i disappointed her.
when daddy died, almost the first person i heard from was lydia. 'i'm coming,' she said, 'and i'm staying, even if i have to put up a straw hut in the back yard.' and i knew she would do just that.
at the visitation, she came through the back door, telling the folks in the kitchen that she had never used the front door and would not start at that moment. she worked through the room, visiting with people she had known her whole life, and when all the visitors left, she took over the kitchen, pulling out homemade sweet potato ham biscuits (made just that morning), passing them out to all the grands, saying something under her breath like: lydia is gonna take care of things.
put two country girls together who have not been in the country for awhile, and they will surely take a ride, out, toward the fields, the open air. i knew where we were headed, a few miles out of town to the country club where our daddies had played golf for so many years. this trip was for lydia, i thought, to see a place her father had helped build.
as we drove into the club, i saw some men fishing on the edge of the pond and there it was in my head, the picture of the huge bass i'd caught with a cane pole, lydia next to me, so heavy that fish was that the two of us had to drag it across the ground up toward the woods. we had no net. we were maybe 13.
Lydia drove around the clubhouse, noted the wood fence post her father's business was known for years ago, still standing guard against the putting green. on we went, down the hill toward the tennis courts where she had tossed her first serve — this was still her trip, mind you... i never played tennis — toward the club house.
lydia plays golf, is married to a pro, so again we were doing this for her. her mother died just last year, her father a few years before, but they lived away from our town for years. and while the week for me had been catching up with folks i'd known much of my life, lydia didn't have that chance when her parents died. i was more than happy to share our grieving.
humm... she said. i'm thinking maybe i'd like an ice cold beer.
so we sauntered into the pro shop and she told me to put my money away. it was quiet, only a golfer or two on #9 next to the shop, another on #10 teeing off with his son. she asked the pro for two cold ones, and i asked his name. suddenly, i felt a tightness near my eyes and throat and said this: my father was dr. byrum.
'was?' he asked. 'i had no idea.' and then he told me that daddy always came into the shop, golf shoes in hand, and sat right in that chair there — and he pointed to it — to change his shoes. same thing every time. 'i knew he was sick,' he said. 'hadn't seen him in awhile.'
then we talked about how lydia's daddy used to bring her through a back gate on weekend afternoons when the course was under construction, how daddy use to bring me out, too, so we could watch it all being built. the pro showed us a aerial photo of the course being built, then talked about the hundreds of oaks felled during hurricane irene almost two years ago. then this:
'why don't you girls take a cart and go for a ride.'
back outside, lydia hopped right in the driver's side and i took my place beside her.
we wove down the path toward the front nine and drove down that first fairway. and then i realized it. yes, this was her trip, but it was mine, too, for when daddy was not in the office or hospital or home, he was here, walking up the #3 par 3, across the little bridge and over the small pond to the green. i had done that very thing with him myself as a girl.
daddy didn't have much time off, but if he couldn't get to Nags Head to look out over the ocean to clear his head, he was here, swinging the ball, knocking it in, walking. thinking.
we looked out over the course and sipped our beer and made a toast to our fathers, cutting across one fairway after another, until we were back in place, both of us healed, a bit, from our short time with our daddies again.
'lydia knows just the cure,' she said as we drove down the back roads toward home.
i don't see lydia often, and i miss her. miss the mischief, the giggles in the night over a spilled coca-cola or a secret wish shared only with each other.
years have put life and distance between us. but on this day, we were at it again, our lives whole for a few minutes, despite all we have lost.
writemuch.blogspot is the original work of author susan byrum rountree. all written work and photography is copyright protected and can only be used with written permission of the author.