Note: Regular readers may recognize the picture of these four young pirates or remember a bit of the previous post but writing, like memory, is a collage of images—the who, what, when, or why—jostling for time and space. Each revisiting reveals another perspective.
It is Dad who turns me into a pirate for Halloween. Particularly impressive is the way he ties that scarf around my head, perhaps the last time I ever wear it. I was not a girly girl. I don’t remember what we used for my pirate sash but it was impressively blood red and ran to my calf. I doubt I told Dad how impressed I was or whether I even thanked him for this moment that was so good for both of us. And my mustache has a bit of a French flair to it, doesn’t it? I looked good!
Yup, that’s me on the far right.
My mom uses pinking shears to create my black eyepatch. She knew her way around any piece of cloth. I wonder if I thanked her. Probably not. If nothing else, I was consistent in my thoughtless pre-teenage angst.
It is a financial stretch for my parents to buy black, corduroy slacks (as my pants were called) but they read the Halloween invitation dress requirements carefully. This is my first slumber party, and my parents like these girls—a lot. Maybe what they like most is who I am when I am with them. Sometimes, I bring the glow of their friendship home with me.
All four of us are 12 in 1964. We have been in junior high for two months.
Maurya is the witch with the fading pirate mustache. She had always been a witch for trick-or-treating but for us, the mustache. She was so good at making a witch and a pirate work together, as if they always had. She did that kind of thing all her life.
And the witch-pirate is the reason this is not a Halloween post anymore.
Maurya exuded equanimity, and I suppose in our own way we knew that; I would not have known the word but the other three, probably. It’s just that she seemed to know everything without ever seeming to know everything. Who would not want to stand in the light of that witch-pirate?
Nancy is the pirate next to Maurya. Then Jeré, the party host, next to me.
For reasons understood only by junior high girls, we will not remain friends with the party host. Even Maurya was not too enthusiastic about the way Jeré popped the bands of the braces on her teeth—food on the fly. It probably was uncomfortable for Jeré, as she said, but it made Nancy gag, and the gag reflex won the day. And I think there was some issue about Nancy’s boyfriend living too close to Jeré. First romances are drama like no other, also for reasons understood only by junior high girls.
Jeré was the only child of much older parents who did their best to give her the world as she had come to expect but what teenage girl didn’t believe the world was hers? She moved away within that school year (I think), and I hope she found what I did with Maurya and Nancy.
The three pirates go on for 52 years—together with separate lives and never disconnected—no distance too great to come a runnin’. In 2014, the witch-pirate sails into the sunset for the last time. Nancy and I are adrift for a while but love eventually puts the wind in our sails. Today, Maurya would’ve been 70.
I no longer think about calling her but it is the rare day that I don’t think of her at all. The love is greater than the loss, the gratitude for over 50 years of friendship immense, enough for the years I live without her. Or so I tell myself every moment I reach for our friendship, the light in my stars, sunlight on pond waters, moonlight waxing or waning.
The witch-pirate did not suffer fools nor was she unkind, ever. She understood people have only their kind of love to give; she knew that often our shortcomings and our strengths are one and the same. And on this birthday and every day I think of her, the image of two lines, in her handwriting, comes into view:
Never cast aside your friends if by any possibility you can retain them. It is easy to lose a friend but a new one will not come for the calling nor make up for the old one. And when it is death that comes calling, the loss is no less.
But what of the two adventurous pirates still sailing the sea of unconditional friendship, 58 years and counting. They are now virtually connected every month in what is eerily similar to the 3 ½-4-hour phone calls they knew as teenagers. Nancy and I might be more different than alike, and we have set sail for opposing seas from time-to-time but our friendship always closed the distance.
We do not see eye-to-eye on politics or religion, if we were to list our points for argument but that’s not how we roll. We talk about what we know to be true and that puts every subject on the table without labels. We were fortunate to find love during years when we needed it most and it has withstood the events and years of our lives. Might as well cut off an arm rather than lose this testament of friendship.
Nancy is much better at setting the table at our monthly virtual meetings than I am, and it is so hard to leave her each time. There may be a day we just stay permanently connected—virtually—we already take food, drink, and bathroom breaks so maybe naps are next.
On December 19 Nancy is 70. Happy birthday, me hearties!