how i found you

How I Found: Christy
February 13, 2009, 2:26 am
Filed under: my friend

The new neighbors we were about to meet completed a summer of surprises. My mother added yet another sibling to our tribe, an event that brought comments from the families on our street about how we were clearly Catholic, something I took to mean they saw all seven of us leave for church each Sunday. My sister, a bowl-headed tomboy always clad in hand-me-downs from my brother above her, had her first sleepover with a little boy up the street, shocking the mother at bath time by disrobing to reveal that the “boy” she called “Jimmy” was actually a girl named Jenny. The sidewalks where I caught crickets beneath streetlamps to feed to my painted turtle, Caesar, were turning cooler, and the cicadas were quieting.

That morning the moving van dominated our narrow street and the older boys immediately began skateboarding across the ramp behind it, their wheels rumbling across the corrugated metal. Before long, on bikes, 4-wheeled skates, or bare feet, every child on the block circled the semi, inspecting the floral furniture and waiting for clues to the family. When the movers brought out the twin brass bed, the neighborhood girls threw up their hands in triumph.

At four, one of the younger kids, I was allowed to roam the street as long as there were other kids outside – as long as I came running to my mother’s two-fingered whistle and checked in around dinnertime. A burden to the teens, I was often told that my mother was calling me home – couldn’t I hear? – or that a game of hide-and-seek was on and it was my turn to hide, any number of distractions that would lead me away from their fun. Other times they would simply ride away on their bikes, leaving me to watch the playing cards on the spokes of their tires circling around. But the day we saw the new station wagon in the driveway, they pushed me front-and-center to the front door, knocked and stepped back, leaving me alone to deal with the formalities.

When the door opened to a dark, pretty lady, I said, “Can the new girl come out to play?” She asked me my name.

“Amy,” I said.

“Ah, Amalia,” she replied, my name turning exotic on her tongue. She turned and said something in a language I didn’t think any of us knew, then said, “Come on, Christy,” and a girl my age came out onto the porch. The rest of the kids fanned off their respective ways, disappointed. I was thrilled; finally, a friend for me. And off we ran into a thirty-year friendship.

Neighborhoods were different then; just ten years after our initial meeting, a boy in our town named Johnny Gosch was kidnapped while delivering papers. He became the first kid on a milk carton, officially marking the last moment of comfort for most of the parents who lived there. But at the time, we were wild, feral, burning the rubber on unwanted tennis shoes by dragging the tops of our shoes as we rode our bikes; creating events like “witch’s night” that called for celebratory mud pies; climbing high into the cherry and apple trees and eating until our stomachs wrenched.

Christy and I spent so much time together that soon I was able to pick up a little of the Greek her parents spoke to each other and to Christy and her younger sister. I came to love spanakopita, gyros, dolmathes, moussaka, her Thea, her Yia Yia, her Papou. I came to understand the slight difference between her Greek Orthodox Church and my own Catholicism, an introduction to food, religion, language, customs all within a seven-house span.

We volleyed between colleges, finally ending up at one that was small and local. Together again. After graduation I used the application materials she had requested for herself to apply for graduate school in Oregon, was accepted and left soon after. She ordered another packet and by the next year we were sleeping foot to head on a used queen size futon while we searched for an apartment larger than the studio I’d been living in.

Shortly after was a five-year span of silence between us. We never acknowledge this time, instead chalking it up to those psycho-twenties, that delayed adolescence we allowed ourselves, pervaded with beers, boys, cigarettes, regrets. That we missed each other’s weddings still comes up in passing, followed with a quick and embarrassed, “I always forget you weren’t there,” a less painful way of saying, “I can’t bring myself to remember you weren’t.”

When reconciled and living in the same town, I saw a house for sale on her street. My husband and I walked through it with a realtor who proclaimed that all it really needed was a nice thick coat of fire. After Christy’s father had walked through it, clucking his tongue and telling us in his still-thick Greek accent to offer less than list price, we closed the deal and moved in a week later, our houses again equidistant to those of our youth.

Our children play together in the front yards now, and we laugh as my four year-old calls to her child, Yanni, a year older. “Ela,” he says, flexing his vocabulary in Greek. “Come with me!” Yanni pulls himself away from a dirt clod mistaken for a rock and joins my son on his scooter. They take up the whole sidewalk as the pump and push up the street.

The bigger kids, heads shaking at their siblings in a bored sort of frustration, sit on their bikes and wait. When the coast is clear, they ride quickly down the hill, Pokémon energy cards clicking with every turn of their wheels.

We watch the children closely, Christy and I, closer than we were ever looked after. It’s a different world, we say now – but side by side, for us it’s still very much the same.

Amy Walsh MacKrell is a graduate of the creative writing programs at Oregon State University and the University of South Dakota. She lives in Des Moines, Iowa and works in Instructional Design at Des Moines University, an osteopathic medical school, while continuing to teach literature and creative writing at Simpson College.




Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: