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The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

When I was seven, we moved to the mountains away from the city. There, I had a near-perfect childhood. I had plenty of friends, good schools; brownies and girl scout meetings, activities, and outings; parties at the country club; a wonderful home with lots of wildlife and nature to explore. These were the days when a mother could let her children roam the neighborhood without worry; a time when Trick or Treating was safe; a time when you could leave your doors unlocked. Good times, good memories.

I walked alone to the bus stop for a while, until I met a girl my age, on our street, who took the bus. Our bus stop was a mile from my house and about five minutes from Carol’s. I didn’t mind the walk, especially, in the fall. In the winter, when there were dark thunderstorms, it wasn’t so fun. I hated the bulky loud plastic raincoat my mother would make me wear. I’d rather get soaked than look like a fireman drowning in that paisley ghastly olive-green colored contraption! It also wasn’t fun when I arrived at school smelling like burnt rubber… A skunk had apparently been spooked and had let off its scent somewhere in the woods. I had no choice but to keep walking to the bus stop hoping the smell would go away. It did, I think, or maybe I’d just gotten used to it.

Her mother worked in a candy factory in town wrapping candy in colorful foil. Her hands were rough.

Carol lived in a modest three-bedroom ranch with her parents and teenage brother, whom I only saw once. Mornings, waiting for Carol, were amusing. I sat on their fireplace hearth while waiting for Carol to finish eating or getting ready for school. Her mother worked in a candy factory in town wrapping candy in colorful foil. Her hands were rough. She made Carol fried baloney sandwiches on white bread almost every morning. My mother never bought white bread or baloney. I think there is something divine working in the life of someone whose mother is especially doting on them. I think it’s because somewhere in the future of that child, they’re going to need those good memories of having been loved; that life isn’t so bad….

Carol’s mother wrapped her daughter’s hair with strips of cloth in a painstaking process that made perfect ringlets in her daughter’s already wavy brown hair. I begged my mother to do my hair like that and she did, a few times. But my hair was straight and wouldn’t hold a curl longer than a half-hour. My poor mother! I soon realized it was futile and stopped asking her to do it.

On the weekends, Carol and I shared many afternoons together. She was an A student. I always had friends who were good students. We would play for hours in her pale lavender bedroom. We’d play dress-up with her mother’s old dresses. We’d play in their garage and on her father’s truck. One day we shared our dreams. It was established: We both wanted to get married and have children. We described what kind of homes we wanted, down to the décor. We even described what our future husbands would look like. Interestingly enough, we both chose opposite looking people to ourselves. As a brunette, Carol wanted a ‘blonde, cowboy type.’ That was understandable. She loved horses and had one. I was blond and wanted a ‘dark-haired husband who had a mustache. I wanted a specific number of children: five.

Decades later, I looked Carol up to see if her dreams had manifested. She had indeed married a blonde cowboy type, but she had been through a nightmare.

Through the wonders of the web, I discovered Carol had been through something most of us only read about or see in a movie. Her young husband, who was working as a car salesman early in their marriage, had been fooled by two thugs who’d asked to take a particular car on a ‘test drive.’ Unbeknownst to her husband, the thugs were armed. The driver pulled the test car over outside of town, where they shot her husband, killing him, and leaving him dead on the side of the road. Obviously, they killed him, so they would have a ‘getaway’ car…Who knows what else they’d done or were about to do.

To make her story more tragic: Carol was pregnant expecting their first child. The devastation she must have gone through. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I looked up all of the story I could find. I was never able to locate her but I found out that due to Carol’s pressing and insistence on the police and investigators, that they did find her husband’s killers. They were arrested and brought to trial. They were found guilty and were sent to jail. Their punishment didn’t match the crime. I think everyone’s life is worth a life. They each got only a few years. Poor Carol. I still think of her.

Childhood friends never leave you. They always stay in your heart. They give you hope that there are good moments in life.

I hope Carol was able to get over such a tragic loss. I’m sure her son who is an adult today, is a great blessing to her. Lesson learned: life is a mixed bag. Treat one another kindly. You never know what someone’s been through or what they’re about to go through.  

Laurie Hill
Laurie Hill holds a Liberal Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University and a Certificate for Writing Social Commentary, (2006). Having traveled to many countries she is a passionate promoter for world peace for all people and all religious thought, as long as its base is non-violent, and respects individual freedom. An aspiring novelist with three completed novels she is currently working to publish her third. She has resided in Jeddah for twenty-eight years.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for sharing this story with us, Laurie. It is a tragic one, but hopefully, Carol has found peace and comfort. Your words remind me of my childhood friendships reading this piece, a few of which we still maintain. It seems no matter the distance or the challenges; we’ve always found our ways back to one another. Friendships indeed leave imprints on our hearts, and there are a couple of friends that I’ve lost touch with over the years. I can only hope that they are doing well, and perhaps, our paths may cross again one day.

  2. I appreciated this story and reminder very much, Laurie. I had dear friends as a child and their homes felt like sacred havens. One of those friends ghosted me years ago. The other I managed to reconnect with here in NC. We met and shared stories of much heartbreak and challenge (even things we had navigated as children that were traumatic and painful-but we never spoke of these when we were kids). Our memories of our time together felt unsoiled by the other experiences of pain we both endured. It’s like the intersection of the two of us during our childhoods became this sacred time of respite, of a certain joy and innocence, of laughter and positive memories that both of us-to this day hold dear. Yes, you do not ever know what a friend is living through that they are too afraid to share with you. You don’t know until you know…. Thank you so much for sharing because your story obviously evoked my own offered here. I’m so grateful.

    • I had a very dear friend who I’ve lost contact with over the decades… what you said is true Laura. One day we were talking about having children in our future. I’d known this friend for a couple of years. It was this day she finally opened up about her abusive father who would get drunk and beat up on her mother. She said, she thought because of her upbringing she didn’t think she’d make a very good parent. I was stunned she had taken on such a burden that didn’t belong to her. I know she would have been an excellent mother! So, yes, we don’t always know, even what our close friends have been through or are going through.
      As your comment and experience alluded to: I think everyone has a bit of sour with the sweet in this life.
      thank you for your thoughtful comment, as always.

  3. Wow Laurie… this is so close to something of a real case in my area…..I was reflecting with you regarding those childhood memories we might have with a special friend… I was thinking of mine….she has passed now… the internet is pretty amazing when we starry investigating….

    And when you started talking about this horrible circumstance I was fast forward to the case here….it was too close to home. Thank you for this read here…it was a dance with memories.
    Your right though …we all have backgrounds no one knows about.. sometimes they are shared… some never do.

    I like that some childhood memories are so innocent and help us through tough times. The compassion of a child is needed as an adult… not everyone keeps it.
    Thanks Laurie, it’s sad but it is heart warming too.

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