From all that I’ve shared about growing up among a bunch of boys it might seem like I didn’t have any interest in playing with girls. Au contraire; I loved having girl playmates. It’s just that I had this problem…
Back in the day, children generally weren’t shuttled around in minivans to soccer games, tae kwon do classes and scout meetings. (Well, actually none of us were shuttled in minivans since Detroit hadn’t designed any yet. But that’s not my point…) Most of the moms I knew were stay-at-home moms who considered having their children play with other children in the neighborhood to be both enriching and entertaining. On nice days, they scooted us out the door right after breakfast and didn’t expect us to come home until lunchtime, then out the door again until dinner. Because they wanted to keep us near enough to hear the dinner bell, we weren’t allowed to leave our block.
Our duplex was in the middle of a rather short block, the residents of which went like this (from one end of the block to the other):
- On the corner, an old lady who didn’t socialize with kids (we were all scared of her, although I now suspect, looking back, that she may have gotten a big kick out of her scary persona, because if we rode our bikes past her fenced yard while she was watering the lawn, she would spray us with the hose).
- Next to her, a house with four teenage girls with no interest in a little girl like me.
- Beside them, a couple in their 50’s whose children were grown.
- Then our duplex, housing my brothers, plus four boys in the other half.
- Continuing down the block, a widow in her 50’s who was very kind to us kids (she’d invite us to enter her fenced yard every once in a while to pick a bouquet of flowers for our moms).
- Beside her, a single man whose daughter visited on some weekends and during school breaks (she was my brother’s age, and a tomboy; I loved it when she was around).
- On the opposite corner, one last house. For the life of me, I cannot recall who lived there. Which merely signifies that there weren’t any kids.
Now, if you were keeping track, you noticed there were exactly zero girls for me to hang out with on a daily basis. Any girlfriend time had to be fitted into the adults’ plans. Fortunately, this wasn’t too difficult, since my dad’s boss had a little girl my age and they arranged for us to get together from time to time. (She is the only other girl in the picture of my birthday party posted along with On boys, baseball and bags.) I always preferred visiting her house to her coming to mine because at my house the boys would inevitably lure her into playing their games, which she relished, not having boys around at all. Sigh.
In contrast, visiting her house was simply dreamy because she, as an only child, had a bedroom chock full of dolls, little kitchen appliances and furniture, dishes and the like. From the moment I arrived until the very last minute, we played with an intensity and focus usually reserved for air traffic controllers or neurosurgeons. After all, I had to make sure the girly “fix” would last me a good while. I also had numerous girlfriends at school, and quite a few girl cousins, on both sides, but again, play times were at the discretion of the big people.
I would eventually get my heart’s desire: a daily-basis-type-girlfriend. Much to my delight, the little sister who was in elementary school when I left home, and in junior high when I got married, became an adult! Being six years my junior, my relationship with her while still living at home had centered mostly on looking after her. But once she “caught up with me,” she became the best girlfriend I would ever have.
We’ve done our share of girly stuff together: making jewelry, planning big parties, designing room makeovers, etc. These things have been highly enjoyable. But it’s really about the sharing of not only genetics, but myriad life experiences; it’s her being enough like me to “get” me, yet different enough from me to balance me; it’s her validating me in all the ways that matter most; and it’s her embracing me with that huge heart of hers in my downs as well as my ups. These are what I truly treasure.
Ain’t no friend like a sista friend.