I’ll never forget you

Linda’s birthday is March 17. She was a St. Patrick’s Day baby.
Green was her favourite colour once upon a time when we were little, but I can’t be sure what colour tops her list these days.
I haven’t seen Linda but once in 43 years, but all these years I have loved her—loved her the way only childhood friends can: totally and for keeps.
Linda and I met when we were six or seven and singing in our church choir. Her mother was the organist and choir director, and she created one of the largest and most skilled choirs that Knox has seen, as well as instilled in us her passion for music.
Choir practice was Saturday mornings before kids’ schedules got completely filled with other distractions. This large group of more than 30 angelic voices happily filled up the choir loft with altos and sopranos.
Under Mrs. Zaback’s direction, we belted out the old favourites in three- and often four-part harmony. Linda was an alto and I a soprano, and we sang “Memories of Galilee” every Palm Sunday.
Even now when I hum that song in my head, I hear Linda’s harmony coming through.
We also sang duets in the Festival and played duets on the piano, but mostly we played—played through the transition from child towards adolescence.
Linda was a beautiful person both inside and out. She inherited her mother’s musical talent, as did her siblings. Linda was obligated to practice piano a minimum of an hour each day and I was content to curl up on her couch and listen.
Her fingers flew back and forth across the keys, and sometimes she closed her eyes and moved with the music. I was certain she would grow up to be a world-famous pianist and perhaps she has.
Linda’s mother died when we were eight. Her family retrieved her unexpectedly from Sunny Cove Camp, where Linda and I were together—she on the top bunk and me on the bunk beneath her—on our very first away-from-home adventure.
Linda was too young to experience such life-altering grief, but life doesn’t always follow the rules. I remember Linda’s quiet dignity, her faithful acceptance, and my profound admiration of her.
Children seem to roll with the punches, tuck the wound away out of sight, and carry on.
Linda continued to practice the piano, continued to slide down banisters with me. Sometimes we let her little brother play with us, while we laughed out of control, collapsing on the floor in wonderful fatigue, forgetting for those moments all about broken hearts and altered childhoods.
The point to all this remembering is I write her a letter every March. I compose my long list of remembered stories and cherished childhood moments. I try to hear the sound of her voice and wonder if she is still much taller than I am.
I look at the photos that I have still, remembering the blue mascara that she skillfully applied to her eyelashes, convincing me she was worldly beyond anything I could imagine at that time.
I laugh as I recall us bouncing on beds and sewing a dress and double-dutch skipping ropes and riding ponies, and the fun that we were sure would never end.
After March 17 has come and gone, I fold up the note and tuck it away with the many others—the opportunity gone to remind a friend she is remembered in the best possible way.
I have no way of being sure where she is or even if she still “is.” Friendship is just that, a collection of the memories that are woven together to tell our complete story.
Maybe she knows that she was memory-worthy; remembers that I promised her when she moved away when we were 12, and that I meant it when I said, “I will never forget you.”
wendistewart@live.ca

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