By Tiana Leonard
On summer mornings in Peterborough the insistent whine of the sprayer would start our morning ritual. Our bare feet squishing in the dew soaked grass, Deedie and I would gorge on mulberries from the tree outside our bedroom. Later, still barefoot, we would walk down between the apple orchards to get the mail, eating wild raspberries and blackberries and playing in the sawdust piles remaining from the New Hampshire hurricane of ‘38.
Deedie was my obsession from the time I was three months old. My mother always said it was as if lightning had struck when Deedie dropped into my play pen. We became constant companions. Deedie had long wavy blonde hair that fell to her waist. I would brush it out by the hour, stimulating a life long envy of curls. This attachment was brutally sundered when we moved from Brookline, Mass., to Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. I was inconsolable. With her characteristic hyperbole, my mother later reported that I “cried every night for a year”. My behavior was so traumatizing that in order to avoid a repetition when we moved to the next village, my parents paid out of town tuition till I finished high school, nine years later.
The unfortunate consequence of this indulgent parental behavior was physical and social isolation from my schoolmates. None lived close enough to me for informal play dates after school. I retreated to my room in the attic, where maps covered the eaves and doll clothes filled two bureau drawers. I spent most of my time reading. My one brother and I didn’t play together, so I didn’t develop socially. Before going to sleep I dreamed of being a universally loved Commander of all the Armies but my only experience of the kind of give and take that trains a good leader or even a good follower was during the brief periods with Deedie in the summer. Luckily for both of us she had a will of iron and I never convinced her to accept second in command. I can remember wheedling “We’re really equal but can’t I be just a little bit better?” To no avail.
A second thunderbolt struck when my father announced that Deedie’s family was moving to Seattle. I can still feel the ache that opened up in my heart. Before the days of jet travel, Seattle was as far away as Siberia. Nevertheless, she remained “my best friend” and served as my maid of honor even though we went to different colleges and married men who did not like each other. After the wedding, she moved back to Seattle and I didn’t see or hear from her for twenty years. I was divorced and living in Florida when Deedie dropped back into my life. She wrote that she was now living in Washington DC and her approaching 40th birthday had started her thinking of old times. Because I was on a committee that frequently met in Washington we were able to see each other the next month.
After my double take at her short wavy gray hair (I still have my childhood brown bangs) we opened our mouths and the twenty years vanished. We jabbered on and on and 35 years later we are still best friends. Following my life path, she was later abandoned by her husband and much later found an immensely supportive and compatible widower. By an odd coincidence, he also loved Peterborough because it was his first wife’s summer home. So we now spend frequent weekends there, poring over photograph albums and wandering the lanes. Sadly, the apple orchards, raspberries, and sawdust piles are only memories.