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Friday, 13 April 2012

Remembering Childhood Friends

By Dani Ferguson Phillips of The Cataract Club

Different people have different definitions of friendship. For some, it is the trust in an individual that he/she won't hurt you. For others, it is unconditional love.

There are some who feel that friendship is companionship. People form definitions based on the kind of experiences they have had.

They say a person who has found a faithful friend has found a priceless treasure. I found just such a treasure in the summer of 1957, when I was eight years old and the summer Karma Ann Hulslander moved on the block.

I don't remember meeting her; it's as if one day she just appeared and became my best friend. Karma was the original Pippy Longstocking. She moved to Oklahoma with her mom, sister Arta and baby brother Kenny while her dad remained in Colorado to run their ranch.

Karma's mother had a dream of becoming a doctor so she and the kids moved here so she could attend the University of Oklahoma. Mrs. Hulslander was about 4 feet 11 inches tall and she was as round as she was tall. Both Karma and Arta towered over their mother and baby Kenny wasn't far behind.

Karma was the first tomboy I ever knew. She wore boys' jeans and cowboy boots when she bothered to wear shoes at all. Her long brown hair was worn in a ponytail and her face was covered in brownish red freckles.

She was like a magnet and I was drawn to her instantly. Karma had an unending imagination and being with her was always a new adventure. She was the Lone Ranger and I was her faithful companion, Tonto.

Karma and I couldn’t have been more different. She was fiercely independent, could hold her own with any boy and was what my daddy referred too as “tough as a boot.” I on the other hand was a timid, insecure, sissy girl.

I wanted to be brave and daring but it just wasn’t in my nature. I was a peacemaker at heart and avoided confrontation at any cost. Just being with Karma made me believe I too could be brave and daring even if it was only wishful thinking.

To earn spending money, Karma collected pop bottles. She received 2 cents a bottle and she would hike all over the university campus picking up bottles and trading them in for money to purchase little wooden animals from Dee's gift shop.

Karma would have rather played with those little animals than any old doll. One Christmas, her dad built her a doll house complete with electric lights but it was never used to house a Barbie or any other doll for that matter. Karma's prized animals were the happy homeowners.

One summer, Karma's dad built a playhouse in their back yard but Karma insisted it was not a playhouse but a ranch. No matter what name it was given it was a really great place to play.

We made dishes out of mud and even had running water after Karma found an old enema bag and hung it from the chimney of the barbeque grill.

One night we decided to play hide 'n' seek and the ranch house was home base. Everyone took off to hide and my brother Mike climbed up into Hulslander's attic. He probably would never have been found if he hadn't fallen through their living room ceiling.

Mr. Hulslander was sitting in the living room when Mike's legs came crashing through the ceiling. There he was, dangling above Mr. Hulslander's head and the game was over.

Karma's mom never got accepted to medical school. In the 1950s, it was very hard for women to get admitted plus she was older than most of the other students and considered a bad risk. She did go on to pharmacy school and after her graduation the whole family moved back to Colorado.

Karma would come back in the summers to visit riding the bus from Colorado to Oklahoma all by herself. One summer when I was 12 years old, I went back to Colorado with her on the bus. To this day I can't believe my mother let me go and she never would have if I had been with anyone other than resourceful Karma.

She was a wise old soul in a 12-year-old body who made us all wish to be Peter Pan and remain children forever.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a lovely story. Whatever became of Karma, do you know?

I've actually been trying to find her again and I think I may have located her brother. We were in our mid-twenties the last time I saw her and she had developed a serious heart condition so I am nervous about what I might learn.

So many of our past "friends" have disappeared; maybe they weren't really "true friends". I hope you find yours for sounds like you had some rip-roaring times together.

Great story! Now, I will try harder to find my favorite friend June, who has disappeared with an unknown married name...sad for both of us.

Wonderful story, Dani.

I hope the connection you think you may have made with her brother will lead to you Karma.

And ,if you do find her, I hope she is in good health so you can be friends again for many more years.

I am so blessed in that my first true friend is still living at 80, and I am 76. We're not next-door neighbors anymore; however, we're still in touch several times a year. She still sounds 16 on the telephone!

I really love that you shared this story of friendship. I do not have contact with many of my childhood friends, but the ones that I am still connected with are quite special.

That story so reminded me of my friendship with Tami. I was always the rough and tumble one, and she always had to wear a long towel on her head to play that she had long beautiful hair. We still laugh at all of our escapades. Please let us know if you find Karma. Thanks for sharing.

Great piece, brought back many memories of childhood friends from west side Manhattan..the area was torn down for Lincoln Center in late 50s and folks scattered as far away as NJ and Queens..if you lived IN THE CITY, those destinations were far away..I kept my two closest friends close, even though our lives were utterly changed in many ways..keeping up birthday and christmas cards was one method..Now we are old ladies and when together, it is as if 60/70 years are wiped away..thanks for sharing..

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