I played at Peggy’s house most of the time, or any other neighbour’s house for that matter. I’m trying hard to think of my friends playing at my house and I can’t remember that. It was only my brother, sister and I at our house but we had the run of the Woodlawn neighbourhood that we rode our bikes through as if it was our world. And it was. We would meet up “in the field by Peanut Butter Hill” the dip that bucked us off our bikes regularly and we would ride through the scotch broom listening to the snap and pop of the seed pods spitting at us.
Peggy’s house was fun because in the garage was a real 1950’s soda fountain. Her Dad bought it from someplace and it was unloaded in the garage to sit there in semi darkness for at least the six years of my best friendship with Peggy. I don’t know why he had it or when he got it but there it was. The soda fountain had everything from lift up compartments, to soda dispensing spigots, even the long spoons and milkshake cups were there. It was the very best play kitchen you can imagine. It even still had some fruit and chocolate in the lift up containers that we mixed into weird concoctions that sold to pretend customers for pretend money. After a very tentative taste test we didn’t eat any of the gummy thick cherries or chocolate, or maybe her parents told us not to. In any event it was for pretend only like the mud pies we made.
The tall two-story house sat back from the road behind a secret-keeping laurel hedge. It was a quiet house with a kitchen that always seemed a little dark and very tall with cupboards going to the ceiling.
Peggy’s Mom gave us long dirndle skirts to wear for dress-up as we worked in our soda fountain. My skirt was a brown paisley print that drug in the dirt of the driveway but her Mom never minded that I got it dirty. I remember her Mom as a shadow giving us the clothes and then vanishing to someplace in the house. I can’t imagine her Mom ever wearing those twirly skirts.
Peggy’s sister wasn’t right. She wasn’t wrong, but she just wasn’t right. It was never talked about. Her sister was way bigger than we were, towering over us. I saw her in the kitchen a few times as she lumbered through the doorway into the other room. She wasn’t scary, just big and different and I think a lot older than us, but she didn’t go to school either. She was a mystery to me as questions were answered with short whispers about her. The house was so quiet always, I wondered what she did all day. She never was outside with us in those days of go outside and play until we were called home at suppertime.
Peggy and I went to different schools for a couple of years and then were joined again in the mix of high school. Even though we were both in band, me with flute and her with clarinet, our paths had taken different directions and the soda fountain friendship we had melted away like ice cream left out on the counter. The essence of a shared time was there, but we had some growing up years in between that had changed us.
It’s funny, how memory works; I can’t remember Peggy’s face, but I can remember her sister’s.