If I had to pick one decade that truly worked out well for me it would be the nineteen eighties. I was still cute and energetic and filled with reachable goals. I had finally understood that I was born to be a mom and a teacher, so I enjoyed every moment of every single day. All of my dearest friends were healthy and alive, and I had a calendar filled with engagements that kept me laughing and loved. My mama and my in-laws were just entering their sixties and seemed destined for many more years of good times with me and my husband and girls. My children were old enough to be more and more independent and together we had so much fun. Life was so idyllic that it came very close to perfection and fooled me into believing that it would always be that way.
The eighties were when we went on camping vacations with our big canvas tent that sheltered us from rain and cold and critters walking through our site at night. We were all strong enough to hike for miles on treacherous trails that allowed us to discover breathtakingly enchanting views. We cooked and ate under the sky and told stories by a fire. We read and shared books on the long drives to places like Montana. We needed little more than a nylon bag with a few changes of clothes rolled up inside to be on our way.
During the eighties I worked at a church and then in schools. I hit my stride in terms of confidence and always felt good about myself. I expanded my knowledge of the world with my friend Pat by my side. She introduced me to places and ideas that I had never before encountered even though they existed in my hometown. She was the big sister that I had always dreamed of having and we had such a jolly good time along with our children who became like siblings.
We often went to see our friends Egon and Marita who were almost exotic in my eyes. Egon was from Germany, but he also had relatives in Norway. He spoke multiple languages fluently and his English was impeccable. Nobody would have suspected that he grew up in Germany. Marita was from Chicago and had a kind of Midwestern accent and outlook on life and politics. They both became members of our extended family, never missing a birthday or holiday tradition that we hosted. My children thought of them as their uncle and aunt.
My children grew into teens with my friend, Linda, and her boys. We fit together like we were made for each other. The kids learned to swim with the same teacher. We all cheered for the Houston Cougars at parties where our children created games and shows. We had a tradition of taking an hour to actually leave once we had announced our good-byes.
We lived in a wonderful house that we renovated and expanded to better meet our needs. It became almost custom built after all of the work was done. We loved our neighborhood and our neighbors who were the best people anyone might ever be lucky enough to have nearby. Bob and Carol and Dave and Betty looked after us and taught us how to be better people by example. We always felt safe and secure living near them.
I never considered the changes that were to come after the nineteen eighties. My daughters went off to college one at a time. Eventually they married and moved away. Linda relocated for awhile in California. My neighborhood began to change while Bob and Carol and Dave and Betty showed signs of growing old. Over time i began to lose people one by one. First Egon died and then my mother-in-law. We moved to a new house in a new neighborhood near my friend Pat. At first we had just as much fun as ever together but then Pat developed cancer. She defeated it in the first round, but when it came back again she succumbed to its invasion of her body.
Carol, then Dave, then Betty, then Bob died. Marita died too. Soon it was my mother’s time to leave us. My husband and I retired from our jobs. We still took vacations, but no longer in a tent. It was too uncomfortable sleeping on the ground. We flew around and stayed in hotels. We purchased a trailer to use when we needed a dash of nature. We didn’t take those challenging hikes anymore. Life is different now, but it goes on. I have adjusted to the new normal even as I quietly miss the people who brought me so much joy in the past. I am experiencing the inevitable circling of life. These days I most enjoy spending time with my grandchildren who are all grown up.
I still have friends like Jenny and Eric, Adriana and Tim, Dickie and Tim, Millie and Dustin, Chrystal, Aimee and Tricia. Most of them are younger than I am, but wonderful nonetheless. Linda is still as faithful as ever and I take joy in seeing how great her sons have become. Covid stalled out many of my relationships but I am slowly piecing them back together. A dear friend Nancy will soon be moving back to town after being away for decades. I have rediscovered Kathy, a neighbor from my childhood. I have forged new friendships with my newer neighbors and with Dee and Stephany from my high school days. My father-in-law presently lives with me and my husband. I can pour out the secrets of my heart to my sister cousin, Ingrid. A new Carol calls me all the time to be certain that I am doing well. I teach mathematics three mornings a week. Life is still good, just different.
I know that I am blessed, but I cannot help but think of the golden years of the nineteen eighties. I am older wiser and grateful for that time when it felt as though I had reached perfection in my life, the days when Pat would call and tell me to put on my shoes because we were going on an adventure. I can still hear my mother driving up to my house and honking the horn because she was ready to go shopping or to visit the beach. I can feel the warmth of the hot tea that my mother-in-law made to accompany the incredible conversations that would ensue. I see myself sitting in my front yard with Bob and Carol and Dave and Betty and I am so thankful that I had the privilege of knowing them. I truly became the person I am today with the help of them all. Those eighties really were fabulous!