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Fence Post Buddies

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My friend and coworker, Tammy, likes hearing about all the love stories

and my blog. I have bad news, folks, my friend Anna got fired! (She did

not use swear words, but assertive words and mouthed off to a clerk,

another coworker wrote a report, and she is fine looking for a “better

job.”) Due to our table being less crowded and a few absences, I have

a treasure of a story to share for you!

Growing up next door to each other from elementary throughout their

childhood, teen age and young adult years, Tammy always considered

Mike, her neighbor and brother of her best friend, Mary,  a good friend.

She knew all the details of their lives, where they vacationed, when they

had a small tragedy, when they got their haircuts and lots of intricate

patterns and habits one learns from being neighbors for years. She always

knew what their family was ‘up to’ and sometimes got to tag along, since

she was the youngest and last one left of her siblings in her family at

home.

Sharing a lot of good times, laughs, playing games and hanging out,

Tammy knew Mike, she says, (at least in elementary school) “like the

back of my hand.”

Tammy and Mike’s sister, Mary, were good friends from kindergarten

on. Mike was only two years older, so he was included in their inside

playtime. He was sometimes enlisted to play the “Daddy” in their

playing house and even, when it was a cold and boring winter day,

would allow himself to be the groom “Ken” doll for Tammy’s “Barbie.”

He also was chosen to be the “tester” of new recipes, concoctions

and helper in preparing things in the kitchen. There were times,

(rare indeed), that he would help set up a tent in the dining room, lie

down on blankets and chat with the girls. In junior high school, he

allowed himself to practice dancing with the girls.

I interrupted the flow of Tammy’s story,

“Wait! Did you say he played the groom and you the bride with your

dolls? Is that why you two have never married?”

Tammy laughed, “You are going to need to listen to the WHOLE story,

Robin! There’s more to this and why we never tied the knot!”

She recommenced telling her love story to me, saying that they were

living in a housing development, where there were side by side houses,

some looking like cookie cutter editions of the others. On the other side

of Mike and Mary’s house, new neighbors moved in during their middle

school years and they were from hence forth, called the “rowdy boys.”

Mike’s personality changed, partly from his older age and mainly due

to these boys’ influence. He was suddenly choosing to use squirt guns

or even buckets of water, to soak the girls while they were playing in the

yard. The girls were “telling on Mike” more and more.

One day, while they were in seventh grade, the girls had their one piece

bathing suits on, slathered Coppertone suntan lotion and were lying on

Mary’s patio in the bright afternoon sun. All of a sudden,the girls heard

some catcalling and rude comments from the boys on the other side of

the privacy fence. Then, there were tomatoes being pummeled over

the fence, landing on the patio and one even splatting on Tammy’s chest!

This was not funny! The “pranks” were getting carried away and the joke

was not a game anymore!

Poor Mike got “told on” and got a paddling by his father that evening.

Tammy said she never heard nor knew if the rowdy boys next door to

them faced any consequences. That fall after summer ended, Mike

was told by his father to join either junior high football or consider

running. He needed to get his energy out on something more productive

than the neighbor boys, who Mike and Mary’s father called the “trouble

makers!”

Every summer for a few years, the “tomato war” was mentioned as a

poor choice for the boys, the patio even had some reddish stains that

darkened like blood stains on the concrete. It was a reminder of the

change, also, in Mike. He was from that fall on, a “jock.” His haircut

was a sign of being in sports and during the seventies, a rare sight

to be seen. He was starting to get a stubble on his chin and chest hairs,

Tammy noted.

In junior high through high school years, the neighbor girls joined

chorus, choir and later, Glee Club. They were also members of Key Club,

a Kiwanis sponsored leadership club. Mike was president when they

joined and Tammy says, “a little bit of his ‘coolness’ rubbed off on us,

too. He also was very protective of me, as well as his sister, Mary.”

The front yard metal fence that separated their yards, now tended to

be where they would lean and talk. Mike would be getting home from

sports and hopping out of his old “beater” car, would see Tammy and

shout a big “Hi!” to her. If she had been to a party or on a date, they

would chat and review their lives for a short while. She looked up to

Mike now, listened to his opinions on who was a “good guy” and

who was a “stoner,” “loser” or “not worth wasting your time on”

guy.

They also, by the time Mike was in senior year, spent time talking

about their futures, dreams, college and plans. Tammy said she never

flirted nor did Mike hint at any interest in her, other than as a friend.

Neither hinted at each other being “good dating material.”

The year Mike went off in the fall to OSU to live in a dormitory, Morrell

Tower, Tammy said they were sophomores. Mary’s family never asked

Tammy to go to see the dorm or campus. Mike was not coming home

until Thanksgiving, she felt a twinge of regret but nothing really

noticeable. Two years later, when the girls graduated, Mary had chosen

Marion Technical College to study beginning nursing courses and Tammy

entered the same place to begin studying stenography, communication

and business coursework.

One hot summer evening, Mike was coming in from a day at football

camp down in Columbus, when he saw his sister and Tammy over in

her front yard. He stopped to say, “hi!’ and noticed the girls were all fixed

up and they told him they were heading over to a local Marion bar, called

the “O.K” but it was called, “O.K. Corral.” This was in the days where

you could drink something called, “3.2 beer” and you needed to be

18 or older.

Later in life, Mike told Tammy,

“Your hair looked like burnished copper, long and brushed, halfway

down your back. I noticed it being silky and even though I would never

had told you this then, I wanted to bury my hands in that hair!”

(Hot, huh?!)

He also told Tammy years later,

“When I looked at the two of you, I always used to see ‘two sisters’ but

on that evening, I saw my sister with an attractive stranger. My heart

gave a flutter, but I did not focus too long on it. Tired, went on in,

grabbed a beer and joined my Dad on the couch watching the Indians.”

Tammy remembers, though, a different look passing over his face, she

swears she noticed! She turned to his sister, Mary, and made a smart

remark, they both rolled their eyes and giggled.

She remembers his noticing the secret words whispered about him,

actually thought that they were saying he was a sweaty mess or some

other rude comment and stomped off. Tammy remembers he slammed

the front door behind him. He doesn’t remember slamming the door,

she says.

“At this point in my life”, Tammy says, she was thinking he was a foreign

person to her, enigmatic and godlike. He was an OSU football player

and she was (in her mind) ‘only a business tech student.’

When we went off that night, for some reason I did feel more confident

and I led a much better social life that summer. Mike noticed but said

not a word!

I started to date a member of a local band, he was dark, long haired and

very sexy looking. We spent a lot of time making out, sometimes in the

front of my house. We were lucky, I felt that there were no front lights

on the garage. We had so much more in common, music since I liked

seeing, and his band. I became a “groupie” and followed him to other

towns, with Mary and her boyfriend, at the time, too.

Fast forward two years later, the guy ended up going with his band

to California along with a blonde chick he noticed in his group of fans.

Mike was home from college senior year for Christmas. He had spent

the past two summers staying around Columbus, living with groups

of male students in big, ancient houses. Mary and I never went down,

not even once, to hang out with Mike and his pals. They were happily

dating other men in their classes.

Tammy recounts, “I remember it being their turn to invite us over for

a pre-holiday meal and it was just our parents and the three of us

present. Sometimes, in the past, it was more of an Open House and

we would bring dates to each other’s houses. People in the neighborhood

would be invited. We sang Christmas carols around their upright piano,

we played games of Charades. We had an odd number of people so

it ended up the team of us “kids” versus the parents. It was joyous and

I felt so at peace, I felt like we were all family. It settled down into my

heart and I felt a little differently towards Mike over this evening.

Mike had changed, he had longer hair, he was wearing older, more

raggedy blue jeans and a cream colored sweater. I thought he looked

very handsome. He no longer looked just like a “jock” or the brother

of my best friend. I thought, “if I ran into him somewhere else I would

want to dance with him or talk to him.” She went on…

“He didn’t look like anyone I had ever dated. He looked nice, REALLY nice!

I felt ‘butterflies in my stomach’ and I could not look directly into his eyes.

I was afraid he would be able to ‘read my mind!'”

Tammy told me she felt “Oh no! I am attracted to him!”

“I saw Mike head off to his room, as we were leaving and I asked if Mary

could come spend the night.”

My parents looked at us funny, we were in technical college and it had

been years since we had had a sleepover, but said, “Fine.”

Tammy confessed she had feelings for her friend’s brother and Mary

was very excited! She confessed to Tammy that she had always hoped

they would become sisters.

Although Tammy had older siblings, she also had the same feeling

about Mary, that they were ‘lifelong friends and sisters for life.’

It took almost six more years from then, Mike moved into his own

Columbus apartment, got engaged and his heart broken.

Tammy went from one man to another, always hoping that Mike

would notice that he had feelings for her, it was very similar to that

familiar 1991 song,

“Saving the Best for Last.” (Sung by Vanessa Williams. Please listen to

those lyrics if you haven’t heard it for awhile! So appropriate to this

almost frustratingly long back and forth interplay between Mike and

Tammy!)

I also like the song, “Patience,” by Guns N Roses, that seems like it

would  apply also to this relationship.

This couple has never married but they had cosigned for a lovely

house in the country (in a place called “Big Island” in Ohio.) They

have lived under the same roof for over 24 years and next year,

they just may celebrate that 1/4 of a century with a big party.

I could not believe that Mike’s bad engagement caused him to say

he would NEVER get married!

I have my fingers crossed that at the 25th anniversary of their life

they began together may be finalized in marriage. My happily

ever after wish has been told to her on more than one occasion.

These good, steady long enduring friends, have grown up, shared

a life where their beautiful house is where their families celebrate

the holidays. They have never had children. Tammy muses,

“Maybe that might have brought Mike to his knee to ask for my

hand in marriage.”

I like to point out that old expression,

“NEVER SAY NEVER!”