The Most Beautiful Smile…
It was the summer of 1980—I’m not exactly sure what month, but it was a really good day in whatever month it was. The reason I remember that it was the summer of 1980 was because the S.O.S. Band song “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” was still playing on the radio… a lot. And I liked it… a lot. I have no idea how the ball got rolling on this outing and I guess it really doesn’t matter; the phone rang at our house on that sunny afternoon and my mother picked up the call and I could hear her talking to someone, but I had no idea to whom she was speaking. I could hear a lot of “yeses” and “OKs” and “yes, that would be just fine” before she hung up the phone. She came downstairs to tell me that a classmate’s older sister called up to see if it would be all right if she came to pick me up to go swimming at the Eastgate Colosseum. I was really puzzled as I’d never actually hung out with Debi (then “Debbie”) in an extracurricular social way even though I really enjoyed her at school.
I guess I need to go back a little farther into the past to give you some background... I’ve probably told the sad tale of being a transplant to Westwood Elementary at least a million times, so I won’t go there again, but for those who weren’t aware, there’s the news in a nutshell. Nevertheless, what I learnt pretty quickly after getting into Mrs. Thomas’s 2nd grade class was that, for some unknown reason, we weren’t supposed to like Debbie. She wasn’t in my class as I recall, but I never understood why children had issues being kind to each other. Oh, there were, of course, a variety of reasons that were given, but it was obvious that none of them were true. Quite honestly, I didn’t like the children who were cruel to others.
It wasn’t until the 6th grade that I started to get to know Debbie a little better. I really liked her and I thought she was sweet. I’d heard rumours that she’d lost a parent when she was younger and I felt sad for her. It was not long after I heard that story, that I heard she’d lost her other parent and that completely broke my heart. I never broached the subject because I just knew how I would feel if that had happened to me and I probably wouldn’t want to talk about it. Anyhow, I liked Debbie just fine no matter her situation in life.
I became even more familiar with Debbie in 7th grade. We were in a new school and all of the kids from the four elementary schools went; we were now the "big kids", going from room to room to attend classes instead of having one teacher all day. Debbie and I had an interest in art and I think we bonded a little more over that. She was good… really good and I enjoyed seeing all of the pieces she created. I suppose it must’ve been because of our slow-growing friendship that led her sister to call me up for that summer outing.
So, right! Debbie and her sisters came to pick me up and we went off to our afternoon at the pool. I remember there being lots of splashing and laughing and I recall the booming echo of our voices and the music in that enormous natatorium. I honestly can’t remember if there were many other or any other people besides us because I was deep in the moment with my friends. I was sad when the afternoon ended and I was dropped off at home. I am so thankful that Kim called up my house and invited me out for that wonderful day! Debbie and I had some art classes together in the following years and we bonded even further over our love of the television show Fame (do not judge!). Neither of us were popular, but it didn’t matter. We had our friendship and the feelings that we knew—happy, sad, angry or otherwise, were genuine and they were ours and we could share. Those feelings made us who we are and I was OK with that.
I saw Debbie a few times after high school, but she eventually moved away and we lost touch. Fortunately, I could never forget my friend and thank goodness for MySpace and then Facebook because we are still able to keep in touch and peek into each other’s lives—and it was a means of being able to find her across the miles and years!
Debi will always be “Debbie” to me and her smile is quite possibly one of the most beautiful smiles I know. I know the stories behind that smile and that is what makes it all the more beautiful to me. I recently saw a picture of Debi and that smile is still the same and the effect it has on me has also remained unchanged. I feel so blessed.
Love you dearly, Debi… even nearly 40 years later!