Traditionally, women have been uprooted from family to follow their husbands’ careers, though that may have changed today, back in the 50s it was the norm. Women welcomed one another to town and friendships solidified over back porch chats, coffee clutches and church circles. There is no greater testimony to friendship than my mom, Lenore, and Shirley DeJarnatt, who have been BFF ever since they met half a century ago.
They met when my folks moved to Sterling and they have been friends ever since. Like sisters they talk on the phone almost every day and stop over at one another’s homes to drop by this or that just to chat. They have shared hundreds of meals, thousands of cups of coffee, and millions of stories.
When my mom was leaving the hospital with her newborn, Shirley was arriving to have her first girl. Born just days apart, naturally, those girls, Karen and Michelle, went to become friends to this day even though they now live 400 miles apart.
Shirley raised 3 boys and a girl, whereas my mom had 3 girls and boy. As kids we shared hand me downs and potluck dinners. My first bike used to be Barry’s and I coveted Mark’s fringed, cowboy vest that he finally outgrew so that I could inherit. Eating at DJ’s house was a special treat because they had a “cow machine” where milk squirted out of the spigots and they served homemade ice cream from the hand turned buckets.
When we were in high school, my sister was hired to clean the DJ’s house and Shirley was always calling to ask where Susie put the frying pan, the hair dryer or the phone book.
In later years, long after Shirley’s mom had passed away, she adopted my grandma when Grandma moved from the east coast to live in Sterling. When my mom was out of town, Shirley would check in on Gram Olson and take her to lunch or give her a ride to church.
Whenever my parents returned from long trips, Shirley would fill their refrigerator with groceries, so they wouldn’t have to run out and shop. And oh no, it was not just any ol’ store bought stuff, but extra special treats, homemade chili and BBQ, banana bread and blueberry pie.
When Shirley’s beloved husband, Carson, died, my folks were there holding her hand, helping her let go and staying by her side through the lonely days to follow.
To my own children she became known as the Bear Lady. During Christmas holidays, we visited Shirley’s beautiful home to see her teddy bear collection. Though Shirley had her own 10 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren, ever so generous, she spoiled my kids too bringing them books and Beanie Babies on their trips to Sterling.
For over a half a century, they belonged to same church where Shirley directed and my mom played the chimes. Both kindergarten teachers, married to high school teachers/coaches, they had so much in common especially kindness. It would be a toss up to determine who was more thoughtful.
During every celebration or setback, birth, or death just like sisters, they have been there for each other to share in the joy or heartache and endure whatever life threw their way. Divided by two, no problem was insurmountable.
Happy Mother’s Day to two wonderful moms and BFFs