I was born in a large town in MA (it technically should be a city but isn't, and I have no idea why) and the first real house I remember is a two-family on the south side of town. It was an old Victorian-style house that had been renovated to be a two-family and was the color of peach ice cream.
The house next door, also an old converted two-family, was where the T. Family lived. The first friend that I can remember any concrete details about is Nicole T. She and I went to different schools, her to the local public school and I to the private Catholic school in our neighborhood. She was the youngest sibling in the family, and her family was quite strange. Actually, to use an old fashioned word, her brothers and sister were a bunch of hoodlums. Her parents, as I found out many years later, were divorced but they still lived together. Her father spent a lot of time outside, sitting in the family boat and drinking beer. (Yep....classy AND sad.) Anyway, I loved playing with Nicole because we could get away with murder at her house, because her parents didn't give a crap what we did. We would eat candy for lunch and watch all kinds of bad TV at her house, until one of her brothers or father would kick us out to go back to my house. We got in trouble a lot, Trouble with a capital T. I'm pretty sure it was her idea for us to paint our nails while my mom was on the phone. Did I mention that we did this with black sharpies?? We would play in my backyard for hours, in the winter we would sled down this "hill" that had an abrupt ending. It used to hurt but I'd play anyway. We'd ride our bikes all over the neighborhood. This was a different era, when it was perfectly acceptable to take off on your bike and be gone for an hour. One of the scariest memories I have is with her was playing with her and her brother Andy on an icy creek and I fell in. I don't think the water was that deep, but for a seven-year old girl it was terrifying.
Anyway, my parents sold that house and we moved twelve miles away to a new town in 1984. I hung up my school uniforms and attended the local public school. Nicole came to visit me once. After that, we became pen pals but that dried up after about a year. And I never heard from her again, though I never forgot her.
A few years ago, my mom told me that she had been reading the paper and came across Nicole's obituary. She passed away at the age of 33, leaving two children. There were no specifics, no cause of death. From the way that the obituary reads, it sounded like she had been a single mom. My heart broke for her, and for her two kids. I often wonder what life would've been like if we had stayed in that house, and if we had remained friends. I probably would be a very different person with her influence. I'll never know though, so I will continue to remember fondly the little girl that I drew Princess pictures with, rode bikes with and stirred up a heap of trouble at such a young age. And I think about her two kids who lost their mom way too soon. Rest in Peace, Nicky.