Through Any Given Door

1.39 Brusha, brusha, brusha …


Late 1940s • Sonora ~ Lorna Harrington, Betty’s best friend since kindergarten, was unusually shy. My sister took her under her wing from the beginning, and as birds-of-a-feather they flew everywhere together. Betty saw no reason why she and Lorna shouldn’t participate in all camp activities and school events. Even in their fifth grade production about famous people of the world, it took a lot of fuss to get Lorna to step forward and say her one line. Betty was the narrator, holding all the parts together with a great memory and a gift for speaking. Throughout their whole friendship Betty included Lorna in all her plans and did the talking for both of them. My sister wasn’t afraid to speak her mind to anyone, anytime, anywhere, and could talk adults into or out of about anything. Lorna was in awe of Betty, struck by her fearlessness and her audacity; she wanted to be bold like my sister.

Wood’s Creek

Swinging her legs over the porch rail and jumping down (rather than using the steps), Betty raced to Lorna’s and they’d be off for the day. They trudged miles upstream to catch giant leopard frogs in the creek then toted them home in gunnysacks tossed over their shoulders, selling them to the Sonora Inn for fried frogs’ legs: 50 cents a frog. They had tea parties in tiny secret hideaways carved inside the row of hedges lining the back yard. They skated the streets, hiked the hills, and dared each other to climb rock walls, wood fences, and tall trees. As the sidewalks all over town were fractured from tree-roots, the only good place to skate was in front of the courthouse; the girls were forever being chased off during business hours. Hand-in-hand, they skipped along the cracked sidewalks, Lorna hanging onto her glasses, singing radio jingles off-key at the top of their lungs: Brusha, brusha, brusha, get the new Ipana….

St. Patrick’s

A pair of mini-tornados, they whirled up one side of Washington Street and zipped down the other, poking their head in every store, peering down each byway, and peeking in all the tavern windows to see what was going on. On Saturdays they flew up the steep steps of St. Patrick’s and in cahoots slipped into the silent and empty church. While Betty sifted through the religious tracts standing upright in the wood rack, Lorna stood lookout at the sanctuary entrance doors; her parents were atheists. Betty culled the pamphlets; all the ones not in accordance with her views she tossed in a trash can conveniently located right next to the rack. She felt there was no need for people to be squandering their time reading dogma and doctrine that was just plain wrong. One late Saturday afternoon, as this had been going on for a while, the parish priest was lying in wait and caught the pair of little heathens.

“Unless you two are here for Mass,” he barked, “you are not welcome in this church.”

They didn’t care. Cackling, the duo flew down the stone steps and gusted over to Elsbree’s Cigar Store to hide in the magazine bin and read the comic books.

Lorna’s house

Spending hours under the oak in the vacant lot across from Lorna’s house, Betty and Lorna told stories, read books, and studied the dictionary from cover to cover, testing each other until they knew the meaning and origin of every word from aardvark to zoology. The two fast friends collected weird and wonderful words like other kids collected bubble gum cards. My sister was a walking encyclopedia; she knew just about everything, and what she didn’t know, she made up; she always sounded so accurate. If Lorna ever wanted to know something, she knew Betty would have the answer.

to be continued …

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. I’d love to know what happened to Lorna!

  2. Perhaps I am being entirely mistaken and fanciful and off by a long shot, but I’m wondering if back when people had more urgent things on their mind like basic survival and didn’t have so much time on their hands and advanced technology to monitor every last thought, word and action of everyone and to micro-manage every last aspect of every single minute of everyone’s day, perhaps there was at least a modicum more personal freedom, at least when no one was looking for a minute or two, which seems less and less a possibility now before even relatively innocuous behavior is observed and recorded and admonished and blathered all around.

    I may be entirely wrong, but if I am please just leave me sublimely deluded that in the past one might have been able to be oneself for one brief shining moment before being caught out and stopped in one’s tracks like Betty enentually was by Father Gilmartin, without having been instantaneously monitored by a sanctuary webcam from day one in her anti-evangelical pamphlet reduction efforts.

    Go Betty!

  3. Jim Chatfield says:

    Cathy, as always I really enjoyed the story of your sister and friend. What a memory those two must have had.

  4. Thank you for another great read. I love your stories. Keep on writing. My late mother-in-law had great stories and I am sad that we didn’t record them.

  5. Oh the days in a small town where you roamed where ever you wanted without adult supervision. Thank you for another great read.

  6. Susan Davidson Dalberg says:

    I’m with Ruth–ready to make stuff up! LOL Thanks for sharing, Catherine!

  7. Ruth Finneman Christenson says:

    So far, I haven’t been able to come up with anything like the family stories that you write about. Guess I’ll just have to make them up. Ruth C.

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