This isn't a story about Hugh Hefner's first girlfriend. Sorry. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with bushy tails and bunny ears. Instead, its about one my first friendships as a little girl, a friendship, howbeit unusual, but a real one nontheless.
When I was around three years of age, my Dad transferred from Fairbanks, Alaska to a small town with a population somewhere in the low hundreds. Oddly enough, the town was called Millennium....spelled exactly that way. In a community that tiny, one becomes friendly with pretty much everyone. That, combined with the fact that there weren't too many residents meant that sometimes relationships formed between the most unlikely folks. That's how I met Texanna.
My father, being the minister at the local church, sometimes had duties that required him to ask a member of the congregation to babysit me for a few hours. Miss Clyde just happened to be one of my favorite sitters. Miss Clyde was in her eighties and lived on a large sprawling slice of land that was not short on having trees to climb. Most of her trees grew varieties of fruits and nuts, so I was never lacking for snacks. She also had several barns and lean-tos which made for awesome places in which to play house, school, or any of the other pretend fantasies a little girl has at that age.
Miss Clyde also happened to have a daughter, a woman in her sixties who had Downs Syndrome. Texanna was tall, but I'm not sure if that's just because between the ages of three and seven, I was short. At any rate, I also knew that Texanna was old, way older than my mom even. I didn't know what Down's Syndrome was back then, but, as I got older, it was explained to me that she was, well, different...she was retarded. Thats the word that was used. I didn't need anyone to "tell" me Texanna was different. I mean, there were lots of old ladies in my church,but none of the others played dolls with me.
So it was that during the six years that we lived in that small town, at least twice a month, I would be dropped off at Miss Clyde's house. Texanna and I would have tea parties, with Miss Clydye supplying the tea, crackers and some of the best homemade jams and jellies that I've had to this day. Sometimes Texanna would get mad at me. I don't recall if I ever did anything to provoke her anger, but regardless, she had a temper. THAT, I recall. I also recall the painful stings that would result from the occasional slap courtesy of Texanna. She loved to play and use her imagination just like a little girl, but when she lashed out at me in anger, it was worse than any spanking I could have ever gotten at home. Of course, I'd tattle to Miss Clyde, and Texanna would get a good scolding and then she'd sob....yes sob. I usually felt guilty for tattling, but alas, that's what little girls do.
Our family moved the summer before I started third grade. Sometimes we'd go back to Millennium for visits, but at some point, I think I became embarrassed that I had friend who was retarded. I also was growing up and Texanna no longer really seemed to know who I was. Eventually, as is the unfortunate end to friendships that we don't nurture, it died. And, eventually, so did Texanna.
Over the years, my Dad remained in contact with their family. He explained to me that Miss Clyde prayed daily and asked God to allow her to outlive Tex....she didnt want her to have to be moved away to a home, somewhere outside of her comfort zone of over sixty-five years. God heard Miss Clyde and answered. Texanna passed away just shy of her 70th birthday, and not three months later, her mom followed behind, watching over her in death just as she had in life.