My Friend Carol

The Molloys were already ensconced in the house next door to us on Newton Crescent when we first arrived in Deep River in 1960. Inexplicably, since there was no lack of land to develop, we shared a double driveway and a semi-detached garage between our pre-fab bungalows, such that the middle wall bisected the official-unofficial dividing line for the mutual driveway.

I don’t think Mr. Molloy went hunting with my dad but other dads did, which led, for at least one time that I remember, to a dead deer hanging from the rafters of our garage, doing whatever dead deer do before they get converted to the more socially acceptable incarnation of venison. The deer did its dead thing while our white Valiant station wagon held court on the righthand side of the mutual drive, and Mr. Molloy’s brown Valiant sedan minded its own business on the left side. The Plymouth Valiant was apparently having fifteen minutes of fame at this particular time in the mid-1960s.

Carol and I were the same age. And as next-door kids do, we hung out, since because we were five years old, crossing the street of our quiet Crescent seemed as vast as crossing a six-lane highway. The first time Carol and I got in big trouble was when we dawdled on the way to school in Grade 1, and decided (possibly aided and abetted by me), it was too late to go to class. Instead, we walked back home and settled in at Carol’s house to watch The Friendly Giant and Chez Helene. Our mothers were doing something else. Probably curling.

As we got older, we expanded our universe to the many girls on our street. We whiled our time playing Barbie and discussing which Beatle we were going to marry. It didn’t matter if any of them were already married and there was always a big argument over who got dibs on Paul, and who was going to be stuck with Ringo (again). Only one Beatle per person. As a testament to the wholesome influence of Barbie, we never discussed which one of the Rolling Stones we were going to run away with.

Carol’s family moved away in 1967 because her dad transferred to a job at AECL in Oakville, Ontario. Way, way to the south of our Deep River enclave. But in 1968, Carol invited me to visit her at her new house, and I got to take the six-hour bus ride to Toronto on my very own self. When I got there, we were able to listen to all the hits on the radio that Southern Ontario was somehow able to deliver without static:  The Box Tops singing “The Letter,” Steppenwolf singing “Born to be Wild,” and Ohio Express singing “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy.”

After that, I didn’t meet up with Carol again until first year at Waterloo. I have no idea how we managed this, because it was way before the cellphone could even have imagined its existence. I think what we had instead was the mother-jungle-drums. We connected briefly, but in the way of all things when you are off on an adventure of life far removed from preteen relationships, we drifted apart.

Last month, Carol, who had been incapacitated from a brain disease for some time, died. Carol, may your Barbie marry whomever she wants. Even Keith Richards.

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