Today is the birthday of Thelonius Monk, Giuseppi Verdi, and Helen Hayes. So, whether you're a jazz fan, an opera fan, or a silent movie fan, today is a day for celebration.
But more importantly, this is the birthday of Kitty Quigley. Kitty was my first friend, my neighbor who lived directly across the street--our driveways forked off of the same little half street.
When I turned five and went to kindergarten, my mother went back to work as a bookkeeper for a hardware store. I spent the afternoons with baby sitters from church--Mrs. Lorenze who had a chihuahua that wore green rubber boots when it rained, and Mrs. Jeffrey who lived in the country and had a gray poodle. I was stranded with Mrs. Jeffrey and her poodle for three days during the big snow of 1967.
I don't recall having friends at age five, but in 1968, Mrs. Quigley brought Kitty over to my house to introduce us, and we were best friends from that day on. When I started first grade, I waited at the Quigley's house until it was time to go to the bus stop down the street. It was there, with Kitty sitting on the floor in her pjs slurping on a bowl of Fruit Loops in front of the television, that I was introduced to Sesame Street. It was there that I had chicken noodle soup from a can, and sometimes chicken and stars.
It was in Kitty's front gravel driveway that I fell off of my bike and broke my arm. I think it may have even been Kitty's bike I fell from since I didn't get my own bike for a few years after that little accident.
It was Kitty's aggressive boxer dog Sandy who bit me on the nose so that I had to get a tetanus shot at Dr. Griffin's office. It was Kitty's brother Shawn who first gave me the nickname of Wimpy Wells (Wells being my maiden name) because I was not a fast runner--this nickname stuck with me through college, that stupid Shawn.
And it was Kitty who cried when Linda Armstrong moved in next door, giving me another friend. "She was my friend first," she said between tears when we were all fighting by my front hedge. That's when I knew how important Kitty was to me because I was so important to her.
Eventually, as happens in almost every childhood friendship, we made new friends as we went to school, growing up to become ourselves as adults. I went back to my hometown for Kitty's wedding, and I went back again a few years later for what would be my last visit when my parents sold their house to move to Georgia.
So, happy birthday to Kitty even though she's far away and living a life that does not include saltine crackers smuggled inside a clubhouse formed from lawn chairs and blankets, and even though she doesn't run wild in the neighborhood from sun up to sun down playing hide and seek with me anymore.