So, it's 1956 and my family and I have just returned from Morocco where Dad had been stationed at the French-American airbase for 2.5 years...where to next? Mysteriously, Dad's next duty station was a land-locked Ashland, Kentucky! No oceans anywhere in sight. (We did have a pond in the back of the house, but I don't think the Navy built anything that would fit on it.) Dad had just made Chief and he ran the little recruiting office in Ashland for about 2 years...we, however, lived in a small rental on Clark Street at the end of Center St in a small suburb called Flatwoods. (I'm not making this up, folks.) The population in 2008 was about 9000. You can imagine what it was in 1956!
I attended grammar school in Russell at the Advance School pictured above. And, during 4th grade at that school, I met Sharon George. We weren't really close friends at the time, and if I had stayed there, who knows if we would have been more than acquaintances. No, I moved in 1959 to California--the land of movie stars, riches, and palm trees. I was quite popular in Flatwoods (Sharon lived in Flatwoods, too) when word got out that I was moving to California. We all thought that meant you would see and meet celebrities every day! So, when I moved away I took the names and addresses of dozens of potential pen pals. My pen-pal plate was full.
Sharon was one of those pen pals...and she's the only one that stuck. We wrote letters to one another for 40 years. She and I commiserated about family and jobs and men. Mostly about men. We got each other through college and marriages. At some point we started to add phone calls to the letters, but the letters continued. Sharon had the most beautiful handwriting I had ever seen. She and I read the same books, saw the same movies, had the same taste in both. We shared so much and all with 2300 miles between us. In time, the letters tapered off and were replaced by phone calls, but every once in awhile, a letter would appear. Mostly from her to me...and I loved every single one of them.
I don't know for sure when I made my first visit back to ol' Kentuck, but I think it was the year my daughter, Connie, graduated from 6th grade. That would have been 1980. We took a cross-country drive and stopped a night with Sharon. For the next 20 years, our letters and calls were punctuated by occasional visits. She came to San Diego once and we drove up to San Francisco so we could share that great city and some enchanting hours in the City Lights Bookstore. One year, after the STC Conference in Cincinnati (1999), I drove down to visit her. She was living in Lexington, working on a horse farm named Buckram Oak Farm owned by Mahmud Fustok, a brother-in-law to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. Now, that was an experience! Anyway, soon after that, both of our lives got in our way. I changed jobs, got laid off, lost my mom, and did all the things I did to relocate to San Diego. She left Lexington when Fustok sold the farm and went to work for him in Florida where he owned another farm. Soon thereafter, Fustok was killed in a freak accident, Sharon's parents got ill, and she got thyroid cancer. She left Florida and returned to Kentucky. But the damage was done. Years had slipped by and we lost touch. I tried to find her by Googling, but never stuck with it. I even tried to convince my daughter to use the FBI tools to find her (no such luck--Connie is a stickler for the rules!).
But today I found her. I used Intelius and paid a little fee to get info about her. I called the number they provided, but it was disconnected. Then--you'll never believe this--I called directory assistance! I guessed that she might be in Lexington (Intellius said she was), and she was!
Life is good.