Paula and I met in the first grade. Since her
last name was Brent and mine was Berneathy, she sat
behind me. We were both shy and had nothing to say
to each other until the day she asked to borrow my
We lived in a small town in southern Oklahoma
where money was scarce, and my six-inch red plastic
ruler was a valued possession. Reluctantly, I loaned
it to Paula--and she kept it for too long, or so it
seemed to me. I turned around to take it back, but
Paula wasn't through with it. I grabbed, she held
on...the ruler broke.
I cried. She cried. I blamed her, and she
And, in the manner of six-year olds, from
that day forward, we were inseparable, the best of
As the years passed, we spent many nights at
each other's houses, whispering the night away about
our plans for the future. We were going to move to a
big city and be room-mates in a gorgeous apartment.
I would be a writer, and she would be an artist. She
would illustrate my books, and we would both be rich
and famous. When we were older, probably around
twenty-five, we would marry and live next door to
each other and be
each other's children.
When we were ten years old, we saw an episode
of "Lassie" in which Timmy and his friend pricked
their fingers and became blood brothers. Paula came
home with me the next evening. We dug a hole in the
hard earth out behind my family's weathered old
barn, took a thorn from the locust tree and pricked
our thumbs, joining our blood. We buried the thorn,
each adding an item we prized, as the friends on
"Lassie" had done. Paula contributed her dime-store
set of water colors, and I added a paper back book.
Our most valuable possessions--but not as valuable
as our friendship.
Then life intruded. When we were fourteen,
Paula's father took a job in Dallas. Their last stop
on the way out of town was my house. I stood in
middle of the dirt road, waving and crying while
Paula looked out the back window of the car, waving
Still we stayed in touch, writing letters
regularly. Still we planned. As we neared high
school graduation, we swore that we'd move to
Oklahoma City and get that apartment together.
But Paula got married and had a baby. I
married, too, and convinced my husband to move to
Dallas. For years our friendship continued even
though our dreams had fallen by the wayside. Paula
became a nurse, and I a legal secretary. I wrote
short stories and poems and shared them with her,
and she painted me a picture of the old barn where
our thorn lay buried.
The years flew by. Then while we were both
going through divorces, during the confusion and
turmoil, we lost touch. Paula moved, changed jobs,
remarried, got a new name and phone number.
I remarried and moved to Kansas City, but I
didn't know how to reach Paula to tell her. When my
new husband and I bought a house, I hung her picture
of our barn over my bed and wondered if I'd ever
again see her. Her parents were both dead, and my
mother was becoming senile, rarely remembering my
phone number or address. Short of hiring a
detective, I didn't know how I would ever find my
Often I looked at the picture, thought of my friend
and wondered if I'd ever see her again.
But behind the scenes, the magic spell of
that thorn was working. Our childish sacrifices of
prized possessions must have touched some angel's
Several years later I got a phone call and
heard a familiar voice.
"Do you know who this is?"
Of course I knew. I cried. She cried.
She told me that she'd called my mother twice
and been given wrong phone numbers both times. She'd
almost given up, but decided to try one more
time...and caught my mother in a rare moment of
Now Paula's back in Oklahoma, and I live in
Missouri. We see each other every summer and call
each other regularly.
During the years we'd lost touch, she had
another, unexpected, child...a girl, named after me.
A girl who calls me "Aunt."