27 May 2020 Remembering a special friend
by Vivian Lawson Hogue
[The following is a eulogy Vivian Hogue composed and presented in 2017 in honor of her 65-year best-friendship with Carolyn Hazel Lewis. In response to special requests, she shares this edited version along with additional comments.]
A best friend means you need not worry about your shared ideas or words. He or she knows you better than you know yourself, knows what to expect from you and forgives you anyway!
In about 1952, Carolyn Lewis’s life and mine intersected at church. From the beginning, we found we had a lot in common. She had a pesky brother; I had a pesky brother. We went to church camps where we were once chased by turkeys. She wore my clothes and shoes and I wore hers. She giggled; I giggled more. Amazingly, the church allowed us both to sing in the choir and serve as acolytes.
In high school, we raced to my house after school where we watched Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” She taught me to do the “Twist” and “Fast Dance” in case a miracle occurred and I had a date. She was in the drill team; I was in the drill team. She was the Wampus Cat newspaper editor; I wrote columns and drew cartoons. She made good grades, went to Girls State, and graduated with honors. And I . . . well, I was just really proud of her.
Unfortunately, we did not go to the same college, although that was perhaps fortunate for the college. While I was elsewhere having my first dates ever, she was meeting, then marrying Joe. Sadly, I moved from Conway and was “missing in action” for several years. Circumstances and moving prevented us from communicating much. After all, long distance phone calls cost so much per minute and Carolyn’s and my conversations could never have afforded many calls. Stamps were a price-gouging 6 cents, and as with phone calls, a cheaper postcard couldn’t contain our words.
But there finally came an occasion when I was able to move back to Conway. Carolyn was the first one I called, of course, and we were struck by the realization that it was as if we had never been separated by time. By then Carolyn and Joe had their son and I had my two children. We still had our pesky brothers and still giggled, but I couldn’t wear her clothes and shoes anymore! Things in common continued, however, and when we both lost brothers, we grieved together.
We were both in a service club once that sold corn dogs at the county fair with faithful Joe at the iron kettle. He stood at the back of the small room dropping our renowned corn dogs into boiling hot peanut oil. On hot September nights, he stirred and sweated, but on cold October nights he did the same. He stopped now and then to replenish his still-secret mustard mixture. Carolyn and I stood at the counter selling the dogs-de-jour to long lines of people of every age and social level. Many said the corn dogs were the only reason they came to the fair.
Carolyn was never prepared for things I said or did anywhere at any age, so for years she laughed as she told one corn dog story. A customer, a man reeking of nicotine and looking quite disheveled and possibly “liquored up,” sauntered up to the counter and asked me if we sold cigarettes. I said, “No, we don’t sell cigarettes and you don’t need to be smoking anyway.” Joe just kept his head down and continued sweating and stirring. There are many other tales of mischief, hopefully still under statutes of limitations.
In the years I was away, and not to my surprise, Carolyn had become the best teacher her students could have ever had. She understood their varied backgrounds, abilities and personalities and gave them all equal attention with a soft voice. Her diplomacy earned her respect from students, parents and peers. She made her way to higher positions, not because of who she wanted to become, but because she loved her work and wanted to experience all aspects of education. Following the “things in common” theme, with her encouragement I became a teacher as well, although she liked the tykes and I leaned toward the teens.
In 1983, it was Carolyn that I went to with personal issues and who listened to my decision to go back to school. Her encouragement was similar to words spoken in the story, “Winnie-the-Pooh,” when Christopher Robin said to Piglet – “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
In 1991, it was she with whom I first talked about possibly dating again. She heartily approved, and the next June, she, as my matron of honor, and I giggled as we drove around town the morning of the wedding, hunting for magnolia blossoms. My own tree was lagging behind. With blossoms located, a story in itself, we then hurried to decorate the chapel at Hendrix College. Afterward, we picked up the three-tier wedding cake she had purchased, and I held it in my lap as it undulated precariously as we laughed all the way to the chapel.
I still miss my sister-friend. But there’s one more thing she and I had in common. We were both Christians and knew our separation would be temporary. Someday, probably as she laughs while holding heaven’s gates closed for a few seconds so I can’t get in, she’ll joyously fling them open and we will finally be the real sisters neither of us had.
Again, Winnie-the-Pooh said it for me: “If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart; I’ll stay there forever.”