The fine line between family and friends

By Vivian Lawson Hogue

I was my own best friend for a lot of my childhood days. My mother and I were the only females in our family of seven. The neighborhood youngsters were comprised of three girls and 10 boys. The other two young women were close friends and often together, so I entertained myself. The advantage to that was I didn’t argue or fight with myself. I was always right, and always had my own back!

I played with roly-polies and salamanders and often planted seeds my dad wished I hadn’t. I looked for the elusive four-leaf clovers, made clover “jewelry,” imagined fairies dancing on the roof, contemplated clouds and made mud pies. I was a volunteer caretaker of two rabbits and two Rhode Island Red chickens. I did drawings, read and roller-skated. I was recently reunited with one of my skates when a plumber handed it to me from under the house. Now I know where my brother, Noel, threw it and wouldn’t tell me where. When I get to heaven, I will ask the Lord to stand by while Noel explains himself.

My first actual friend became my best friend around the fourth grade. Carolyn Hazel (Lewis) lived on a gravelly Route No. 2 (now College Avenue extended), and I lived in Old Conway. We went to the same church, sang in the same choir, wore each other’s shoes, and had the same gripes about brothers. The only time she broke my heart was when she passed away. My final sentence written for her eulogy was, “Someday, probably after she laughs while holding heaven’s gates closed for a few seconds so I can’t get in, we will finally be real sisters.”

Come to think of it, friends over my lifetime have been quite diverse. Eleanor Opitz, who wore about a size 0 clothing, could sit down and excitedly rattle off the businesses and locations that were once in the real Old Downtown Conway.  Fortunately, I saved one of those conversations on paper. Eleanor never ran out of energy or opinions. For example, the city was preparing to extend Main Street to the west across the railroad tracks, having already torn down the historic train depot. She was justified in being miffed about that and vowed she would never use Main Street again. She kept her word.

The late J.C. Noggle of Vilonia became a friend after he read my dad’s obituary and discovered they had worked together. He invited my husband and me to lunch one day. His wife had died recently, so he was the cook. I expected simplicity, but he prepared an outstanding Southwestern chicken soup followed by a cobbler dessert. As we were going through the house to leave, I saw beautiful quilts and crocheting, some in progress. I assumed his wife created them, but when I asked, he said he did! I was immediately reminded of 91-year-old football hero Roosevelt Grier, who is an avid knitting and needlepoint artist.

There are people who, if they weren’t relatives, would be friends. I have spoken before of my Aunt Zula. She was best known for antics, accidental or otherwise. Once many years ago, she went with our family to our church’s Easter service when pews were full of people in Easter finery. Halfway down the aisle, she realized she was still wearing her house shoes. Too late to worry.  With several children in tow, our group had to parade to a center front pew, with her seated next to the aisle. The congregation became quiet for the service except for a quarter dropped by someone in the back. It began rolling down the wooden floor. It slow-w-ly rolled for all to follow, then finally came to rest beside Aunt Zula’s left house shoe. Like a magnet. We could have predicted it.

My Aunt Ina was my dad’s youngest sister. While still living in her log cabin, she let me watch her make “choked biscuits” in her iron skillet. She was gun-wise, eagle-eyed and an excellent crossword solver. Congenial. Big smile. You steal her Bible, though, and you would meet her gun-wisdom and eagle eye. And she would have some “cross words” for you.

Pets are both family and friends. Loving, quick to forgive, always know where you are, and may even protect you. Sounds a little “spiritual,” doesn’t it! In my lifetime, I had five cats, three dogs and a goldfish named Beethoven. When they crossed the rainbow bridge (or swam under), it hurt almost the same as if they were human best friends, and certainly family.

 All of these that I honor as friends and family are gone, but I have faith that they will return now and then in memories. I am also assured that Carolyn will finally open heaven’s gates, as I still have her favorite shoes.

Vivian Lawson Hogue
Latest posts by Vivian Lawson Hogue (see all)