Barbara, who was your first best friend?
Episode #
Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Barbara, who was your first best friend?

The Storyworth Podcast
Episode Description

In our Thanksgiving episode, the author shares a touching story about a lifelong friendship that she is endlessly grateful for. She introduces us to Dolores Marie Hickey, who came into her life when she most needed a friend. The two were instantly bonded, and remained close for the next forty years.

Someone once told me that friendship is like having one mind in two bodies. I'd like to think that friends also share one heart. I am blessed with many dear friends who have come into my life to share in my happiness and sorrow, and I'm a better person for them. But my first friend will always be my best friend. Her name is Dolores Marie Hickey, and I met her when we were 11 years old. It was 1948. and my father was transferred from Kansas to Fort Totten on Long Island, New York. 

My parents enrolled me in Sacred Heart School in the nearby town of Bayside. It was my first day of school. The schools were so crowded that my twin sister had to go to another school in Flushing. So I was totally alone. 

Dolores Hickey sat in the front row of Sister Mary Clare's sixth grade classroom. Her bushy red hair parted in the middle and held at bay by two overloaded barrettes at her temples. With a freckled hand and ready smile, she welcomed me to her desk. Schools were crowded in 1948 because of the baby boom. That's why the two of us occupied a bench desk meant for one. I was the daughter of a career army medical officer, and our family had traveled extensively all of my young life. 

Dolores was an only child who'd lived in the same house from the time she was born. Her father, Bill, was a salesman, and her mother, Helen, worked for the telephone company. My family lived on the Army base. The Hickeys lived in town. My father thought them beneath us and tried to discourage the friendship. But disparate backgrounds and my father's misguided ego aside, I became a permanent fixture in the Hickey household. 

We baked cookies, devoured movie magazines, and watched Gorgeous George and the Goldbergs on their new television, when it worked. We dressed in matching baggy, rolled-up blue jeans and sloppy shirt tails, applied fake beauty marks to each other's cheeks, bought our first bras, garter belts, and mesh stockings together, and sat for hours while Dolores' mom Helen gave us Tony home permanence. 

When I stayed over, we would snuggle in her parents' double bed with Cokes and popcorn and talk all night until one of us fell asleep. When we were a bit older, we'd spend hot summer evenings on the Hickey's Front Stoop, experimenting with cigarettes borrowed from our folks. At first they made us dizzy and sick to our stomachs, but soon we could inhale as suavely as Betty Davis and Lauren Bacall. Or so we thought. 

I know Dolores came to our quarters on base several times. I have pictures of her there. But no vivid memories of what we did. My father's behavior could be very erratic. I was probably worrying so much about what he might say or do that I blocked everything out. It was only later in our adult years that my sister and I discovered he suffered from bipolar disorder. 

The summer before eighth grade, my father received orders for a new assignment in Washington, D.C. He tried to reassure me that we were only moving four hours away, but I knew it might as well be 20. Dolores and I didn't see each other for two years, but we wrote almost every day and enjoyed occasional free phone calls arranged through her mother at the telephone company. Dolores attended Bayside High School. I was at Holy Cross Academy. I got braces on my teeth and went to a dermatologist. She got her period and shaved her legs. We both had boyfriends, brazenly elevated to Greek gods in our minds. She was crazy about the singer Frankie Lane, smoked Lucky Strikes, had a part-time job at the Stanley Theater, and missed me. I adored Perry Como, smoked cools with a rhinestone-studded cigarette holder, did a lot of babysitting, and missed her, too.

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