Spring break was short but

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2000

memories last a long time

Spring has sprung right into my head and out my nose, but aaaaaahhh spring. What a wonderful season and the memories it does bring.

In 1959 my favorite place in spring was the Hang Out in Panama City where my friends and I entertained a group of boys from Boston one year with tomato sandwiches and in turn, they bopped the night away with us. For those younger than 50, the bop was a dance and we were back at the motel by midnight – alone.

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It was many years later that I realized what my mother meant, when she said she wouldn’t take a million dollars for all her children, but she wouldn’t give you a nickel for another.

That’s just about how I feel about my sisters. I wouldn’t take an Elizabeth Taylor diamond for them but I would have sold either for a quarry rock when they were teens.

Several years ago, a best selling picture book depicted the sometimes turbulent, frequently memorable and almost always interesting relationships in "Sisters."

Donna’s and mine was certainly no different.

Donna’s always been witty, personable and beautiful (except for those miserable perm years) but now that she is also even-tempered, mature and responsible, it’s a lot easier to be her sister. Happily, our adventures turned out not to be felonies.

When I was just 23, she was 15 and longing for a spring break at the beach just like she read in Seventeen magazine.

The deal was her high school sorority would pay my way if I would chaperone what seems in retrospect like a thousand wanton, boy-starved girls to Panama City.

Donna and her best friend, Mary Alice, talked me into it. First Donna promised everyone would behave, then they pleaded that I was their last hope because their mothers wouldn’t let them go unless I went along, and finally, Mary Alice swore she was not as "bad" a girl as I thought she was.

We went, and yes, I took my car. It was a cute little Plymouth Barracuda, pink, I think. Pretty in pink and happily waving to parents who must have been nuts to let us go, we took off.

On the way down a narrow, winding road in pitch-dark, we almost rear-ended a horse, but that’s another tale. I think it may also have been an omen. The first day went really well, we all got burned almost beyond recognition and guess what, the girls’ boyfriends showed up, too. Imagine that. The second day, I spent the entire night in my shortie pj’s running up and down the beach trying to get the girls to leave their hunky boyfriends and come back to the motel.

The next afternoon the manager of the motel tried to kick us out because one of the girls – not Mary Alice or Donna – was doing some serious entertaining in her room. I talked him out of it.

The third night I woke up to find the place empty and my car gone. It seems it had "rolled" all the way to the Hang Out on its own power. Donna and the girls were kind enough to return it to me later with just one girl missing. Did I mention that one mother accompanied us? I have repressed this memory (which gets easier the older I get), but (let’s call her) Blanche comes to mind because this was one ugly woman. Not in looks, but in attitude and she was only slightly less active at night on the beach than her daughter.

Conversely her precious daughter was the only "good" girl she acknowledged on the trip and Blanche was never around when decisions needed to be made. It seemed fitting then that her daughter was the one missing – along with her boyfriend. We found them in jail and the mother finally shut her mouth and lighted out for home. She took the good girl and her bad boyfriend with her. I was pretty much burned out on adventure by then and figured my car didn’t really roll to the Hang Out. I reasoned some girl in the crowd would make a pretty good mechanic some day and headed for the phone booth on the highway.

While Donna and Mary Alice danced around the phone booth crying and begging me not to send them home on the bus, I recited their transgressions to my mother in Birmingham. Cruisers in convertibles yelled encouraging comments, but MA and D had the good grace not to abandon me for the guys as I poured out my frustrations to my mother. They memorized the cars though.

Mother talked me down and the girls and I finished the trip in good humor. I have reminded Donna on more than one occasion that she still owes me for that trip – emotionally and favor-wise, not to mention the embarrassment at being the only women charging up and down the beach in her baby-dolls without a date.

I learned several lessons that trip, but one of the things I want her to teach me now I am back in the big city is how to hot-wire ad car. At her surprise birthday party the other evening I asked Donna whatever happened to the girl in jail. "I think she married a judge," my sister replied. Sisters – ya gotta love ’em.

Fran Sharp is a former Messenger reporter now freelance writing in Alabaster. Email fsharp1229@aol.com.

March 29, 2000 11 PM  

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