Pink plastic and best friends

Published 9:28 pm Friday, October 15, 2021

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Trudging inside with a week’s groceries in pink plastic bags, my thoughts turned back to my early teenage years and my best friend Dinah.

She had moved to Montgomery by the time we started “over fool’s hill” as Mama would say. We stayed close by writing letters, that we signed Toothpick Tillie (me) and Fat Fannie (her). We later switched names for obvious reasons.

On weekends, Dinah would catch a ride to Brundidge with a teacher at her school who was from Dothan. I’d wait for her on the front porch and she’d jump out of the car with her suitcase ready for the weekend.

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We’d spend the time sharing secrets, laughing and “cuttin’ up.” We’d get the silly giggles and be more than Mama could stand.

We’d go to parties and play “spin the bottle” and fall in puppy love. We would listen to Ricky Nelson and the Everly Brothers on the record player and dance with teddy bears around the room.

When we were old enough to date, double dating, was the only way we would go.

But drive-in movies and marshmallow roasts soon gave way to college and careers.

Dinah went to Auburn University and then became a stewardess with TWA and flew all over the world.

She would come home, very cosmopolitan and trendy, and I got a glimpse of how the rest of the world was “stepping out.”

Dinah had an exciting, adventurous life. She was going places and doing things that most young women our age could only dream of.

She married an orthopedic surgeon and moved to Washington State. We stayed in touch through letters and phone calls. In the spring of 1972, she and her husband came “home.” We were both expecting babies

I had eaten enough pimento cheese sandwiches and drunk enough chocolate milk to gain a “hefty” 45 pounds. She had managed to gain a “healthy” four to five pounds.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could have our babies on the same day,” Dinah said hopefully.

Fat chance, I thought. 

Not long before midnight on July 11, I had a baby girl. Just after midnight, Dinah had her baby girl. On the telephone, we laughed about how close we came. “You could have hurried!” “You could have waited!”

My memory then turned to another telephone conversation. One in which we didn’t laugh.

Dinah had fought a valiant battle with cancer. She was in Texas awaiting a bone marrow transplant.

“This is my last chance,” she told me. “This is my last hope. Pray for me.”

Dinah Armstrong Kukes died at age 41. I miss her still.