Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl
1963. President Kennedy was assasinated. All the adults were distracted and sad. The TV sets in Iowa began to show a war brewing in Southeast Asia. Sue's parents sold the house she had come to consciousness in, a lovely little green cottage with a grove of pine trees perfect for forts and secret gardens. They moved a mile west into a new subdivision where all the trees were so puny they had ropes attached to stakes to hold them up in the wind.
It was lonely in the new neighborhood. Sue was ten and her little sister was only six and therefore boring. She walked two blocks to the new grade school she would be attending. Along the way, any kids she saw stared at her and she stared right back. They were all younger and therefore boring. She thought about the Beatles. They were the only interesting thing in her life. When she had seen them on Ed Sullivan she felt something she had never felt before. It was joy and sadness mixed together and it became hard to breathe. Afterward, on the commercial break, she found she had squeezed her fists so tightly her fingernails had made little cuts in her palms.
By the school there was a house with a girl in the yard who looked about her age. She had wavy long dark hair and she held the collar of a mean looking dog. They looked at each other and knew each other at first sight.
Mare was short and kind of round and Sue was tall and skinny. Mare was Lennon and Sue was McCartney. Jewish and WASP. Brash and funny, reserved and serious. Mare taught Sue how to giggle and Sue taught Mare how to think deep thoughts. They played Beatle music non-stop and spent every minute they could together. They started their sentences with "What if" and then let their imaginations run wild with scenarios in which they would meet John Lennon and Paul McCartney and impress them with their sarcastic wit and maturity. These 'what ifs" became stories, with dialogue, plots with twists and surprise endings. They harmonized to Beatle songs and Mare learned guitar.
1964. They were the Beatles for Halloween, even though the girl who was supposed to be George dropped out at the last minute to be a Chinese ventriloquist with her Chatty Cathy doll. Mare quipped they should still include her and go as the Ed Sullivan show.
1967. Sue and Mare became teenagers. John and Paul were still their counterparts, their examples of creative collaboration. They could brainstorm and talk for hours, astounding their parents, peers and teachers that they never ran out of anything to say. It overflowed into long rambling notes, stories, poems and essays. They kept all of this in a fat Beatle notebook locked in Mare's footlocker.
1968. The war in Viet Nam raged and older kids they knew were dying. The Beatles music became dark and psychedelic, growing up as they did. Mare and Sue wrote about other things now, but still found their inspiration in Lennon and McCartney.
1970. The Beatles broke up but Mare and Sue understood. Paul and John just needed to explore their individuality. They still loved each other, deep down.
1972. Graduation loomed. Sue made plans to attend Nursing school. Mare would go to New York City to learn musical theater. It hurt liked hell, but they understood. It was time to grow up, give up childish things.
They drifted apart, living over a thousand miles away from each other, because it was easier than keeping the feelings fresh. If they let themselves miss each other, it would hurt too much and it would be hard to live these adult lives they were living.
1980. Eight years had gone by without significant contact. Each was married. Sue had a precious two-year-old daughter and a failing marriage she didn't want to admit to. Mare was stuck in Pennsylvania living with her husband and his parents. Each privately wrote sad poetry they shared with no one.
On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was murdered. Mare heard it first and grabbed the phone, desperate to reach Sue. After a couple of calls she got Sue's work number.
Sue was working as a nurse on the evening shift at an adolescent in-patient psychiatric center. The kids were in bed. It was quiet. Time to chart and look forward to going home. The phone rang. Mare was crying, John Lennon was dead.
Sue called Mare back once she got home and they talked all night long. Pouring out their grief, their rage, the truth about their lives. Mare came to New Mexico to visit. They were writing again, long letters with add-on stories to pass back and forth across the country. They visited each other two or three times a year and ran up huge phone bills. They cursed each postage increase, stuffing ten or twenty page letters with their stories into envelopes. Mare fell in love with New Mexico and vowed to live there someday.
Sue got the courage up to leave her husband. Life was too short to live a lie, John's untimely death had awakened her to that. She was a single mom, poor but happy. She found love again, the lifelong kind and remarried in 1986. Mare was struggling with her own marriage but not ready to leave it yet.
1989. Mare and her husband move to Albuquerque. Sue and Mare sat in her new living room. Thirty-five years old, marveling at the power of their friendship. Now that they were finally, after seventeen years, living in the same town again, they would do something together, something big. They tossed around ideas. It would be fun to run a funky junk and antique store together but no start up cash. Writing was free. They would write a novel.
Fourteen years, three novels, a screenplay, successes, failures, deaths, divorces, and weddings later, they are finally publishing a novel, Sunlight and Shadow , a book about friendship and hope.
Each has a husband that she is crazy about. And the husbands are also friends. Sue's daughter is beautiful and smart and all grown up. Mare has goats, chickens, dogs, ducks and cats. And they have each other, forty years later. And yet, it feels like just the beginning.
Life is sweet. Dreams do come true, if you work hard enough and never give up. Magic happens in the alchemy of collaboration. Taking the best each has to offer and combining it to make something neither could have created alone.
Friendship doesn't seem like a big enough word for all that Mare and Sue have shared and will share. There is still so much to talk about. So much to say. One lifetime just won't be enough.