Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Stories ~ sisters

Although it wasn't a favorite novel, Five Fortunes by Beth Gutcheon did take me back to a memory from junior high school.
"Carter and Rae, arm in arm in their sweat clothes, were singing 'Sisters ... Sisters ... Never were there such devoted sisters...'  Apart from the fact that Carter was eight inches taller and thirty years younger than Rae, they were quite convincing" (p. 68).
I remember the lyrics a bit differently:  "There were never" instead of "Never were there."  So I googled and found here that my memory of the lyrics was correct.  I also discovered it was sung in the 1954 movie "White Christmas," helping me find a photo for this post and also date the story this passage evoked for me.

Ada Rentfro and I met on our first day of 7th grade at East Side Junior High School in Chattanooga.  I found that link showing the school many years before we arrived there in the fall of 1952, but Mr. Tallant was our principal, just as he was in the 1940s.  Ada and I met because we were in the same homeroom, which included both R and S, for Rentfro and Setliffe, our family names.  We also sat near each other in band and orchestra classes with Mr. Baker and Mrs. McClearen, respectively.

I don't remember WHY we did it, but I do remember borrowing an accordian and learning to play it, so Ada and I could go onstage in front of the whole school to sing "Sisters, Sisters."  Yes, once I was able to play and sing at the same time!  I think we were in 8th grade when we sang.  After graduating, we went on to Chattanooga High School, where we once again played in band and orchestra together.  Here's a high school photo of me holding my bassoon.

Now for the good part of this story.  I was tall, and Ada was short.  The top of her head was just about at my shoulder.  There was a comic strip called Mutt and Jeff, one tall, one diminutive, as you can see in this picture.  Our friends called us "Mutt and Jeff," especially after we stood on stage side by side to sing our song.

In Beth Gutcheon's novel (see quote above), one of the women was eight inches taller than the other.  And the two in the book were singing OUR song, the one Ada and I bravely belted out in junior high school.

Ada and I were the same age, with our birthdays only a month apart.  I remember the fun times when we sang, played in musicals, marched in the band during halftimes, and even beyond school.  She was in my wedding, we both worked at Sears for a time after high school, and we knew each other's children — her five and my three.  We'd meet for lunch to laugh and talk, even though we lived across town from each other, and stayed friends until the day she died in 1992, when we were only 52 years old.  I still miss you, Ada.

Monday morning update:  The next morning after posting this, I found a tangible connection to Ada and wrote about it.  Click here to read about the invitation to a kitchen shower from 1959.


Helen's Book Blog said...

What a wonderful tribute to and memory of Ada. Good friends are so special and wonderful. I think I am feeling particularly sentimental given the mudslides and death that surround us in Montecito right now.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

While checking my blood pressure this morning, I noticed a small flat box of papers on the bookcase next to me and, after I had finished recording my BP score, sorted through the box. I've been decluttering, but hadn't even noticed this little box. Imagine my shock to discover a small envelope from Ada's mother to "Miss Bonnie Setliffe" in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was postmarked January 14, 1959, exactly 59 years to the day I wrote about Ada yesterday. Inside was a typed note and an invitation to a kitchen shower for me ... given by Ada Rentfro and her mother. I'll write a blog post in a few minutes and come back here to post a link in an addendum at the bottom of this post. I should also take a picture of it all.

I'm amazed to find this after not seeing it in over half a century, and I'm astounded it's such an exact date!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Okay, I finally remembered to come back and provide the link to what I wrote. Click here to read about the invitation to a kitchen shower from 1959.