In August of 1965, my mother escaped from Sterling, Colorado to Denver.
She escaped the embarrassment of finding her husband's name listed as the father of another woman's child on the birth certificate she was processing in the Medical Records Department at Logan County Hospital. I don't know what else she escaped. I don’t want to know. I loved my father.
According to my mother, she moved to Denver. When new friends and acquaintances asked why she moved, she was well-prepared. As the daughter of an alcoholic and ex-wife of an alcoholic, my mother was nearly flawless in presenting her game face to the public while she recited the appropriate reasons for the move. The job opportunities were outstanding in Denver. The higher pay would allow her to save money and return to college to finish her teaching degree. The children would be exposed to a wide variety of cultural experiences.
I wasn’t happy about the move. I was in an unfamiliar place without many of the people who loved me: my father, grandparents, aunt and uncle.
My older brother and I started school. A girl with dark blond hair, a shy smile and blue eyes asked me to play with her at recess the first day I attended kindergarten. Her name was Laura. We knew we were going to be best friends. At age five there was no internal debate, peer pressure or consultation with other friends. We just knew.
Laura invited me to her house for a play date and phone calls were exchanged between our mothers. Before I went to Laura’s house, my mother gave me an animated history lesson. Laura's great-grandparents were Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It meant nothing to me. My mother spoke with more fervor and talked about Laura's father, Elliott Roosevelt Jr. and her great-grandfather, who was a former President of the United States. I knew the President was important. We stood before the flag, crossed our hearts, and pledged to him every day at school. I understood I better behave.
My play dates with Laura continued through the fall. Each time I entered her huge, Tudor-style home, I was surrounded by silence and tranquility. It belonged to the house, as if the generations of Roosevelt gentility had leeched into the stones, floors and walls of her home. We spent most of our time downstairs in the Rumpus Room. We loved to watch Blinky’s Fun Club on T.V.
Two weeks before Christmas, I interrupted the tranquility of the house when I told Laura Santa Claus wasn’t real. Laura went upstairs. The Roosevelt’s African American maid, in her soft, grey uniform with white pockets and Peter Pan collar came downstairs. She told me Laura's mother needed to speak to me.
I sat down on an itchy piece of furniture in one of the huge, quiet rooms. I was told I wasn’t allowed to come over anymore and play with Laura because I told her Santa wasn’t real. At five, I had no concept of what anymore literally meant but I had experience with loss and I knew I’d lost Laura. I started crying and walked home.
Mrs. Roosevelt called my mother. The mothers had a conversation. Mrs. Roosevelt said, “I don’t know if it’s against your beliefs but we wanted Laura to believe in Santa Claus for awhile longer.” My mother replied, “We didn’t tell Julie not to believe in Santa Claus. She’s smart. She figured it out for herself.”
I was not invited back to Laura’s home until her birthday in June but through another mother’s conversation, Laura was miraculously allowed to come to my sixth birthday in January. She was the only friend I wanted at my 6th birthday. Laura and I remained friends at school but we were no longer the best of friends. Her sixth birthday party In June was impressive. Blinky the Clown performed for more than a dozen children. I was excited but secretly wished I was the only one at her birthday party just like she’d been the only one at mine.
Two months after Laura’s birthday party, my mother acted on her list of appropriate reasons recited for her original move to Denver. She enrolled for the fall semester at The University of Northern Colorado and we moved to Greeley. She enrolled me and my brother in a private Catholic school. In December of 1966 she met my future step-father, an army officer who was getting his Masters degree in education at UNC. We moved to Littleton, Colorado in 1968.
At the end of eighth grade, my class went to Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver on a beautiful May evening. I was walking with two of my friends by the Cup and Saucer ride when I saw her. Laura. I turned to my friends. “That’s Laura Roosevelt.”
Sandy Totten said, “Who?”
“Laura Roosevelt.” I pointed further up the path that followed the edge of the lake. “She’s standing right there. I told you about her.”
Sandy studied Laura a moment before nudging me in the back. “Go talk to her.”
Laura was surrounded by a circle of friends. I hesitated. Was it really her?
Iris Johnson gave me a little push. “Just say hi.”
I stepped away from my friends and walked quickly along the path until I was about twenty feet behind Laura. I hesitated again. She turned the corner past the cup ride and was almost out of sight.
She turned and looked straight at me, eyes widening in surprise. I could see the recognition in her eyes. I raised my hand, wait…
Laura turned and walked away with her friends.
I didn’t move. My friends caught up to me.
"What a snot!” Sandy put her arm around my shoulders.
“I don’t know. Maybe that wasn’t her,” I said.
“She looked right at you when you called her name.” Iris stated.
I nodded my head. “I think it was her,” I said doubtfully.
The debate continued among my friends for the rest of the night.
It didn’t really matter to me. I’d lost Laura Roosevelt again.
Causes Jules Jacob Supports
CASA of Southwest Missouri, Master Gardeners of the Ozarks, University of Missouri Master Gardeners, Missouri Court Appointed Special Advocates Association...