She was a tiny thing. We use the term petite now. She had an olive
complexion and dark black hair … and … was my best friend.
We did all kinds of things
together – from cooking greasy fried potatoes
in the middle of the afternoon to sitting in a motionless car pretending to
take a trip, laughing ourselves silly the entire time.
Her name was Arleta and she thought I was fun and funny. I was two years
ahead of her in school and she was one of the ‘popular girls’ – but somehow we
formed a strong fond of friendship. But, then again, maybe the bond wasn’t as
strong as we thought. I overheard Aleta telling a boy on the school bus that my
Mom was an ‘old lady’ that couldn’t tell her what to do at a party I recently
hosted. I was shocked and hurt that Aleta would speak with so much disrespect
about my mother.
I don’t remember what I said to her, but I made it clear that I was
angry and would not be hanging out with her anymore.
We stayed away from one another for quite a while. One day it occurred
to me that this separation was silly. I called Aleta and asked if we could be
friends again. She readily agreed and we picked up our crazy friendship. We
went shopping together, spent the night at one another’s house and I let her
‘fix’ my hair. I didn’t ‘fix’ her’s because I wasn’t a ‘hair’ person
… but that
didn’t bother her.
Aleta began to date Bobby, my first grade boyfriend. We had some laughs
about that, but I was leaving for college so we just let that slide. Aleta and
Bobby got married while she was still in high school because she became
pregnant. I just knew she’d be really cute as the pregnancy progressed.
Early one morning in June 1970, I received a phone call that was
unbelievable and so hurtful that at first I could not even cry. Aleta, Bobby
and Aleta’s young brother were killed in a head-on collision. They were hit on
an overpass by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the freeway. In that one
accident, five people lost their lives. The ironic thing was that Aleta had been
in an automobile crash when she was 12 years old that left her with a
noticeable limp. Now, five years later another crash had taken her life and the
lives of her loved ones.
I think of Aleta often, especially when I fry some potatoes really soggy
and greasy. I make sure I put lots of black pepper on them because that’s the
way my friend Aleta liked them.
When I was a teacher, I used Aleta’s story to warn teens about drinking
and driving. I thin Aleta would like that. Also, I think Romans 8:28 applies as
well because God wrung some good out of this earthly evil.
*Editor’s Note: This is a true story and one that represents the late
1960s and early 1970s in Texas. For those of you who do not know the
difference, fried potatoes are always soft and greasy and utterly delicious …
often cooked in a cast iron skillet using bacon drippings or Crisco. Some
families always add chopped onions to their fried potatoes, but the ones in
this story are of the classic variety … just potatoes and patience to get them
cooked just to the right degree of softness! They are completely sinful when
liberally seasoned with black pepper and salt to be eaten covered in a mound of
catsup. Southern Fried Potatoes are a Texas staple so different from French
Fries which are deep fried and crispy … but equally delicious.
Kay is a retired teacher who is active in her local rural Central Texas
Community. Her writing is from the heart and stories from her growing up to
pass along to her grandchildren at some point.
Kay also coordinates a local group of writers who meet monthly.
This is her second piece for Voice of the Generations.