I met Susan Joan Black Bacon in the sixth grade when she was just plain ol’ Susie Black. She was uncommonly tall with short black hair, and like many adolescents (myself included), a bit gawky. At that period in time, parents in my hometown got bamboozled into entering kids my age, and a year or two on the other side, into a weekly ballroom dance class called Cotillion. Boys had to wear coats and ties, and girls, nice dresses. Parents also suggested we pop Clorets in our pie holes (radio jingle: Chew Clorets, the gum delicious. It makes your breath kissing sweet) to avoid offending our partners’ olfactory senses. I’ll guarantee you there was zero chance of any kissing happening. Girls and boys would have both responded with a resounding, “Ewww!” |
At first we wondered what the big deal was, but (after all) we DID get to hang out with our buddies, albeit in a misery-loves-company way. In that frame of mind, we could put up with the forced, sissified, mandatory evenings featuring an exotic “gypsy” lady floating around clanging miniature cymbals between her thumb and forefinger while encouraging us to glide and hold a proper frame. The girls looked at the event differently. In my opinion, they enjoyed “socializing” more than boys (we preferred horseplay) plus their DNA decrees that they love dancing. See, boys pretend to like dancing, but just to get close to girls—although at that age we didn’t quite know why. It may have had something to do with strange bumps growing on girls chests.
I can’t exactly remember how we were partnered for particular dances, but vaguely recall circulating—girls on the inside; boys on the outside—in opposite directions until the music stopped. When it did, your partner was whomever stood across from you. I was tall for my age, but eyeball-to-eyeball with Susie who was often stuck dancing with much shorter partners. We plodded through whatever dance was being taught—maybe foxtrot—without exchanging a word. Why the silent treatment? See, we attended different elementary schools, which meant anyone from another side of town was a suspicious alien. Susie and I barely glanced at each other. I mean, what if one of us forgot our Clorets?
The two of us later attended junior and senior high schools together, and became nodding acquaintances, but never quite friends probably due to each of us belonging to different social castes in school society. Susie hung with the popular girls and the marching band, and I with the athletes and smart alecks. I did not remember Susie dating much, but was reminded a few days ago that she had a long relationship with a Sousaphone player who was several years older. Let’s see, Susie played trombone. It must have been a bass clef romance. Interestingly, I dated the Sousaphone player’s younger sister my senior year.
The social groups rarely mixed except 1) at the local youth center where girls mainly danced with each other, and boys played ping pong and chess; and 2) at school dances where (at least) half the time girls asked boys. I can’t recall if we boys were shy, ambivalent, or indifferent; but junior year my best buddy and I preferred bowling to attending May Dance—the Big Kahuna social event of the high school year. Immaturity? Probably.
Anyway, what got me off on this tangential essay is that Susie boarded the mystery train last week on that journey from which there is no return. She’s the latest of my high school classmates to do so. As always (in my world), the loss was unexpected, and I found myself seriously mourning for her as if the reality of her death brought the guy with the scythe closer to me.
After graduation, college, marriage, children, and the rest of life I got to know Susie better, and found myself very much enjoying her optimism, Northwest Ohio patois, sense of humor, and joie de vivre. Our relationship was long distance; that is, between emails, I only saw her every five years at class reunions but the time between seemed like seconds. Then I made a decision to stop attending reunions—missed the last two—because I viewed the event mainly as a time of adieu—that final farewell. How foolish. Susie’s gone, and I regret my self-centered attitude. It’s too late. The lesson to be learned is that there are others in the quick; some I haven’t seen or spoken to for decades yet I feel a special kind of kinship with each of them.
Case in point: Last September I lost one of my closest smart aleck, horse-playing high school buddies to multiple myeloma courtesy of Agent Orange. Better living through chemistry? Not so much—premature dying is the reality. I wrote an article about him entitled, “GUT: A Real American Hero” published October 4, 2018, www.amazines.com articleid=6254201. To this day, I can’t believe he’s not around to call or go visit. If there was ever an indestructible human being, it was Larry. Biology permits no one a pass.
A final recollection of Susie Bacon: In her obituary, I saw a photo taken for her first communion. Is there any better depiction of feminine innocence? That’s a conclusion I’ve reached over the years no matter the female subject, known or unknown. I’ve never failed to have such a photograph move me. As I looked at Susie’s first confirmation picture, a line from Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” ran through my head. In fact, it still does. Remember the lyric “When Suzie wore her dresses tight”? When I see that picture I hear, “When Susie wore a dress of white”. I guess I’m just sentimental, and miss my friend.
To close this somewhat rambling dissertation of words and phrases, here’s something I heard from Ben Sidran in the mid-1980s about life: It’s your last turn / It’s your very last burn… / …It’s your last turn, darlin’ / Pretty soon we gotta go / We are here right now / But tomorrow? Tomorrow, no one knows.
By Gene Myers whose plan to live forever is working so far.
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