When I was ten or eleven, I had a couple of summer friends, sisters named Wanda and Brenda. Their mother, a stocky woman who wasn’t old enough to wear dentures but did anyway, would holler, “Wan-deeeee, Bren-deeee” so I called them that too. Wandy and Brendy’s house was full of ceramic figurines they called what-nots (I dubbed them what-not to have). Little painted imitations of life – cats, dogs, clowns, pixies, toadstools with frogs, a shepherd boy holding a lamb and such were on the coffee and end tables, mantle, top of the TV. No horizontal surface was left uncovered.
I don’t know how we met. They lived several blocks away and went to different schools. I usually hung out with my best friend, but she was shipped off to her grandparents in Ohio that summer, so I needed sidekicks. Brendy was my age with wavy blond hair, fair complexion and always looked like she was smiling. Wandy was a year younger with straight brown, shoulder length hair and relaxed brown eyes I’d later learn would be called bedroom eyes, although to me she just looked a little sleepy.
They were always game to go on adventures. Those were the days when parents let their kids wander wherever we wanted, before constant sports practices, daycare, and the fear of what might happen to unguarded children. We explored miles away from home, walking or riding our bikes, checking in for a quick meal then dashing outside again. After a day of roaming around, I’d invite Wandy and Brendy to camp out in my backyard and their mother almost always said yes. Our tent was blankets fastened to the clothesline with wooden clothespins, with more blankets inside for covers. Nearly every night we huddled around flashlights, telling ghost stories and making silly jokes while crickets and cicadas sang in the background. Wandy and Brendy were the best friends a free-range kid could ever hope to find.