Into the Nineties

Submitted into Contest #202 in response to: Write a story about lifelong best friends.... view prompt

53 comments

Creative Nonfiction Friendship Inspirational

Into the Nineties


Marie and Gertie grew up within miles of each other but never knew one another until they were in their teens.

Marie was what someone may call 'white trash'. Her family was the poorest of the poor when everybody in their neck of the woods was poor. They had little to no money for common necessities because her father was a drunk. He drank up any income he managed to take in.

He was not an ordinary falling-down-drunken-sop but a mean drunk. Marie and her older brother, Henry, would hide in the woods behind their house until he passed out.

As soon as he was old enough, Henry took a hired-hand job on Gertie's Dad's farm staying in the unheated attic he couldn't stand up in.

Gertie's Dad was a hard working, fun-loving, frugal farmer. He was known to load up all the kids of the neighborhood in his old Model-A Ford and take them to dime night at the local theater. The whole carload got in for a dime. He also installed a wooden floor in his barn to hold ho-downs during threshing parties at harvest time.

He invested in the farm but never the four-room unadorned farmhouse. The front room stayed cold and unused, the family of four slept in one room and the kitchen held a large milk separator necessary for their dairy produce. Yet by Marie's standards Gertie seemed rich.

Gertie's Dad passed away suddenly at the age of forty-two from pneumonia. Even with Henry's help the farm never again prospered like it once did.

Henry was the one that introduced seventeen-year-old Marie to fourteen-year-old Gertie. And the rest, as they say, is history.

>>>

Marie was able to procure a job in a near-by town and had a co-worker that could drive her there. As soon as Gertie was old enough she started working there, too.

“Oh, Gertie, I met the dreamiest guy. He wants to take me out! Me! Can you believe it!” quiet, self-conscious Marie exclaimed on the ride home one day.

“Well, it's not hard to believe a guy wants to take you out. You are pretty, petite and full of personality. What's the problem?”

“It's me. What will I say? You know my background. People have always made fun of me. He comes from a fairly well-to-do family. They won't think I'm good enough for him.”

“You are only going out with him. Maybe he won't be good enough for you. Give it a shot first. You know, just be careful. Guys can be superficial. Be sure he treats you like the lady you are.”

>>>

“Tiny asked me to marry him!”

“That didn't take long, Marie. Are you sure you want to do that? I thought you said he was joining up. He'll be shipped out soon.”

“I'm totally crazy about him. I don't want to lose him. He says I can live with his folks until he gets back from overseas. It will be fine.”

>>>

“Marie, you seem extra quiet and a little down. Everything okay?”

“Oh, Gertie, everything is fine except I don't think Tiny's Mom likes me very much even though I work like a slave trying to get her to accept me. She is leader of the Ladies Extension and wins all the home economic events at local fairs. I can't live up to her standards.”

“It's more important what Tiny thinks. What do you hear from him?”

“War is H-E- double L. He can't wait to get home. He thinks I should introduce you to his younger brother, Junior. He is almost as handsome as Tiny. Want to meet him?”

“I don't think so, Marie. I have boyfriends calling all the time. Lance wants to marry me. He won't be going off to war because of some medical condition. And he is already successful.”

“But do you love him? Come on. Just think, we will truly be sisters if you give Junior a chance.”

>>>

“The two of you make the best looking couple in the county. I love your fancy wedding gown the way the veil swirls around your feet. Wish Tiny and I could have had a big affair but we had to hurry so he could go to war. Junior lied about his age to get in there at the end but they are both back now and guess what! We have our family started!”

“That is so wonderful and exciting, Marie! And as soon as our reception is over it will be back to work. Junior got that trucking contact and needs Tiny to work it with him.”

>>>

“Oh, Gertie! How are we going to survive? Junior's big contract fell through because he wouldn't bend to the teamsters. Now both of our husbands are out of work. I have a four-year-old and you have a three and a two-year old with another one on the way.”

“Their sister, Vi's, husband has said he could use their help on his new ranch in Texas so I guess we will all be moving down there. How do you like the idea of living together until we can afford better?”

>>>

“How did it happen, Junior? Marie is inconsolable. How will she ever get over his death? She has two little girls to care for alone. Oh, we will be here for her but it can never be the same again. She loved him so much.”

“They say he fell asleep on the tracks. What he was doing there I don't know, but he may have been drinking.”

>>>

“Marie, you really are going to marry this man you don't know and move to Alaska with him?”

“It is already done. I know it is so soon after losing Tiny but I have to consider my girls and their future. Dave is in the Army and they are sending him to Alaska. Who knows where else we may be living but I will always write to you.”

“And he never even told you he has three other children and their mother is too unstable to care for them. So now you are mother to those three, too.”

“I am sure I will learn to love all of them someday.”

“Well, you know we are taking our four children back to Illinois to take over Junior's parents' farm. They already sold it to the coal strip mine but it will be a few years before they take it over. Wish us luck and go with the Lord. Be sure to write.”

>>>

And so the letters started and continued over the next six decades. Never far from each others thoughts or hearts these 'sisters' kept up with each others triumphs and heartaches throughout the roller coaster of life.

There was no gold mine in Alaska so Marie followed Dave back to Texas where she raised the kids then started helping raise her grandchildren, too. Marie outlived Dave. She sat next to one of her step-son's death bed as he succumbed to a mysterious disease afflicting young men in the early eighties. She married a third husband, Martin, whom she nursed through old age for twelve years even knowing his children had made sure she was cut out of his will so sure they were she was nothing but a money-hungry gold-digger. Eventually she bought a house with her eldest daughter near Austin and helped her grandchildren with their children. Quiet spoken, she was always giving, caring, kind and more concerned for others than herself.

Gertie had two more children while on the parents' farm and eventually ended up in Northern Illinois caring for her six children and her mother. One of her daughters died in a car crash at a young age. Marie was there to comfort her.

Gertie had fourteen grandchildren and pretty much lost count of great-grandchildren. She outlived Junior by seventeen years. They had a marriage lasting 57 years despite his tendency toward alcoholism. Always hard-working she worked through aches and pains well into her seventies.

In later years, their children made sure Marie and Gertie had more frequent extended visits with each other although the distance was debilitating. They talked weekly on the phone until they couldn't hear or understand each other anymore.

Marie died at the age of ninety-three and was buried next to the love of her life, Tiny, in Southern Illinois. Gertie was there singing her favorite hymn 'Just as I Am' . She passed six years later at the age of ninety-six and is buried next to Junior in Northern Illinois.

Loved and missed by countless descendants, Marie and Gertie overcame all obstacles to enjoy the best life-long friendship that started when they were forlorn teens and lasted into their frail nineties.


Epilogue:

Here's a forties song they taught their children when they lived together in Texas:

“Playmate, come out and play with me.

And bring your dollies-three,

Climb up my apple tree,

Look down my rain barrel,

Slide down my cellar door.

And we'll be jolly friends, forevermore.”



It was a sunny day, but she couldn't come out and play.

With tearful eye, she breathed a sigh.

And I could hear her say:


“I'm sorry playmate, I can not play with you.

My dollies have the flu,

Boo-hoo, boo-hoo, boo-hoo.

Ain't got no rain barrel

Ain't got no cellar door.

But we'll be jolly friends, forevermore.”


My siblings and I would catch our mother, Gertie, singing this song to herself often in the last year of her life. When she sometimes couldn't remember much else she knew all the words. Another favorite was “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. We like to think of both of these friends singing on into eternity.



June 11, 2023 23:11

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53 comments

Amanda Lieser
20:04 Jun 26, 2023

Hi Mary, The story was wonderfully heartwarming. I was just commenting on another writers story that the choice to create themes around friendship is one that I am happy to see, coming into popularity. Sometimes, I think the drama of romantic love can feel more exciting, but the beauty of platonic love can be something that is more impactful. You did a superb job of writing a story about souls who were always destined to be together. I’m so glad these characters enjoyed a happy ending. Nice work!!

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Mary Bendickson
20:14 Jun 26, 2023

Such nice compliments. Thank you. this theme was so much more relatable to me than the K-pop one.

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Sherri Moorer
18:36 Jun 21, 2023

What a beautiful story about a rare, lifelong friendship!

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Mary Bendickson
19:03 Jun 21, 2023

🙏 Thanks

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Zatoichi Mifune
09:44 Jun 20, 2023

Other comments have completely covered everything about this story so I'll just repeat and confirm them :) Warm and fuzzy - Almost disturbingly so. Someone with your power to manipulate human feelings like that should be locked up (in a good way of course ;) Heart-warming - Definitely. I'll re-read this story whenever I'm having a bad day and it will make it better. And my own comment: Such a creative and unique way to show their friendship and such a smooth way of running through their lives. Beautiful.

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Mary Bendickson
10:49 Jun 20, 2023

Such nice high praise. Thank you. Means a lot to me. Glad you liked my stories.

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Theresa Amante
16:43 Jun 19, 2023

Ah the power of a strong sisterhood between women. It is so important. Love the story Mary. It made me feel warm and fuzzy. :)

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Susan Catucci
13:38 Jun 19, 2023

This is sweet stuff, Mary. I enjoyed riding the roller coaster right behind these two as they lived their sweet lives. The perspective you wove into this tale of friendship was engaging enough to bring tears and deep sighs. Just lovely. Nice job, Mary. So good.

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Mary Bendickson
14:11 Jun 19, 2023

They may not make'em like this no more.💕

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Wally Schmidt
06:04 Jun 19, 2023

This is such a heart-warming story about their friendship and it seems that the legacy of the two women is that they are remembered together. I love that. Every line you wrote made me want to read more about the women and how wonderful they made everyone's lives around them. Sheer joy. Thank you for sharing this.

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Mary Bendickson
14:07 Jun 19, 2023

Thank you.🙏 Very special ladies 💕 indeed.

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John Werner
17:36 Jun 18, 2023

Mary, your stories are like a guided tour. You never fail to transport your reader. So good!

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Mary Bendickson
17:39 Jun 18, 2023

That is high praise coming from your talent. Thank you.

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Awen Kerr
04:32 Jun 18, 2023

I got such a great feel for these women, and I could practically hear Gertie singing "Just As I Am". I envy your ability to cover a lifetime in such little space while still letting us gain a real understanding of who they were. That's a skill!

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Chris Miller
19:45 Jun 17, 2023

Crikey, Mary. That is a whistle-stop tour! You cover the best part of a century for several different characters in a single short story. Thanks for sharing.

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Mary Bendickson
20:04 Jun 17, 2023

After last week's brain melt down this week was easy for me to write about two of my favorite people. They defined life-long friendship. Of course as winner last week it was easy for you.😄

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Kevin Logue
18:19 Jun 17, 2023

That was immense Mary. In awe of your ability to create such life long events for your characters. I could feel the times changing through their exchanges. Very unique. Week done 👍

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Mary Bendickson
18:37 Jun 17, 2023

Aw,gee, thanks. It was the week about the fans I had trouble with. The life-long friendship of my Mom and Aunt came immediately to mind.

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15:30 Jun 17, 2023

I envy your ability to tell a whole life story spanning generations. So much ground covered. And the lifelong diendship is beautifully illustrated . Bravo

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Mary Bendickson
16:15 Jun 17, 2023

Thanks so much. People were suggesting I tell more about the rest of their lives but it was approved already . Didn't get it done. Very fast approval which I think means it didn't make the cut. Glad you liked it. They were special ladies.

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17:05 Jun 17, 2023

Is that what the approval thing means? I don't get it. I've had some approved within a day or two and others not til the Wednesday.

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Mary Bendickson
17:22 Jun 17, 2023

Just my guess. Did have someone I know to be a judge from the list of judges mention one of mine had made the Wed cut. Never won one so don't know. Do you remember how long it took for your shortlisted story to be approved?

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17:27 Jun 17, 2023

Just checked and it was the Wednesday. What's the Wednesday cut? Wish there was more transparency about the whole process. Do you think some stories submitted to contest don't get approved? If so do they get refunded? Lol so many questions

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Mary Bendickson
18:27 Jun 17, 2023

All I know I surmise from tidbits. I think the longer it takes to be approved it is passed on to more judges to look over. Another round so to speak. One of mine never got approved. Someone I believed to be judging it because I found his name on the judges list said he didn't think it felt emotional enough considering it was written from the mother's point of view concerning her four-year-olds tragic death and a true story. I tried editing it but was too late. So I wrote a revision and could only enter it in a separate prompt for that week b...

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Kathleen March
19:41 Jun 16, 2023

Gertie's Dad farm = Gertie's Dad's farm (just fyi) I would also use a few more commas here and there to help the rhythm of the subordinate clauses. Here are a few thoughts: I love the friendship through thick and thin, babies, widowhood, etc. I sense this could be much longer. As you take the characters through life, the proliferation of characters can be a bit confusing. Of course, if you include more transition or setting material, the confusion will disappear. I hope this makes sense. The story is good, but could be longer if you had roo...

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Mary Bendickson
20:01 Jun 16, 2023

Thanks

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Lily Finch
15:52 Jun 16, 2023

Mary, I love the story changes. It is such a heartwarming story. Well done. LF6

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Mary Bendickson
15:58 Jun 16, 2023

🙏 thanks

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Lily Finch
18:29 Jun 16, 2023

NP good work! LF6

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Marty B
06:12 Jun 15, 2023

This is a story with such great details that it feels like reality! IMO the beginning with the Grandfather and Frugal farmer could have been mentioned later in the story to get to the crux of the story the two women. This is true friendship! 'They talked weekly on the phone until they couldn't hear or understand each other anymore.'

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Mary Bendickson
22:59 Jun 15, 2023

I made a few changes to 'Into the Nineties' if you have the time/desire to check it out. Thanks for the input.

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Michał Przywara
20:47 Jun 14, 2023

That's definitely a long friendship, and I think it fits this week's theme perfectly. There was also an appropriate "old-timey" feel to the dialogue, suitable for the earlier parts of the previous century. A friendship that lasted that long can hardly be covered adequately in 3k words, but this does give us a bird's eye view. Critique-wise, maybe there was a bit too much setup and Henry's POV near the beginning. Yes, both are needed to establish things, but really the story is about the two women's friendship. It was a good idea to cover...

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Mary Bendickson
23:01 Jun 15, 2023

I made a few changes to 'Into the Nineties' if you have the time/desire to check it out. Thanks for the input.

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Michał Przywara
04:32 Jun 16, 2023

It seems like the intro is a bit shorter and more focused, getting to Marie and Gertie sooner. I also see there's an epilogue now. I've never heard the song, but that's interesting she'd recall it. Songs do get tied up in our emotions, don't they? I do think the more streamlined opening works better.

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Mary Bendickson
04:58 Jun 16, 2023

Thanks for looking it over again.

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Lily Finch
15:01 Jun 14, 2023

Mary, you set the correct milieu, mood and relationship with this one through your characters. I would say that nails it. You hit this one out of the park with the bases loaded. Well done! LF6

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Mary Bendickson
15:19 Jun 14, 2023

Thank you, Lily. Thought about adding an epilogue about how Mom and Aunt Marie taught us children the song from the forties "Playmate, Come out and play with me...". Then in Mom's last year we would catch her singing it in her less-than-lucid episodes. She remembered all the words. Also "What a friend we have in Jesus". I like to think they sing on in heaven.

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Lily Finch
15:41 Jun 14, 2023

Yeah, it is comforting to think that way. Heart warming tale, and when it comes from the heart, it comes through on the screen. LF6

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Mary Bendickson
23:03 Jun 15, 2023

Made a few changes if you care to check it out. Thanks for your input.

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Lily Finch
15:04 Jun 16, 2023

I shall. LF6

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Glenda Toews
03:48 Jun 14, 2023

I knew it was real! Keep writing Mary, I love reading it!

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Mary Bendickson
04:09 Jun 14, 2023

🙏 Thanks. Loved the love they had for each other throughout the years.♥️

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Martin Ross
16:31 Jun 13, 2023

You always do such an excellent job setting mood and place and realistic character and relationships! Very touching and poignant.

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Mary Bendickson
16:49 Jun 13, 2023

Thanks 🙏. This was my Mom and my Aunt Marie. This barely captured the trauma/drama of their lives or the depths of their friendship and faith.

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Martin Ross
18:26 Jun 13, 2023

You have so many great stories to tell!

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Irene Duchess
03:00 Jun 13, 2023

Wonderfully written, Mary. Heartwarming Thanks for sharing. :)

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Mary Bendickson
03:23 Jun 13, 2023

Thanks 🙏

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Joe Smallwood
12:32 Jun 12, 2023

Hi Mary, So dime a car drive in and they make money off the concession stand? Not likely when you can bring food in the car like my parents always did. And up here in Canada it is H e double hockey stick! This was fun to read, thanks.

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Mary Bendickson
14:34 Jun 12, 2023

My understanding was it was the indoor theater.Same one I went to as a kid. And I doubt they knew anything about a hockey stick during Depression in Southern Il.Mom always told me they never knew there was a depression. They were always poor. Marie thought my mom was rich. This was my Mom and Aunt Marie. Thanks for reading and liking.

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