Kristina Groth was my childhood best friend.
She had the most amazing backyard for imagination and play. She also lived on a hill next door to me so we had that in common as well as the basement. In the front yard we used to play tag and chase, using the yard lamp for home base. It would light up at night automatically and shone over the whole front yard. We each had one as did all the yards in the neighborhood.
We would make pretend “salads” we didn’t eat on the front porch made of grass, various yard items such as mushrooms, leaves, and water. We made such a mess on that porch with the hose in between poking snails while singing “Poke, poke poke” over and over again. We were such tomboys.
We ran around with no shirts on back when we could, when we were too young to witness the event of womanhood emerging on our chests, canceling out any tomboy fantasies.
We used to ride bikes together, up and down the driveway, fearful of crashing into our garages. We also rode our bikes in the basement, then put on outdoor skates and skate in both of our basements, round and round. Her basement had more room which was a blast. Ours was cluttered with Dad’s workshop, old furniture, and toys as well as Mom’s gardening stuff.
We played Hopscotch, drawing the many squares with different colors of chalk. We used to play “Mother May I?” and “One, Two, Three, Red Light” among other games.
Kristina was an only child for a long time till her baby brother came along. I had three sisters. Kristina was also a daddy’s girl as was I.
We used to laugh at everything while eating. Kristina was part German and used to pretend she could speak the language, making up words as she went along while scarfing down buttered noodles at lunch time and giggling. We’d laugh and laugh at nothing and everything.
We rarely played in her room because it was just more fun to play outdoors and let our imagination run wild.
Once in awhile we swam in her or my kiddie pool. When we used mine, we often put the legs of the slide from my swingset into the full pool and slid down over and over into the water which was great.
Usually the neighborhood kids participated in that one.
What was so cool about Kristina’s back yard was it had a small brook running through it along with gorgeous dogwoods and various other kinds of trees. We made up a whole village based on each tree and the town was like an obstacle course you had to go through to get to the other side – the brook.
There was an incredible huge dogwood that had branches sweeping the ground. It was so big, Kristina and I could get under it, lay down, and look at the sky which was so cool. The other trees were nothing like it but they each had their own unique character.
We pretended an overgrown brush that happened to be in the shape of a gate was really a gateway and named each tree for some kind of base – Peach tree; etc. We contemplated about heaven and hell and I believed Kristina when she told me that the tree roots coming up out of the ground were the devil pulling us down under!
We collected things in the yard – nuts, pinecones; etc.
At night we ran around in the front yard collecting fireflies in Mason jars. After a few hours we let them go, usually once we went to bed. They would light up the jars with their various colors – blues, greens, yellows. We were fascinated and awed by them.
We also liked letting caterpillars crawl on sticks, picking them up and observing their feel and how they crawled. We’d play in Kristina’s yard way past dark or till our moms made us come in.
Once in awhile we played in our sandbox in my backyard making sand castles.
I don’t think I ever missed a day playing with Kristina except when she was sick and she was only ill a few times and only for a day or so.
Kristina’s mom was German and she used to walk around in Dr. Scholl’s sandals before they were popular. Her dad was Scotch and every Saturday he’d carry her on his shoulders answering the door at breakfast when I’d come over. She’d laugh and laugh while sitting there.
Kristina and I were friends for many years before she moved away to Chicago when her dad got a transfer for his job.
Our parents had to peel us off each other amidst hard sobs as we tried to cling to each other despire our goodbyes.
I was 11 and she was 9. We had been friends for about five years then.
I never saw Kristina again and have wondered about her since. I even had one of my former bosses, a private investigator, try to find her once but had no luck.
I still think about her and wonder if she got married, had kids, what happened, or if she still lives in Chicago. I wonder if she has a little girl who has a best friend like she was to me?
It’s harder to find females since some get married and change their last names.
I wonder if she’d remember me. Sometimes I think it’d be better not to find her if she didn’t remember me. I’d be hearbroken if that were the case.
I loved her like a sister and I had other friends but she was my best friend.
There were a few after that that came close but never like Kristina.
She had short blond hair cut in a bob and blue eyes. She was always the pretty one between the two of us, I thought. She liked me despite my glasses and boniness.
I still have a couple of pix of the two of us with our arms around each other, acting silly with our shirts off in her driveway.
I treasure those photos.
Childhood seemed to last forever back then and I couldn’t wait to get older so I could do the things my sisters did. Kristina watched what it was like to have siblings through my eyes for a long time as I imagined what it’d be like to be an only child, grateful for my sister, Cindy, my protector, my ally.
I wonder who lives in those houses now and who has come and gone. How many little girls found each other next door, playing in the other’s basements, dreaming dreams, and flying free?
I hope the person who lives in Kristina’s house lets their kids soar in the imagination of the outdoor, taking in their great backyard, free of video games and too much TV, realizing you don’t get to dream for long before pre-teen and teen years come to claim you in one swift motion, seemingly overnight.
So, Kristina, if you’re out there, look me up.
I miss you.