I think one of the most pleasantly surprising things about Julie Fairhurst was that, at the time, she seemed to have no idea how lovely she was. By age 12 I had already encountered numerous girls my age who were attractive, and knew it; whether they handled it gracefully or took advantage of it was clearly on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps it was her upbringing, or the fact that she was somewhat self conscious about her nose (slight hook at the end), Julie set the standard when it came to humility and grace, while possessing a beauty that could be compared to a young Natalie Wood.
Having her share of friends, plus two younger brothers, it seemed their home on Hillcrest Avenue was always a hub of activity. Before summer ended we decided to throw a fundraiser fair for Muscular Dystrophy, a disease that my cousin Clark suffered from. The components for the fair came in some kit that you ordered from the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, but I think Julie got hers second hand from somebody.
Anyway, I don’t remember a lot about the fair except we had a fortune teller, a neighbor and school mate named Debbie Newby. We weren’t real crazy about her, but since she was willing to help out, and had an authentic-looking fortune teller outfit, we thought, why not? She sat in a makeshift tent made of boards and a large quilt.
Anyway, toward the end of the fair, we heard a commotion and Julie and I looked up to see her brother Billy, and Debbie’s brother Steve rough-housing near the tent, and all of a sudden it all came crashing down on Debbie. From the wreckage we hear Debbie, in an annoyed yet calm voice, “Nice going, Steve.” It was all Julie and I could do to keep ourselves from bursting out laughing, as we helped unbury our fortune teller.
I don’t even remember how much money we raised that day ($15.00, maybe?), but it was a good experience.
Julie and I shared some classes in the fall of our 8th grade year, and a group of us would sometimes hang out at lunch. She was becoming a bit more extroverted, playing Clara in the production of Heidi, at our school. She was also starting to stand up to people more, verbally challenging a 9th-grade semi-bully named Angie — who ironically also had a part in Heidi — when Angie tried to boss her in line while we were waiting for the bus to take us home. I was taken aback by this once-demure friend of mine, but proud of her, just the same.
In October Julie helped my mother and I throw a 3rd birthday party for my little brother Brian. Brian referred to her as “Jewy,” and always looked forward to having her come by the house. My mother thought that Julie was one of the sweetest, prettiest girls ever, but I didn’t feel as if she was comparing me in any way. Besides, Julie was very humble and polite, always saying, “Thank you for everything,” any time adults treated her to something. Up until then I wasn’t all that great at saying “thank you,” to adults, so I feel I may have learned some of my manners from her.
Julie also had her sights set on trying out for cheerleader for the following year, which I thought was incredibly bold. I remember cavorting around in her backyard and she would do these cheers and leap in the air like a pro, while I, in all of my clumsiness, was more mascot material — but eons away from ever having the confidence or ambition to try out.
Julie had several families who she babysat for, and she was kind enough to put me in contact with three of those families who lived in our neighborhood. I was sort of her backup, which still gave me plenty of work. Thrilled to have a form of income outside of my month allowance, I learned at an early age the power of networking and that it really is “who you know.”
Later in that school year I could feel a sort of shift in Julie’s and my friendship. I had a separate set of friends, including Karen Bryce and Cozette Bouslog; Julie was gravitating more toward another set of friends we shared, Missy Caldwell, Debbie Carlin — girls who, although fun, could also be somewhat catty and critical at times.
Although still a great person, I could see mannerisms in Julie that reflected her maturing faster than me, and coming more out of her shell — plus she was sort of being pulled into a clique that I didn’t feel comfortable being part of. I had been to some of the slumber parties and, although I had an easy time making the other girls laugh, I still felt like the awkward friend with the unstable home life. Looking back I realize my own issues probably saved me a lot of headaches in the long run. I needed to go at my own pace.
Slowly drifting out of the friendship we once shared proved to be much more palatable than you would think, and over time we hardly noticed. By age 13 I was all too familiar with the comings and goings of friends; it was just a part of life. We had a great run, that summer of ’73, and on into ’74. I wouldn’t have traded it in for anything.
To be continued.