One-third of the hits I receive on my blog are from search engines. Therefore, it makes sense to me that, if I put enough identifying keywords in a given blog entry, someone should eventually hit my site who knows a little more about where some of my long-lost friends are. If I dredge out all the forgotten details about my friends’ lives and histories, not only should it make fun and nostalgic reading for my regulars, but it should eventually attract hits from searches about the same person. Hopefully that person will comment or e-mail and give me an update on said individual.
So begins the first in the Where Are You Now series: Mechelle Denise Dunphy, best friend, 1984-1987.
My family moved to Oakside Trailer Park on Route 301 in Riverview FL in the summer of 1984. Next door to us — across the way, actually, behind our trailer — lived a 10-year-old girl, Mechelle, with her grandparents and her aunt. Her grandparents she called “Grammie” and “Hon” (although I do recall that Hon’s real name was Cosmo), and her aunt’s name was Sue, and they all had the most fantastic New England accent (mixed with a little Florida sunshine).
Mechelle was almost two years older than me, although she was only one year ahead of me in school; she’d been held back one year along the way. We attended Riverview Elementary School in Riverview, Florida, and ended up being best friends almost by default, as we were two of only three girls our age in our trailer park. The third girl was Mandy — Amanda Reese — and she was the bossy one.
Mechelle and I were inseparable during the summers, and when she’d get grounded, it was almost like I was being punished, too. We taught ourselves to ride bikes by balancing the rear wheel of our bikes on a speed bump, then pushing off and coasting as far as we could. Our bikes matched, by the way: blue, with clouds and the words “Blue Angel” emblazoned on the side. Monkey bars and banana seats. Mechelle’s family even took me camping with them in their RV. They lived to regret it, though, as I wrecked Cosmo’s three-wheeler bicycle by taking too sharp of a turn down a hill and tipping it over.
Many times, Mechelle had to be the bearer of bad news, like, “Hon says you’re not allowed to ride his bike anymore,” or, “You’re not supposed to hang around outside my window anymore,” or things like that. Usually I got all frustrated and asked if she’d told them our side of the story, and usually she hadn’t. I think she would have gotten punished for “talking back” if she had, though, in retrospect.
We were in Girl Scouts together for a couple of years — I had to wait a year to join, until I was in 4th grade, because if I’d joined in 3rd grade, I would have been a Brownie, not a Junior, and wouldn’t have gotten to be with Mechelle. Mandy was in Girl Scouts, too.
I had my first religious discussions with Mechelle, as she was my first non-Mormon friend who actually talked about things that happened in her church, like her First Communion. I remember asking her questions like, “What does it mean to be Catholic?” and getting answers that didn’t make sense to me, as a young Mormon. I knew what Mormons believed that supposedly made us different — that Jesus came to the American continent after He was resurrected — but I couldn’t seem to fathom Catholicism through the eyes of a preteen. The only big thing I could really gather was that, if they sinned, Catholics had to tell their priest, and it was really embarrassing, so they wouldn’t do it anymore.
Case in point (and if Mechelle ever actually reads this, I’m sure she’ll be embarrassed): After her First Communion, Mechelle had to go to Confession and tell the priest/father/whatever that we’d been playacting sexual situations with her and my Barbie dolls. Actually, she’d phrased it as “having sex with her Barbie dolls,” which apparently gave the clergy in question the most bizarre mental picture. He’d had to ask her if she’d meant she was doing things to herself with the dolls. When she told me the story of her confession, we were both aghast that he could think such a silly and gross thing.
As I’d mentioned, Mechelle lived with her grandparents, and they had custody of her. Her father and stepmother visited often, though, and lived in the same trailer park as we did. Shortly before I moved away, her stepmother (also named Sue) had a daughter, Alicia, and later had a son, Allan.
My family moved back to Ohio after spending three years in Florida. Mechelle and I tried to stay in touch, but she was never much on writing letters, so correspondence was always sporadic.
We did vacation in Florida a couple years later, and Mechelle went to Busch Gardens with us. That was fun. We both decided that neither of us had changed very much in the past couple of years, although it took a while for us to get back in the groove of our best-friend-like banter.
Mechelle ended up joining band, and sent me a picture of herself in her summer band outfit with her flute. I was so… not quite jealous, but impressed, I suppose. I had moved between school systems at a crucial time, and never got to learn an instrument in elementary school.
The last I heard from Mechelle, she had gotten pregnant and quit school around 10th grade. She had a son, I believe, and her aunt Sue either had custody of him or had actually adopted him, I forget which. Mechelle was working at Burger King. I think I might have expressed disappointment that she?d quit school in the last letter I wrote her, and I always thought that might have been why I never heard from her again.
Shortly thereafter, my Mom separated from my stepdad, and we moved out of the house. Tom didn?t stay there much longer himself, so it?s entirely possible that she tried to write me in later years, like I tried to write her, and that her letters were returned like mine were.
So, Mechelle, if you’re out there, shoot me an e-mail and let me know what’s been happening with you for the past ten or fifteen years. If you know Mechelle, tell her I’m looking for her, and want to say hi.