As June wends its way toward July, I remember my old childhood friend, Fiona.

She moved to Skowhegan when we were in eighth grade. Her mother was from Scotland, her father England, so Fiona had a unique accent that I considered classy compared to our rural Maine twang.

Fiona was intelligent and literary, two qualities I appreciated, having been raised in a household where books were held in high regard and political and philosophical debate occurred on a near daily basis.

Fiona also was worldly, as she had traveled to far places. She had a sharp sense of humor, and we saw things in similar ways despite our dissimilar backgrounds.

We became fast friends. She visited my house in the country and I hers in town. I was intrigued by her siblings — three younger sisters and later, a baby boy. And of course, I loved her mother’s accent, which reminded me of my Scottish grandmother who had died a couple of years prior.

Fiona and I would get into laughing fits in English class.

One sweltering afternoon in Mr. Glenn’s room in the old junior high school, which had oiled wooden floors that creaked when you walked on them and pipes that clanged and ticked, I inadvertently insulted Fiona in front of the whole class.

We were sitting in the back row next to the windows, and it was so hot Fiona was in great distress. In an attempt to rescue her, I raised my hand.

“Mr. Glenn, may I open the windows? Fiona is sweating!” I declared, sending the class into uproarious laughter.

Being the good sport she was, Fiona took my faux pas in stride. While embarrassed, she knew my poor choice of words meant no harm.

That’s the way our friendship was. We giggled over ironies, talked of serious matters such as the state of the world, read books and talked about authors, music and what would happen to us when we got old.

Then when she moved to Canada, we wrote lots of letters back and forth — long, descriptive letters that always included a plea from me that she come to visit.

And she did, for several summers afterward, sometimes staying for two weeks or more.

Fiona fit into my family well and became a surrogate sibling. She never hesitated to roll up her sleeves to help prepare meals, do the dishes, vacuum or hang out clothes. She figured if she were living with us, it was her obligation to pitch in. My parents loved her.

We’d go swimming in the local watering hole, trek through the fields and woods around our house, ride bikes, shop, cook and stay up late at night watching movies or playing music.

Fiona became not only my friend, but my siblings’ as well, and our families became tight. She was even asked to be a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding.

Her family moved around quite a bit because her father was a college professor, but wherever they went, they stayed in touch.

Her father eventually died, as did one of her sisters, but we remained close.

Fiona’s mother settled in Halifax and for many years after that would visit my folks and stay a week or so. My parents would visit her in Halifax. One New Year’s Eve, Fiona’s brother and sister drove from Pennsylvania to Skowhegan and surprised my parents by showing up unannounced and stayed a few days. We were thrilled.

Fiona eventually married and had a daughter. We visited her in Florida a few years ago, and it was as if no time had passed. We shared a bottle of wine on the beach and watched the sun go down. It was a happy reunion.

Then my father passed away. Last fall, Fiona’s mother was to visit my mother in Skowhegan, but called to say something had come up and she had to postpone the trip until spring. Sadly, that never happened, as my mother died in January.

But the friendship between our families will never dissolve, and I know that death and loss will not change the connection we have.

No matter where any one of us is in the world in the future, we know that if we show up on each other’s doorstep unannounced, we’ll always be welcomed with open arms.

That’s a great legacy built from a friendship between two eighth-graders in a little old school in Skowhegan many long years ago.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 27 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]

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