If Peter Pan had had a twin sister, she would have been like my late college roommate, Carol Ann Hough. Called “Huff” or “Huffy” by those who knew and loved her during our college days in the 1960s, she was free-spirited, adventurous, a fun-filled sprite.

Nancye Tuttle, right, and her college roommate, Carol Ann Hough. Known as “Huff” or “Huffy,” she was “feisty, rambunctious, refreshing – like a huff or puff of wind on a warm, spring day.” Photo courtesy of Nancye Tuttle

My fellow Glassboro State College friends and I dubbed her “Huff” when we first met on the campus of that South Jersey teachers college in 1962. Our circle of friends had an abundance of Carols, so she got that nickname early on. It fit her perfectly and it stuck. She was feisty, rambunctious, refreshing – like a huff or puff of wind on a warm, spring day.

Like Peter Pan, she lived life with a sense of wonder and joy with each new adventure. I was taken aback at first, when I awoke each morning to the mounted, stuffed squirrel staring me straight in the eye from Huff’s dresser across the room. But I grew to appreciate this as one of Huff’s special traits – a deep love for all nature and the need to preserve them. I even got used to the occasional road kill I’d find in the freezer, Huff’s treasure for the taxidermist on some trip home.

We tolerated each other’s differences, including her admittedly grudging acceptance of my smoking. Our tolerance grew into admiration and affection, and we roomed together all four years. She was in my wedding after our 1966 graduation. And I returned to New Jersey from Michigan for hers three years later.

But life inevitably got in the way. She taught in Ohio and New Jersey.  I became a mom, moved with the family to Massachusetts and started a journalism career. Aside from yearly Christmas cards, Huff and I lost touch.

Until I got word in late winter of 1992 that Huff – just 47 – was in hospice with breast cancer. I had to see her and reconnect. So, I drove to New Jersey for this reunion of friends.

Despite her discomfort and our minimal contact, we reunited with love and laughter and rekindled youth. Stuffed animals, flowers, pictures and mementos filled her crowded room. Lying in bed and afflicted with pain, Huff, nonetheless, pulled out a stash of photos she had taken that chronicled our college years.

Memories flooded over us and we were carefree college kids again. I returned to my youth, brought back by Huff – Peter Pan’s twin sister, who loved life, its joys and adventures and refused to stop savoring it, in spite of the cancer that ravaged her body.

Huff died a few weeks later. Other classmates and I gathered for her celebration of life, sharing memories and toasting our dear friend Huff, the kid in all of us who refused to grow up.

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