Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My 50 Years of Friendship with Barbara

Barbara: 1950 Graduation Photo

My mother's birthday was Sunday, April 5. She would have been 76 years old with nearly a full head of brown hair. She died on Friday, September 7, 2007. Although we tried to stop it, she drifted away from us into the lost land of Alzheimer's. A short time after she crossed over, her best friend, Millie, sent myself and my brother and sister, Mark and Tami, a copy of this letter. I have edited the original only to make it cohesive for those who don't know our family.

My 50 Years of Friendship with Barbara

I first met Barbara in November of 1956 at a little restaurant called The Shack. It was a trailer that had been remodeled into a cafe with six stools and two booths. Bill and Reva Lakmann had purchased it that same year. Many years later, I married Bill after Reva's death. It was a family business and their sons worked after school doing prep work. A few others, including Barbara, worked the day and evening shifts.

In 1959, the City of Redding decided that they would not renew the business license as the trailer was not up to code. It was moved off the property and a new, larger building, with two rooms seating up to 60 people, was built. Barbara started working the night shift which started at 5:30 p.m. Barb always seemed to arrive late and by that time, The Shack would be busy with the dinner crowd. Bill would always be waiting and looking at the clock. At 5:40 or 5:45, brakes would squeal, a car door would slam, and Bill would say, "Barbara's here!" I worked some evenings with her but when the breakfast girl quit, I started working the a.m. shift. I missed working with Barb. But on my days off, I would go up at night, help her close and catch up on all the news.

In 1969, customers kept asking Bill when he was going to enlarge again and put in a lounge. On October 12, 1969, The Shack Lounge was officially opened and there was standing room only for three hours. It took off. It never stopped being a very popular "watering hole" for many.

The Shack became known for its famous Broasted Chicken and The Shackburger. It was a good place to work and employees stayed on the job for many years. Mark, Barbara's son, was also a cook there. There were customers from out of town and state that would always stop in to eat and visit with the waitresses, namely, Barbara. So many of them would wait to sit on her station. George Kutras came in every morning for breakfast and would only sit in Barbara's station, no matter how long he had to wait. There were so many others, it would take pages to name them all. She brought in so much business for The Shack and was a favorite with all. We worked there for 37 years.

The year 1977, brought a big change in our lives. Bill passed away in February and Bud, Barbara's husband, in August. There were so many similarities with our lives. She had four grandsons. I had four grandsons. Then, a few years later, she got her little girl, Kerriann. Mark went to Korea and brought her home. Barb was in seventh heaven. I never caught up with her on that one. I didn't get any little girls. Our mother's both passed away within a few months of each other. My mom in March and hers, Wilma, in July.

We had so much fun with our trips to Reno, Las Vegas, Hawaii and Stockton to visit with Barb's sister-in-law and her husband. When going to Reno, Barb would drive as far as Susanville and I would take it on into Reno. She didn't like driving in the cities.

She got me interested in doing ceramics and we spent many years making them. Barb was so talented and artistic. She went on to do so many beautiful stained glass pieces. She made beautiful windows for the front doors of Mark and Ronda's homes. And one year she made 12 hanging lamps and gave them as Christmas gifts.

In November of 1993, a friend, Tom Parker, called Barbara and I and said he knew of a good deal for us to get into. We were both a little leery of Tom's "good deals." He knew of a little restaurant in Anderson that was open only on weekends while the Jolly Giant Flea Market was open. We were both ready to leave the Shack. It was no fun working there anymore and business had dropped off. Bill's sons had to sell it in 1985 and the new owner was hard to work for. So, we took the big step and signed the papers on November 23, 1993. We opened for business at 6:00 a.m. on December 4, 1993. Barbara kept her job at The Shack until the 7Th of January 1994. She said she wanted to stay until then so Sue, the owner, would have to pay her the big Christmas bonus of $50. I had quit in December--no bonus for me!!!

Our business took off. I did the cooking and Barb took the orders and cashiered. We had lots of fun and soon needed some help. Mark came down and cooked for us sometimes and Tami's son, Jacob, worked for us too. We never got rich, but we never lost money either. In December 1994, we decided to get out of it and sold it to a customer. Barb missed having her weekends off and my mother, who was 97, needed more care. It was the right thing to do. We would have more time to play.

When we both left The Shack, Sue's remark to one of the customers was, "Now that Barbara and Millie are no longer here, maybe people will realize I'm the one that owns The Shack and not them." We got a good laugh out of that. We never knew we were so popular.

My memories of our Saturday night in December every year to bake our 32 fruitcakes and make 32 pecan rolls are ones I will always cherish. We both loved to bake. Four or five hours later, we would be all through--tired but happy. I still have many of her hand written recipes that I continue to bake but miss her being there doing it with me.

Barbara was more than just my friend--more like a sister. We watched each other's children grow up, get married and start their own families. I remember helping Barb with Ronda's beautiful backyard wedding with the sun shining brightly in our eyes. Even Bill came to the wedding, because it was Barb's family and he thought so much of her. He never did that for anyone else.

In all of our 50 years of friendship and all of the trips we took together, we never had an argument. We were too busy enjoying ourselves. I have so many good and fond memories too numerous to mention. I will always be thankful I was one of the very fortunate ones to have a friend like Barbara. I believe very few are so lucky.

Even when her illness was beginning and she had to give up driving, we still went out every Saturday for lunch. Her favorite was Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad. I would pick her up and Tami and Brandon would always be there. Brandon usually doing some yard work and Tami, things in the house.

Weren't we all lucky to have her for a FRIEND, MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER?

Barb, we'll have a lot to talk about, dear friend, when we get together again. In the meantime, know that I love you and all our good times. Neither you, nor they will ever be forgotten.


Millie at mom's memorial service

Millie became a great grandmother at the beginning of 2008 and mom, if she had lived, would have been one in September of 2008. How many of us have been blessed in having such a wonderful friendship for 50 years? How many of us will find a friend whose life parallels ours so closely? How many of us can say that we found a friend to love and share with so fully and freely? How many of you have a friend like that in your life?

Sometimes the soul mate we yearn to find is right before us and not, by necessity, of the opposite gender. A soul mate is not necessarily a mate. Thank you Millie.

Happy Birthday, Mom. We love and miss you.


crone51 said...

That's lovely. I actually do have a friend that I have known basically since I was born. We are eleven days apart in age and grew up around the block from one another. Our relationship has been more like siblings than friends- with all the ups and downs of sisterhood. We can talk to each other without having to explain a lot. It's good.

Mrsupole said...

Your Mom and Millie really had a special relationship. Something like that rarely happens. My mom will be 76 in about a week and a half. We know how precious this will be, she has COPD and God willing will have a few more.

I loved that letter and just sharing it with us was so nice. It was almost like a history lesson there too. Going into the past like that was great. I am sorry for your loss, but know that you must of had a really special Mom. You were very lucky indeed.

God bless.

Ronda Laveen said...

Crone: It is so nice that you have a friend that is so close. I have a couple that are like that. Many years of history together.

Sherry: Every time I read that letter, I am blown away. 50 years is such a long time. So, your mother is an Aries too? Blessings and healing to her.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a wonderful letter! Fantastic that you have this detailed history of your mother's friendship with Millie.

I'm also so sorry to hear of your relatively recent loss of Barbara. May her spirit rest in peace.

I'm craving a shackburger! Or broasted chicken, please!

Ronda Laveen said...

Reya: We were so pleased to receive Millie's letter. It means more to us than she will ever know. The Shackburger and the broasted chicken was outstanding. The Prime Rib, melt in your mouth. Those were the days.

Squirrel said...

Sorry for your loss ~ a really beautiful post.

Evening Light Writer said...

Ronda, this is so wonderful, such a gift to your family! What a wonderful friendship one that brought people together and was so lasting. I have two friends that I am still in contact with, both were from middle school. We've been friends for over ten years and I refer to them as my sisters. I am sure this brought you a great deal of comfort, I'm positive they are together now having a blast. Your mom sounds like she was really a lovely, funny, artistic woman. I am sure you miss her. Do you still have her stained glass windows?

Ronda Laveen said...

Squirrel: Thank you.

Mindy: Are your two friends the one's that were with you in the post you did about losing weight? Yes, The window is in my front door. And a couple of others, my husband made into a ceiling for the bathroom. Very cool. Maybe someday I will show that in a post.

subtorp77 said...

Ronda, I don't think I could've done a better job of describing this life-long friendship between Millie and your Mom. It's just a beautiful story! And as long as you can keep her memory alive, you'll never really miss her. She'll always be there, in spirit. I still miss my Dad, even after almost eight years. And even tho' not all the memories are good, they won't be forgotten. Especially those things learned from him. God bless!

Ronda Laveen said...

Subby: you are so right. Even the memories of hurtful and less than perfect moments are precious. It is the good and the bad that define relationships and people. Blessings.