Willis Lake Village and The Friendship of a Lifetime– HAPPY BIRTHDAY EVE, DONNA AMADO!

Do you all realize it’s been FORTY YEARS since Willis Lake Village (Flintlock Road, Pheasant Run, Powderhorn Drive and Forge Drive)  – and to those who lived on South Crane Ave (up to Timmy Wade’s* house), FORTY YEARS since we chuckleheads disrupted life as you knew it (read Mark’s “The Nimrod” for a better explanation!)  Can you say, “There goes the neighborhood!”?
And it’s been FORTY YEARS since I met my bestest friend, Donna.
I can’t begin to talk about my relationship with Donna, without including the neighborhood where we met and grew up, and a lot of you.  I’ve tagged as many of you as I could from that area; you are all a part of it.  We had a solid core of kids all around the same age at the time—obviously, my focus is on my age group.
We were one of the first families in the brand-new neighborhood in 1973, just before I started first grade (count the years, Donna, it’s been 40!!) (Donna LOVES when I say that!).  I didn’t know anything about the planning of the neighborhood, why it was built or why we moved there (hell, I didn’t even know that section of Taunton was called “Oakland” until after my own kids were born! I knew Whittenton, the Weir, East Taunton… we had the Taunton West Little League, ergo: West Taunton?).  All I knew is that EVERY SINGLE HOUSE had kids.  We had a great neighborhood, didn’t we?  I wish my kids had been able to grow up like we did, in a neighborhood like that.
My family (Roulusonis) lived at 103 Flintlock Road.  If you looked straight down into the neighborhood, our house was almost the last visible house on the right, where the road bent to the left.  You knew which house was ours by all the cars in the driveway that Dad was either working on or racing. Very LOUD cars.
Our neighborhood was tight.  Of course we had our issues, but for the most part we all got along, and we all knew each other.  Most of you even knew that I was NOT Margaret Wade.
Random neighborhood memories:

Sitting on the no-longer-there wall at the top of Flintlock Road, where there used to be signs that said “Willis Lake Village”.  (Remember when that was our bus stop, and the ‘big kids’ were blowing up snakes and frogs with firecrackers?)
Riding our bikes down “the Big Hill” (Forge Drive).
Trick or Treating in the neighborhood.  SO many houses; SO much candy! (Hey, remember when Rik dressed up like that guy from KISS for Halloween?—wait! What?)
Block parties on Pheasant Run (Eddie Rabbitt’s “I love a Rainy Night” always makes me think of those)
Playing football out in the street in front of Mike’s house “’til the lights came on”.
The path in the woods between our house and the Amancio’s house that led to Willis Pond. The bent tree that we used as a see-saw.  What else did we do in those woods, down that path with the little creek over the years? And Truth or Dare, Denise?
(Did we actually inhale? And does that count?)
Park and Rec behind the Taunton Nursing Home
We all went to Barnum School for two years before they moved us all to Bennett School.
(And here’s where my memories get a little my core-group-of-friends-centric: )
Mrs. Nadeau’s class (she had me and both of my sisters three years in a row and was pregnant with a new child each of those three years!).  Remember racing each other to get our before-school work done first? When Michael got his pencil stuck in the ceiling?  She called you guys “pills” because you were ‘hard to get down’.  How mad did Mr. O’Neill get?  And how could we tell? He’d put his head down on the desk and you could see his ears getting red! Mark’s comedy skills, I believe, were honed here.
Donna, remember that you called me “Pepto Bismal” many times during these Bennett years because of this pair of hideous patchwork pink pants I used to wear?
The Girls’ Club.  Rollerskating and “Molding and Painting”.  Vanilla, chocolate and strawberry taffy.  Swimming at the Boys’ Club and having to wear those STUPID rubber swim hats.  Each mother taking turns driving.  We all knew Donna’s phone number because her mother, Nancy, had an effective intonation of it: “EIGHT two-two, THREE one, five SEV-en!”  I remember being in Nancy’s car, squeezed in the front seat between her and Donna, when Donna’s door flew open and Nancy was able to reach across both of us to pull it shut!

Being in my little pool in the backyard when Grandma came out wearing only a wet towel, jumping around and screaming “It’s a BOY!” when my brother was born.  (We had a number of babies born that year: Bobby, Heather, Missy).  Donna, when you mentioned Grandma’s stuffed artichokes in conversation last month, I almost cried.  I was so glad you remembered that.
They taught us the New York Hustle in gym class at Bennett School, which we all continued practicing in our driveway, “Staying Alive” playing on Dad’s jukebox.
The Blizzard of ’78.  Sleds to the store for milk, bread, eggs and beer.  When the plows finally made it to our neighborhood, celebrating being out of school for the week by turning the plowed chunks of ice by the road into desks and just sitting in them.  Donna got one leg stuck in a snow drift all the way up to her thigh.  I had to be the lucky one to go wake up her father to pull her out.  He thought she was faking at first!  We had two of the scariest fathers (both Bobs) on our side of the neighborhood—you did NOT want to have to wake them up!) WHAT WE DID TO MY FATHER’S RACECAR THE NIGHT THE BLIZZARD STARTED! Climbing up the snowdrifts behind the car and sliding down the roof and hood onto the snow in front of it— and he didn’t see the damage our zippers and buckles did until the snow cleared! 
Fun and Games’ song “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” with Mike Gargano. “AAAhhhh   AAAhhhh YES!” jumping off the chairs.
Playing “Charlie’s Angels” with and without the dolls.  You were Sabrina, I was Kelly.
“Flipping” Star Wars and Charlie’s Angels cards.
Making up dances wearing ponchos my Grandmother crocheted as skirts.
The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.  SHAUN CASSIDY.  …sigh…
And then we went to Mulcahey School.
Crunchy hair at the bus stop on cold mornings.  You can’t blow dry a perm!
Being the first (and sometimes only) two out on the dance floor at the dances (Chris Menard, when you came up to us on the dance floor at our 25th high school reunion and said it was like a ‘flashback’ seeing us dancing together—that was my favorite part of the night!)
“Jogging” at 4:30 am.  Donna would climb into my bedroom window (I never understood why we did it like that, since we’d go outside using the front door).  Jogging quickly turned into walking, which turned into eating cereal, sitting out in the middle of Flintlock Road.
Swinging upside down on the swings and scraping foreheads on the ground
Wearing shorts under our dresses and standing up on the swings at Mulcahey, scaring the shit out of Mrs. Bednarz.
Larry Masterson at Mulcahey
Being Mrs. Jacobs’ ‘pets’. 
The Pirates of Penzance, and our trip to NY to see it.  Freddy trying to get a room with girls by putting his name down as “Frederica Boltona”–  and he was your date to my wedding in 2001!
Betting pennies on who laughed first over The Monkees and The Little Rascals after spending the afternoon in Debbie’s pool.
Donna was the person I called the night I ran away when we were 13.  And she and her mother came to pick me up at Reese’s Variety (I will always call it that).
Rollerskating and bike riding to school
Super pinkies handball in the tennis courts/superballs against the wall at Mulcahey before school.
When Richie and Louise moved into the neighborhood!
Mike, Joey and Stevie and BMX.
Her dad’s band, and Dave scaring the shit out of us on Halloween
Meatloaf’s “Bat out of Hell” album.
Jump roping
Double Dutch Bus and Tainted Love
Reading “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” and waiting for our periods.
Reading ALL the Trixie Belden books.
Parties at my house where we’d spend weeks deciding which 45s to put in the jukebox, and after the party Dad would laugh at us because out of the 80 records we put in, we would usually only listen to 6 or 7 over and over again.  (That was, if we made it through a whole party without Dad shutting the whole thing down!)  REO Speedwagon and Journey songs feature prominently here.
Our 8th Grade Grad trip to Rocky Point.  Donna was on the ski lift ride (what was it called? The Sky ___?) and her flip-flop fell off while she was over my head.
After my parents’ divorce, when I moved out of the neighborhood briefly with my mother, Donna and Debbie were walking by my house and Dad was outside mowing the lawn.  They made the mistake of stopping and asking him how I was doing.  They got stuck there for two hours listening to him lecture about the importance of a good education, the moral of the story being “Hold the pickles”.  That was Dad’s thing; if you didn’t get good grades, you would end up a lifelong employee at McDonald’s.
Unfortunately, we went to separate high schools, and I moved to CA for a year. We picked up again, right where we left off after I came back.  I’ll never forget almost 10 years ago when she called me to tell me that she was pregnant, and I laughed “better you than me”—then three weeks later I called to tell you that you must’ve been contagious, because I was pregnant, too!  And our girls, both born in December have a great jump on the best-friendship, with the dubious distinction of being the next Donna and Susie!
Because Donna’s a nurse, she became my Dr. Spock.
Because she’s a Scorpio, she was also my Dr. Ruth!
In 2010, my daughter Deren surprised me for my birthday with tickets to see Tears For Fears at the House of Blues in Boston, and was even able to book Donna to go with me!  That made the night so much better! Best surprise ever!
Oh, yeah, and then there was that time last year at her house when, for the FIRST time in my life, I was “that person” at the party who was ‘holding up the ground’!
When my friend Don was dying last year, she surprised me at my mother’s house on my birthday, knowing I was upset that that day was the last I would see him.
When I almost lost my apartment this past summer, she was right here immediately for me as well.
I can talk to Donna about anything, at any time, about anything, with no judgment and unwavering support.  I only hope that when all is said and done that I’ve been as much of a friend to her as she has been to me.  One thing I’ve learned, especially over the past few years, is the value of a good friendship.  I have it all, with Donna.  There are so many more memories I did not include here.  Thank you to everyone else that was a part of them!  I know there will be so many more to come!
Thank you so much, Donna, for everything over the PAST FORTY YEARS! J  (I’m gonna keep saying that!)
And for your actual birthday, there will be PICTURES!

*Sorry, John, I will always think of you as Tim!

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