Jackie! Oh!

From first through third grade, all the neighborhood kids would take turns going to each other’s houses after school for a variety of snacks and hoopla. We weren’t supposed to play favorites, but we did anyway. Most of the other kids preferred Penny’s mom, Peg, whose laugh and green eye shadow were as robust as her Pucci-clad body, and whose snacks were guaranteed to ruin a week’s worth of dinners.
Nathan’s mom, Jacqueline, never wore anything but gigantic black-framed glasses, a white lab coat, and yellow Playtex gloves. She creeped the others out. She was secretly my favorite.
When I was in second grade, Jacqueline’s husband moved out of their house and into an apartment complex near the swim club. The only time we saw him was on weekends when he’d pick up Nathan in his red Corvette and drive away with the top down, causing us to regard our own dads, with their insistence on rolled-up windows and locked doors, as woefully substandard.
Pretty soon our moms were whispering “divorce” the same way they whispered words like “shit” when we were within earshot, their favorite to describe what they thought of Jacqueline’s husband.
Jacqueline was the only divorced mom in the neighborhood. Although we were all afraid of what the word would mean for us if it happened to our families, those of us who’d overheard our moms talking over mahjong were excited by what it meant for Jacqueline “as a woman” — even if we weren’t exactly sure what that meant. We just winked at each other as if we did.
“She’s gonna have to clean up her act, though,” Wendy’s mom said, “and knock it off with the weird crap if she wants to attract anyone good.”
I suppose Wendy’s mom meant how Jacqueline would fill the holes of her pink bowling ball with chocolate pudding and slurp it out with a straw. Or how when one of the “arms” of her eyeglasses broke she replaced it with a chicken bone and told me, “I’m killing two birds with one stone” and quickly explained what that meant when I looked at her in horror, thinking she had killed a chicken for the sake of her glasses repair.
I wish I could’ve frozen her in time and defrosted her as a friend now, 40 years later.

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