When I wrote about Connie Jackson in my Murdo Girl stories, I had no idea where it would lead me. I hadn’t seen Connie since high school, and I didn’t know where her brother Eddie was living. Connie graduated from Murdo High School in 1968. Eddie and I both graduated in 1970.
I wrote most of my Murdo Girl stories about a year before I began to post them on the blog.
I had already written about my adoration for anything “Connie like.” I even located the picture of the navy blue and white dress I found in the Alden’s catalog. The one I thought embodied the “Connie like” style. I had written about all the trouble I went through to dump my motel job (working for my Mom), so I could work at the Frosty Freeze where Connie worked during the summer months. Unfortunately, she went onto another job that summer, so that didn’t quite work out the way I had planned.
The shoes are ‘Connie like” too, but hers were black.
When I was putting my thoughts together to write the end of Connie’s story, I wrote a letter from Connie to me. Yes, you read that right. It helped me to sort out what she might have thought or said if she had known I was trying to be her clone back then. What if she knew I had written about that time in my life all these years later? I’ll share the letter with you at the end of this post.
I hadn’t started my blog yet, but I had written the Murdo Girl stories, when I got the sad news. I read a comment on Facebook. Someone posted that Connie had died of cancer at the age of 63. I was devastated by the news. I had been remembering those high school days from long ago. Even though I knew I was no longer my once youthful self, in my mind Connie hadn’t aged a bit. I sat at my computer and stared at the picture I had found while searching for the notice of her passing. I came back to it off and on for several days. I had to accept that I was never going to see her again. I wouldn’t run into her at a high school reunion, or hear about her life after high school, which I knew very little about.
It was another two years before I found Eddie. I am really bad about getting or staying in touch with people. I thought about who I could call, that might know where he was living, but I never did call anyone. Time went by.
Then one night when I was talking to Karen Lindquist on the phone about the upcoming July (2016) all school reunion, she mentioned she had just talked to Eddie. She gave me his phone number and I picked up the phone right then and called him. We really had a nice visit and corresponded by email a few times before we all got to Murdo. Eddie and his wife Mari were there, along with our mutual friend and classmate Don Edwards. My Cousin Valerie Halla and I hung out with the 3 of them most of the week-end. (Everyone has accepted Valerie as being an alumni of Murdo High School.)
We couldn’t have planned it better. Contrary to what people say, you can go back home and it can be the best time ever. In fact I saw more of my old classmates last summer than at any other time since graduating.
I first started my blog when Kip and I took our first long RV trip. I found I really enjoyed it, so when we got home, I wrote (day by day), two fictional stories that were inspired by dolls. When I completed them, I started posting the stories I had written a year before about growing up in Murdo. 1400 people read the very first story I posted under the name of Murdo Girl. That was a little over a year ago.
I had named the dolls in the first 2 stories Abby and Bonnie. Mari and Eddie sent me some photos of a doll Mari displays in their home. Connie’s story began to write itself. I now had a C doll story. Too much happened in a few short months to merely say it’s been a series of coincidences.
The Abby, Bonnie, and Connie dolls.. My next book will be this series of stories inspired by dolls. All three are different in their storyline.
Eddie sent me some old high school pictures too. He figured I didn’t have any since in my earlier Murdo Girl stories I had used a picture of Audrey Hepburn for Connie. (He had found the blog and caught up with it after talking to me on the phone.) I didn’t have one single annual from high school. Eddie helped with background information and childhood stories. When we were in Murdo, he gave me a very special gift… Connie’s annual. He said he had wondered why he ended up with Connie’s MHS annual. He wrote a note telling me he knew now, that I was meant to have it. He said,”This isn’t “Connie like.” It’s the real thing.”
I have loved every minute of writing Connie’s story. It’s part Connie, part Mary, and most definitely about Angels. Connie Jackson believed that Angels surround us with love.
Thank you for your letter. I can’t tell you how good it made me feel to know you had been trying to emulate me when we were both in high school. You must have kept it pretty quiet, because no one else appeared to notice. If they did, they never mentioned it to me. Maybe because we were already more alike than you knew.
I feel gratified that I was mature in my actions and didn’t draw negative attention to myself. I guess it’s best to keep in mind that our actions influence others more than we know. Of course, the ability to act right should be embedded in our moral character, and be reinforced by the enjoyment of rewards that come from being a source of joy in the lives of others…difficult to do at every turn in life.
You have written about me as being a mature and self-confident teenager…A good student and role model. I’m a little surprised that you can describe my hairstyle, clothes and even some of the shoes I wore, like it was yesterday instead of 50 years ago. I understand you’re still unsure of what “Mary like” looks like. Although, I will say, I do like the Goodwill idea.
What interested me most about your letter Mary is your comments about life after high school. Why is it that some can make the transition with ease and success, and others struggle? I’m convinced the difference is not because of any inherent character defects. The question might be; what can or should happen in a young person’s life to make an easier transition more likely? I could have been more of a mentor to you had I known you were so influenced by me. It appears you literally watched my every move. I’m sure it would have helped us both if we had become better friends.
Look at it this way. We have both gone through hard times. Everybody does, but difficulties and a few wrong turns, cannot negate all the good things in our lives. Maybe the answer is we should listen more to the Angels sitting on our shoulders. Could it be as simple as that?
Take care of yourself Mary.
With love and understanding,
Your Connie Angel
This letter and the Connie stories were written by Mary with Connie in mind. I have known many people since High School, but there has never been another quite like Connie.
I believe that all things happen as they should and in their own time. I for one will be paying more attention to the Angel sitting on my shoulder.