Wednesday, June 14, 2017



There is one person on earth who calls me “Mary” and gets away with it. Joyce (Klapstein) Hall has been that person for 62 years! We met at Bible Standard Institute (aka Bible Standard College, Eugene Bible College, New Hope College) in Eugene, Oregon, when we were eight years old. No, we were not prodigies who went to college at eight years of age! Our fathers were the college administrators, Joyce’s the president and mine the vice president.

I was a few months older than Joyce (aka Jodi, Joybelle), so we were a grade apart, but instant and forever besties.

Our first mutual memories are of running wild through the halls of the tiny college building, jumping down flights of stairs and hiding inside the knee-holes of teacher desks in the classrooms, as our fathers vainly called for us after late events at the school. Not as reverent as we should have been, we rolled on the thick red carpet in the prayer room and laughed ourselves silly.

My parents both worked at the college, mother being the librarian, and since I was an “only child,” with no siblings, I hung out at Joyce’s house after school and on weekends, where there was always something happening. Joyce had two sisters, one older and one younger, so there was a lot of activity, laughter, arguing, competition and craziness in her house. (My house was way too quiet!)

My favorite memories of Joyce’s house are the frequent sleepovers. Joyce and I shared a big bed in the basement bedroom, sitting up late at night to play Candyland and Uncle Wiggly, or just talking and laughing ourselves to sleep.

Her little sister, Sharon, often joined us for those games and seemed always to want to hang around us, the older, more worldly-wise sisters. Sara Alys (aka Sally), Joyce’s older sister, was the sophisticate of the bunch, and very pretty. I always admired Sally, wanting to be like her.

One of our fondest memories is of our “performances” in the front picture window of the house. The floor length curtains served as our stage curtains, and on cue, we would perform such show-stoppers as “Tom Dooley” or other pop tunes, for the family, who were obliged to sit through the caterwauling, as though they enjoyed it. Joyce’s mother or Sally sometimes accompanied us on the piano, as we sang soulful, tear jerking renditions of “Where the Roses Never Fade” or “Precious Memories.” What we never considered was how our performances must have looked to the passersby on Willamette Street, the main street of town that ran right past the window. Our nutty costumes and antics were visible from behind, as well as to the living room’s captive audience.

I remember the evenings when we were left alone in the house, when Joyce’s parents had to be away. Inevitably, some undecipherable noise would spook all of us, and we would tiptoe through the dark house to the kitchen, where we armed ourselves with butcher knives or other implements and waited beside the door for some invisible intruder. Years later, we marveled that we had never hurt ourselves, or some unwitting arrival, with those desperate weapons!

When we were in Junior High, I moved temporarily to Pasadena, CA, where my father took over a sister college. When Joyce and her folks came to visit, we had such a rollicking good time, it is a wonder anybody put up with us. Most memorable of that visit is our riding around in the back of the Klapstein station wagon, feet out the window of the back-facing seat with scarves tied to our toes, as we belted out “Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-dot Bikini.” No cop siren could have been more intimidating!

Joyce and I spent years together, but eventually, after high school, life separated us to different parts of the country, interests and obligations. We call the intervening years the “lost years,” and it is sad to think how many experiences we were unable to share. When we had children, Joyce named her firstborn the same as I had named mine, “Aaron.” We got together every now and then, and found that, whenever we did, it was as though no time had passed. We just picked up where we had left off, with laughter and sharing.

One such time, my sons and I visited Joyce and her family in Fresno. My Aaron and I continued the performing habit by entertaining them with magic tricks, courtesy of Aaron’s sunglassed, head-scarved pseudo-Arabic alter-ego, “Aarony-Baloney.” The gut-splitting laughter is never to be forgotten!

A couple of years ago, we reunited, now as grandparents, with aging bodies and somewhat creased faces. But, we are the same girls we always were. Our laughter still pervades any house we are in, and our husbands get a kick out of our behavior, which is unlike our behavior with anybody else.

We often consider how fortunate we were, to grow up when and where we did, and with the parents we had. We were blessed beyond measure, to be raised in households of faith and love, and we have done our best to pass the favor on to our own children and grandchildren.

Joyce, you are now joining me as a 70-something. I want to tell you how much you mean to me, and how much I hope we will always share the same hearts we have shared all these years.