My godmother didn’t have a magic wand. She couldn’t turn a pumpkin into a carriage, or me into a princess. But from the time I was a little girl, she had me entranced.
Her name was Dana and I thought she was beautiful, with her platinum blond hair, lovely dimples and a captivating huskiness to her lilting voice. Best of all, she had a way of treating me like a girlfriend, not a child, which made me feel special.
Dana became a friend of my mother because her husband, Bob, was a friend of my dad. The men were stationed together during World War II at Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport, La.
Coincidentally, both couples were from the Buffalo area and Dana and some of her siblings had even graduated from Holland Central, where my mother was a teacher and from which my dad had also graduated. Mother had even taught Dana’s younger brothers, and it was from one of these boys that she learned that Dana and Bob were at Barksdale.
Dad and Mother determined to look them up when they got there so they could at least share news from home. This wartime friendship bloomed rapidly and the two couples found they were quite simpatico, despite differences in age and background.
When Dana and Bob’s son was born, they asked my parents to be his godparents, and when I was born, the offer went the other way.
After the war, my parents settled back in Holland, and Dana and Bob in Tonawanda. Sadly, Bob and Dana’s marriage dissolved and he moved away, but my mother kept in touch with her beautiful wartime friend, and here, dear reader, is where the story enters the “truth is stranger than fiction” realm.
When Dana was in her late 80s, she revealed to me the stories of her harrowing childhood and her later-in-life romance, which were so dramatic they could be the subject of hit films. Dana was the oldest of five children and her father was an executive at a steel plant. The family lived well until the Depression, when he lost his job. Unable to face his bleak situation, he absconded, leaving his family destitute.
A short while later, Dana’s mother took the children to the Buffalo Zoo, and as they were waiting for a bus at the corner of Parkside and Amherst, she said, “Look after the children, Dana. I’ll be right back.” She never returned.
Abandoned by both parents, the children were taken into county care. Dana and a couple of her siblings were fostered out to families in Holland. In high school, she and one of her schoolmates, Jack, the scion of one of the town’s more prominent families, fell in love. Unhappy that their only son was dating a “county child,” his family discouraged the romance and it ended, but the relationship was planted too deep for either of them to forget.
Dana and Jack married others and started their own families, but both marriages failed. One day one of Dana’s brothers visited her and said, “Let’s go look up some of the boys and girls we went to high school with.” As you can probably guess, one of the “boys” they looked up was Jack. It didn’t take long for the flame of the old love to reignite, and Dana and Jack’s subsequent and very happy marriage lasted until his death decades later.
Dana has now passed away, too. I remain privileged that toward the end of her life, she gifted me with her story, the ultimate confidence from one girlfriend to another.