A year later, a miracle happened: I was riding my bike down the street, and there she was, playing with some kids on the front yard of the house she used to live in! Her father had decided to sell the house instead of continuing to rent it out, and had brought my friend Ivy and her younger sisters to see it one last time.
We exchanged addresses and agreed to write - a task less daunting at ten than it was at nine. For the next couple of years we wrote (sporadically) and visited each other on weekends occasionally. Ivy and her siblings lived with her mom just an hour's drive or bus ride away.
Then her mom had a 'nervous breakdown' (the polite term for any mental illness at that time). Her Dad worked evenings and had to take frequent business trips, so Ivy went to live with her Grandparents.
Ivy came to visit me for a weekend that summer. She was miserable. Her Grandparents were strict, cold, demanding people who had disapproved of her mom from the start. They expected Ivy, as the eldest, to help with the younger kids and the housework. Unfortunately, Ivy was as flighty, timid and irresponsible as her mother.
Ivy poured out her troubles to me, spiced with examples of her Grandma's meanness, all weekend. By Sunday, I was as upset on her behalf as she was. Something had to be done! And quickly, because Ivy had to catch a 7:00 pm bus back to Toronto right after supper that night.
At the bottom of the hill a creek ran under the road. We had taken off our shoes and socks and were walking along it, scouting for frogs (well, I was, Ivy was just wading, she wasn't the catch-frogs-in-your-hands type) when I had a brainstorm. Ivy could come and live with me! My mom could take care of her (even then I realized that Ivy needed taking care of) and she could share my room. Like, permanent sleepovers with my best friend! But how to convince my mom?
We talked about this as we waded--it was such a good idea I forgot to look for frogs--and concluded the first step was that Ivy couldn't get on that bus. Of course, my mom would definitely be opposed to that.
We'd reached the place where the creek ran under the road. A tin tubing just big enough for us to walk into single file, bent over completely at the waist, allowed the river to flow underneath. I led the way in. The road above us was only two lanes, so it wasn't too dark. Suddenly I stopped.
"Ivy! This is a perfect placer to hide. We can wait here till your bus has left, then go home!"
Ivy was doubtful. I had to reassure her that Mom wouldn't be mad when she learned why we did it, and then I had to convince her we had to wait here--I knew Mom would send my older sister and brother out to find me when we didn't show up for supper, and they knew all my places. "There just isn't any other way," I told her.
We had a long wait in that little metal tubing, our feet in the water, crouched side by side against the metal. Our feet got cold. our backs and bottoms got damp. Every time a car drove over us the tunnel rattled and shook and the noise was awful. Normally I never noticed when the streetlights came on--supposed to be my signal to get home, but actually, my sister's signal to come haul me home--but this evening I saw them light up with relief. It was after 7:00 pm. We crawled out of the tunnel, put our socks and shoes on, and walked home.
Mom was really mad. My sister and brothers, who'd been out hunting for us, were even madder. And worst of all, it didn't work. Mom called Ivy's Dad and Grandparents to let them know we'd been found, and arranged to have Ivy take the 9:30 pm bus instead. No time to argue, she whisked Ivy into the car for the drive to the bus station and left me with orders to take a bath and get to bed.
When she returned, without Ivy, to my disappointment (I'd been hoping she'd miss that bus, too) she came into my bedroom. I started into an explanation of how miserable Ivy was at her Grandparents, how mean they were to her, how much she wanted to live with us.
"She needs us, Mom," I finished tearfully.
A month later, Ivy came to live with us, just before my thirteenth birthday. She stayed a little over a year, by which time her Dad had changed jobs and got a place where he could have Ivy and her siblings live with him.
But what adventures we got up to that year!