A Friendship of Me and You…

Donna Templin Elliot and Julie Boyer Vest

As these ladies arrived for our interview, I noticed a few things right away. One is how they lean into each other chatting nonstop as they walk towards me, how they are aware of their surroundings and yet it seems like they are the only two in existence to each other. The second thing I notice is Donna has a book with her. The book was not a yearbook or photobook as I expected, but rather a children’s book that Julie gifted her. The book Me and You by Genevieve Cote, tells the story of two very different animal friends. They have different perspectives, attitudes, and talents, and yet they complement and complete each other. Inside the book, Julie wrote: “Donna, It’s good to wish, but it’s better to be – you just like you, and me just like me. For my lifetime friend, Love Julie.”

Unlike many friendships that have no certain beginning, these two know exactly how and when they began their friendship. Donna begins the story of two little three year old girls, “There once was a cul-de-sac where Broadway is now and my grandmother lived on the corner of that and the lady that kept Julie lived right across the street. She stayed with Julie Nance, everyone called her Miss Julie, and I would go to my grandmothers and we just started playing together.” Immediately these two are taken back to the time when their friendship began as little girls and that’s when the laughter begins for this interview. Donna grabs Julie’s wrist and smiles, “Can you remember what Miss Julie fed us? I can’t believe we ate it!” Julie answers, “We ate sardines and crackers!” “As little girls,” Donna adds. Julie says, “At three years old!” Donna completes the story with, “I can even remember her opening those cans up.”

This is how a conversation with these two goes; a volley back and forth of snippets of memories and sentence fragments that create a whole story. These two wasted no time becoming fast and close friends from a very early age. When 6 year old Donna moved to 1st street, Julie already lived on 1st street, Donna says, “so that’s really when we were always together.” Julie adds, “The house I grew up in is still there and Rucker is in that backyard. We walked everywhere – all our friends did, we even walked to school together. We all rode bicycles and tied wagons together and had a convoy and other days we would play in the woods behind our house. Those woods are still down there. We would play cops and robbers.” Donna continues the memory, “We would play all kinds of stuff, Julie and I were together a lot. We slept outside on blankets looking at the stars.”

Both women take on looks of fondness and happiness when they think back to day-to-day events and happenings they have shared together. Julie remembers, “There was a pear tree we would eat pears off of and a mulberry tree on 3rd street that we all ate off of and climbed, we ate anything and everything all over town. We were street urchins running around all the time”

When asked if they’ve always been friends, no time of fading away or strains from distance, they answer an emphatic no. Julie says, “We were friends before we were in school, during elementary school and high school, we grew up together.” Donna adds, “It just happened, we were both in town – we had the same friends, we didn’t go to the same church though, and I don’t know really how we just clicked, except we were just there together.” Julie knows the answer and says, “Our personality’s complimented each other. She was the crafty one that could do anything and I just dreamed. I dreamed stuff and she would say let’s do it.”

“Our freshman year we were cheerleaders together,” Donna begins. Julie adds, “We were on drill team together in junior high. Back in those days, the school’s drill team was 7 – 12th grade. I looked at our senior yearbook the other night, and there were close to 40 girls on the drill team. For that day and age, that’s a lot of girls. That was more than half the female population. If you were breathing, then you were on the drill team.”

Once the laughter from Julie’s quip settles, Donna says, “We played basketball together.” Julie says, “Donna was the athlete,” Donna replies, “You were an athlete.” Julie argues, “In those days when you played basketball it was half court. The coach told me to get out there and get the ball and give it to Donna. That’s my experience playing basketball.” Donna is quick to defend Julie’s humble comment with, “She’s exaggerating a little bit.”

Donna reminisces, “We were so close then. Everything I did, she was involved in and everything she did I was involved in. We were always there to comfort each other. When she was little she took piano lessons and had to practice every day. Her mother would say, ‘Donna Kay, Julie can’t play until she practices.’ I don’t know how I didn’t learn to play piano because I would sit on the bench with her while she would practice. Julie is a very good pianist.” Julie’s quickly adds, “I was, I’m not anymore.”

These two have such an incredibly rich history together. There were stories they shared about double dates, Halloween festivals, an undefeated basketball season, their weddings, being each other’s matron and maid of honors, prom and wedding disaster hairdos, and places they hung out with friends. They told stories about running out of gas and pushing the car, cotton bur fumes in the air from the burning, roads that once were and new roads they never dreamt would go in, finding out they were expecting their children, their children’s relationships with each other, and their grandchildren too.

Not all their memories are of fond times. When asked what they appreciate about each other, the mood become somber. Julie begins, “She’s faithful. I had cancer 18 years ago, her dad was still sick and was dealing with cancer, hardest phone call I ever made.” Donna replies, “Hardest one to receive.” With tears in her eyes Julie continues, “She didn’t miss a treatment – she took me to every single one.”  Donna says, “I felt like I needed to be there. I’d already gone through it with my daddy, and I knew what she was going into, knew how scary it was in the beginning. And I wanted to be there for her. Julie and I have been together to witness life being born and notified of death too.”

There’s a quiet moment of reflection where each of these women are transported to memories and experiences of their own not to be shared. Donna takes a deep breath and smiles and begins, “Julie says that I’m faithful, but Julie always knows exactly what I need. She knows when she needs to be with me, when to comfort me.” Laughter emits from Julie when she cracks, “and sometimes when to tell her it’s okay, you need to be quiet and calm down now.”

When asked of their thoughts of all the changes in Prosper, Donna replies, “I would have never dreamed what we’ve got now!” Julie continues, “I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. When we moved out in the country, I thought someday I’ll wake up and there will be a 7-Eleven across the street and that’s when I’ll move. But I was just joking about that. There’s a projected 1,300 homes going in across the road and Celina is projecting to build a 6 lane highway straight through the middle of our property, and that blows my mind. Shopping centers are now where cotton fields once were.” Both ladies seem mystified at the growth and yet not so surprised either. Donna says, “As we were growing up and raising our kids, people were coming here, but we just didn’t think about it.”

Donna and Julie remain as close as ever. They sometimes only see each other once in a while, or chat on the phone sporadically, but they always know what they mean to each other. Julie sums it up with, “We may not see each other for a month, but we are like sisters. Our friendship is a two way and that’s what has made our friendship last a lifetime.” Donna is holding Julie’s wrist again and says, “We’ve always worked; our friendship works. And we work well together. We can sit and try to figure something out and we add here and here and we come up with something.” Julie interrupts with, “I just do what she tells me to do. She just doesn’t let me use the scissors.” Both ladies are laughing again now and Donna adds, “No, she can’t use the scissors. She’s left handed and cannot cut. I never give her scissors! There are many times I think how did we stay this close this long. And we don’t have to be together all that often. She has friends and I have other friends, but when it comes down to it, it’s Julie and Donna and people know it.”

By Leslie Scott | Special to PROSPER Magazine

  1. Olivia Mongaras February 6, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Great job, Leslie in catching the essence of Donna Kay and Julie Ann! What you experienced is what those of us that grew up with them have experienced/seen over the past many years! Their positive nature is infectious – love them!

    Like

    Reply

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