Arlene’s Story

Site created on March 25, 2021

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Journal entry by Arlene Franks

It’s time for me to express my thanks, again, for everyone’s concern, prayers, and generously. So many of you have reached out through FB, email, text, phone, cards, and letters. I’ve caught up with some friends with whom I had lost touch. Some wonderful, warm, and humorous exchanges.

Some friends have s ent me gifts in the mail, as well. I received craft materials from Dawn Maloney and Robin Robinson, from Eureka, IL; Debbie Cohen of Mooreville, IN; Elaine Potter, formerly from Mooresville, currently of Brownsburg, IN; and Dawn Reynolds and “The Mooreville Gals.” Each box was filled with all kinds of fun things, like fabric and paper scraps; card-making kits; stickers; rubber stamps and ink pads, ribbon, yarn, and thread; stencils; and all kinds of colorful embellishments. They raided their own craft material supplies to give me these beautiful gifts for my paper projects.

Catherine Hargrove of Washington, DC, sent me a Cravings box of snacks. It was filled with all kinds of good stuff—individually wrapped savory and sweet items. Yum!

But, perhaps the most meaningful gift of all was a small, stuffed penguin with tiny red earmuffs, pictured above. It was from Leah Wells, a classmate of mine over 30 years ago at Claremont School of Theology in California. Yeah, I know, I can’t believe it’s been that long since I was in grad school, either. That means I was actually an adult 30 years ago! Sometimes I feel like a 35 year old woman in an 80 year old body.

But, it truly was the 80s when I was going for my master’s degree in religion and Leah was earning an M.Div., to be a minister. And, I know that because it was the primitive age of  technology. No Facebook, no cell phones, no Internet, no email. We had a small computer room with a few ancient computers where I typed all my papers.

It was towards the end of the second wave of feminism, and I was taking advantage of Claremont Graduate School’s new Women’s Studies program. Leah and I were both in a feminist women’s group on campus. The second wave was focused on equality, dismantling the patriarchal culture, and diversity. There were public clashes between the African American Womanists Movement and the largely white Feminist Movement. I learned a lot about the movements when I was a Claremont student.

Leah and I were each going through big transitions in our lives. We were growing up. We shared a lot more in common  than course work and feminism. Let’s just say we were working through some things from our pasts.

At some point, we decided to get each other a soft, plushy animal to represent ourselves so that we could give them to each other for comfort during anxious times. So. I gave Leah the penguin, and she gave me a small bunny(?) I think. I purged my stuffed animal collection long ago, so I gave her away. It was no doubt one of my many moves, and I was trying to get rid of extra stuff that I wouldn’t need to take with me. I thought a child might want to have one of them, so I donated them to a thrift store. I had a photo of it, but I can’t locate it just now.

As I opened Leah’s box, I recognized it immediately. It brought back such poignant memories, I felt like I was right back on the CST campus in the 80s, hanging outdoors with my friends, eating lunch from the little grocery store across the street that had an amazing deli.

Such bittersweet memories, which is the norm when one looks back over a particular time in one’s life. Even though she lives in Washington state and I’m now in Illinois, we never lost touch with each other, although there were gaps, we are still held together by a bond that spans time and space.

I am grateful for my friendship with Leah and all of you. I feel your love, am strengthened by your prayers, and encouraged by your reaching out to me in the many ways you do. Blessings!

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