A Friend Remembers: Ellie Eling

By Alma Ailing

Alma Ailing and Al Schwartz
Alma AIling, right, and Al Schwartz, left. Not Pictured: Ellie “Aileen” Eling.

Some verse once read losing a friend hurts worse than losing a bridge. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had dentures to lose. But I did have a friend to lose, and lose her I did.

I knew Ellie (Aileen) Elly better than some. Upon entering kindergarten she was the first friend I had. She really made nap time fun. And boy could she fingerpaint! We remained close friends for most of that first week but then, when her father was whisked off to fight in World War II, Ellie changed. I would have changed too, especially since the war had been over for five years by then. He never did come back.

How Did “E” change, you ask? Well, in the first place she got her haircut. Then she started wearing her father’s socks. After that we had a falling out that lasted three decades. We saw each other on trash day but that was about it. Our husbands, however, became fast friends. Thick as thieves, those two. Always racing off to scribble in the woods while Aileen and I stayed behind and tended to the children, which only added stress to our friendship because neither of us had children. We never did find out where those kids belonged.

Eventually our differences drifted apart and we became thick friends, fast as thieves. Ellie had a way of tossing her hair that I envied. She always carried little bags of it around with her, ready to throw a handful whenever the whim caught her.

Speaking of whims, Aileen was whimsically musical. She started a comb-and-paper band which she led in every Bass Lake Founders Day Parade, until it turned out the Bass Lake Founders were creeps. From then on she led the comb band, which she called the Comb-Overs  – she loved to tell her joke about that  “Comb Over sound”  and  “let’s have the Comb Overs” – at Founders Day protests. She called them the “Fondling Fathers.”

Then there was that glorious vacation. Ah the memories.

But now all that is gone. Eil has shuffled off to Buffalo, or something. Al would know, but he and Clyde are out in the boat with their scribbling. Save a nap mat for me, Aileen!

Alma Ailing lives on Bass Lake with her husband, Al Schwartz, and someone’s adult children. She wrote this. 

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