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Memories from December 9th, 1980?

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Yesterday, December 8th, was a day of remembrance for many. Many memories were recalled on the topic of the thirty year anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. World staff member, Doug Shirk wrote a lovely commemorative blog asking a question that was asked around the world, "Where were you December 8th, 1980, around 8pm?"

I recall exactly where I was when I heard the news of John Lennon’s death, but I have to confess, I don’t remember December 8th, 1980 at all. My memory of that terrible event began on the morning of December 9th, 1980. Now I’ve been accused of being a day late and a dollar short at least once or twice in my life and I'm guilty of being tardy a time or two, but for this event I have no excuses, only a very good reason as to why I didn’t hear the news of John Lennon's death until the following day – I was 17.

I haven’t a clue what I was doing on the evening of December 8th, 1980, but I have a good guess. I was a senior in high school and it was a school night so I was most likely sitting in my room, listening to music (most likely too loudly). I didn’t watch a lot of news back then and even if I did, kids didn’t have televisions in their rooms like they do now, so it would have been just me and my turntable – imagine that, no TV, no phone, no video games...

It’s a little odd that I didn’t hear the news prior to leaving my house the next morning either. The TV was never on in the mornings, but I would often listen to the local rock and roll station, WLRS on the radio in my room. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised though as it must have been one of my semi-comatose mornings, perfectly justifiable by teen standards – I’m certain my parents just pushed and prodded me along and got me out of the door in time to catch my bus.

Where my memory begins is standing at the bus stop. It was a cold morning and I was standing at the corner bus stop where all of the neighborhood kids would gather to wait, when I looked up to see my friend, Susan running straight for me with a look of purpose on her face. Susan is my “best friend from life”. We all have a best friend from high school, or a best friend from work or a best friend from college, but Susan and I grew up two doors away from each other. She and I were inseparable as children. We shared toys, houses and even parents. We explored the woods around our house and we played everything from school to dolls together. And Milton Bradley should know that no two people on this earth have ever played more games of Yahtzee than the two of us while spending hours on end in her folks' pop-up camper. It was also through Susan that I first learned the difficult lesson that sometimes friends drift apart.

Susan and I were a year apart in school and though we remained friends, we found we had different interests - among my interests was rock and roll music. I think Susan found my interest amusing; I even have a picture of her posing in front of the four-foot high poster of Led Zeppelin that I had on my wall, but even today when I look at that picture I see her unease. Susan and I never really identified with the same kind of music, but that’s why she ran to me that morning in December; she’d heard the terrible news and though it hadn’t meant much to her, she knew what it would mean to me.

Susan ran all the way, calling my name, “Lisa, Lisa, did you hear?” When I assured her I hadn’t heard anything important, she related her news, “Jack Lemmon is dead!”

To which I replied, “Hmmm, that’s too bad.” I never knew that she was such a Jack Lemmon fan, but I was trying to be nice. I do remember the look on her face though, as though she were a child who had been given a brand new red balloon and I’d simply taken a pin and deflated it.

“But, I thought you liked him!” she countered.

“He’s ok, I guess he’s got some ok movies. I think my Mom likes him.”

It must have been the Mom comment that made her realize her blunder because she immediately followed with, “No, Jack Lemmon, or… you know, the Beatle!”

At that point everything changed. I had a thousand questions, but no voice.

In 1980, we had our commemorations at school and my friends and I observed Yoko Ono’s requested moment of silence at the designated time. I also came close to wearing out a stylus on my turntable listening to “Double Fantasy". I considered myself a Beatles fan back then, but I’ve become even more of a fan of the Beatles and John Lennon as I’ve gotten older. I still own the newspaper clippings and magazines that I saved from that sad time, but when I think back to December 9, 1980, what do I think about? Well, first, John Lennon lived a fascinating life that was cut tragically short by a murderer’s bullet. There can never be any justification for that, but his talent was immense, his legacy of music and peace will go on. But thirty years later, my memories of Susan are what seem to burn through the brightest from that day, the one who heard the news and thought of her friend first. One thing that maturity teaches you is that in life, friends pass through. Susan is still in my life, if only peripherally. She'll be the first to tell you that she's not one for corresponding, but whenever I get back home, I know I’m quite welcome to visit. And though we’ve each led our lives down separate paths, she’s still, and always will be, my best friend from life. The world misses John, but frankly, I think I miss Susan more.

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