Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 22, 2020

Deb and my other friend Deb

I've mentioned several times that husband Art and I share a lot of the same interests and outlooks. One aspect of this sharing paid big dividends in 2018. Two weeks before we headed off on a planned three-week visit to Wales, he told me there would be a "little" surprise for me.

I had to work to keep from asking questions as I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing his piquing my curiosity was working overtime.

As we headed off for the airport, I assumed the surprise would happen overseas. Then we took a detour from the shortest route and pulled into my friend Deb's driveway. I still couldn't quite believe what was happening until she appeared at the door with her suitcase.

I had spoken several times how it would be fun to have her join us on some trip, but at that point, Art barely knew Deb. But one thing he did know was that we seem to like the same people. Art told me later that if I liked her, he was certain he would as well.

We had a great time, but my getting closer to Deb has created a small problem - a problem that often makes me smile. It brings to mind the 1980s show starring Bob Newhart where he and his wife operate a Vermont inn. The town has many oddball characters, including three backwoods brothers. In every episode, one of the brothers talked while the other two didn't say a word. The talking brother would always make the introductions: "Hi, I�m Larry. This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl." While Deb is neither an oddball, nor does she have any problem speaking, she does join my long-time college roommate as being a good friend ... and who is also named Deb! They have yet to meet, but perhaps some day I'll be able to say something like, "Deb, I'd like you to meet my good friend Deb."

My problem is sometimes when I talk with others, I have to pause to make clear which one I am talking about.

Had it not been for the university, I would not have this funny problem as it's unlikely I would have met either of them. Wales Deb and I met because we�ve taught in the same department at Kansas State University for several years. We didn't know it until recently, but we probably took some of the same classes and had many of the same professors back in the 1970s. But she was a young married student at the time and I was single and carefree, so our paths didn't cross much. But since she joined our faculty, we have done a lot of things together, including sharing coffee and lunches, discussing work-related issues, and traveling together. Last year, she was with the group we led on a trip to France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.

This past Saturday was also her birthday. I arranged a "socially-distant" and somewhat-of-a-surprise get-together at her house. She knew I was going to stop by as I had made a cake, but I had also made last-minute plans for Lou and Linda - two other colleagues - to join us. We got out of our cars, stayed at least six feet apart, gave each other "virtual" hugs, and chatted for about half an hour in the driveway.

Roommate Deb and I met in our late teens/early 20s - a time when we were exploring independence from our families, learning what we wanted to do with our lives, and participating in crazy pranks, such as swinging from the pipes in our basement dorm room, watching "streakers" - naked guys - zip through the dorm parking lot, and joining the hundreds of other gals and guys in bed races and other activities for Spring Fling and Fall Follies. We agonized over school projects - hers in art and mine in journalism - and spent hours talking about our boyfriends, secrets, fears and dreams.

But if having two great friends with the same name isn't a bit strange, what is the likelihood they have the same birthday? Yep. Life is stranger than fiction!

So for the past few weeks, I gathered photos from roommate Deb and my college years and information about what was happening at K-State and around the world in 1975. I gave everything to daughter Mariya, who designed the poster using "funky" graphics that looked like they came straight out of the 1970s. The result was an 11 x 17 purple, orange and yellow poster that included photos of Deb and me sitting in front of our "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree, polishing our toenails, sporting a single large T-shirt - my right arm through one sleeve and her left one through the other, and wearing our graduation caps and gowns.

Yet I was getting a bit uneasy as Saturday approached because while I mailed it early in the week, I hadn't heard she had received it. But she found it on her birthday, hidden in a corner of their porch where the postal carrier had left it.

Deb and my other friend Deb are alike in many ways - smart, creative with crafts, interested in what's happening in the world, and involved in landscaping and gardening projects. Both can make me laugh at the drop of a hat. I count both as among the few people in the world I can talk to about almost any topic.

Sometimes I think of a poem that was on the opening page of a book my parents had. I couldn't find the exact origin of the poem, but it's considered a staple at Girl Scout campfires and it seems to apply here:

Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, the other is gold.

You have one hand, I have the other.
Put them together, we have each other.

Happy birthday, Deb and my other friend Deb!

Lower-right: Gloria, left, and roommate Deb in college; upper-left: roommate Deb with her birthday poster; lower-center: colleague Deb with her cake and a few other gifts; background: colleague Deb and Gloria by a rhododendron bush in the Chirk Castle grounds near Chirk, Wales.

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