Those of us who grew up in and around DeTour Village all knew Ardis and Dolores Olmstead. But it’s funny how once someone becomes enshrined in memory, you appreciate them more. The long-married couple lived just around the corner from us, where Ardis’s barber shop pole provided a bright spot of color on the street. Dad would go over there purportedly for a haircut. But I suspect it was more a social visit than anything. Both men were born in 1925. I always wished Ardis would refrain from cutting the “lynx tips” – orange hairs – off the tops of Dad’s ears. But he always did.
Dolores was Mom’s friend. She was notorious for just letting herself in the back door. I never thought twice about it. Our back door kind of scraped across the floor; you had to force it. Dolores would burst through with a shout. “Knock knock! Anybody home? Hi Elaine! How you doing? I’ve been to the store and I got you these petunias.”
One time Mom and I were sitting on the front porch of the old Bailey house, facing main street, and Dolores drove past. She hung her head out the car window and started yelling questions. “Hi Elaine what you up to? I’m headed over to…” et cetera.
I was a teenager then. I turned to my mom and said, “That’s the only person I have ever known who can carry on a conversation while driving past you on the street.”
Ardis and Dolores were as big-hearted as they were gregarious. They had one child, Lester, and they adopted three Native American kids and raised them as their own. It took me a long time to figure out that those raven-haired children were adopted. They were just part of the family and it didn’t occur to me to even think about it.
The lone girl in the bunch was Katrina. She was attracted to our house because there were girls, and she could hear us laughing and yelling all the way across the street and around the corner. Trina grew into a tall, leggy beauty with golden brown skin and her hair was long, straight and jet black. We called her Twiggy.
I last saw Katrina in 1974 right after she joined the service. As happens so often, we lost track of each other, but then reconnected on Facebook several years ago. The more I talked with her online, the more those old memories came flooding back. I found out that she has a career working with kids with disabilities, inspired by my sister Amanda.
Trina is an animal lover and wanted to meet Clifford so we made a date for her to come to the house on her next trip to Michigan. On June 21, it happened. I was not surprised to find her still tall and graceful, all these years later, with that same inherent kindness. Her voice is just how I remembered, with its hills and valleys and bright notes, “like a harmonica.”
I wish I could say Clifford behaved better. He had just finished two exhausting days posing for photos with a thousand kids in Royal Oak, for a Detroit Public TV event. When I say a thousand, I do mean literally a thousand. He worked from 9 to 6 pm both days, with a couple of breaks each day.
So when Trina showed up with her bag of peppermints and Twizzlers, he was not his normal enthusiastic self. He did agree to pose for photos. But performing tricks was another matter. I threw his cone and he went and picked it up. Instead of bringing it back, he trotted right past me, then broke into a gallop heading for the back yard. He threw the cone down on the way, jumped over it and kept on going.
We laughed and laughed.
It occurred to me that one of the gifts of a small town is having people who still feel like family, even after 40 years apart.
Trina headed north to the old hometown to visit her dad. Ardis, bless his heart, is still living in DeTour at 93 years old. It’s very possible that I will still be able to remind him about those lynx tips.