It's Happening: A Thank-You to Laurie for Playing a Role in My Life

By Julie Perine on July 23, 2017 from It’s Happening via Connect-Bridgeport.com

When I was a 9th grader at Bridgeport Junior High School, I had quite a crush on a cute sophomore at Bridgeport High School. It was those blue eyes, long blonde bangs and smile. I had watched him on the basketball court the year before at the old BJHS gym and on the baseball field when he got to BHS. I figured he probably didn't even know who I was - especially when I marched in the high school band that year, lost under one of those mile-high white fuzzy hats.
I confided in some of my friends that I would love to go out with Tommy Claus. One evening, I got a phone call from Laurie Barnes, who was in my grade. She was one of the Maple Lake gang and by all standards, was one of the cool kids. Laurie was caring and soft-spoken and had the sweetest smile. She also knew a lot of people, including those in the class above us. She had talked to Tommy and she told me on the phone that night that he wanted to meet me. I was ecstatic. I met him that evening – around the school somewhere and we walked and talked. Soon we were going together and I credited my friend Laurie.
 
We went to the homecoming dance that year together. My mom took me shopping in downtown Clarksburg and bought me a tweed blazer and matching skirt that cost $50. I couldn’t believe she would buy me such an expensive outfit, but she knew how important this was to me. I felt like a million bucks in my ensemble, topped off with a ribbed turtleneck – yes, turtleneck – and wedged, strapped shoes.
 
Tommy and I dated on and off for what seemed like a long time, but was probably in essence a year or so. We went to the pool, hung out on the front porch and went to the movies at the Robinson Grand Theatre. We had a lot of fun back in the day when Lynyrd Skynyrd ruled and it was cool to bake in the sun; your skin covered with baby oil and your very long straight hair spritzed with Sun-In.
 
We ultimately broke up. Tommy and his family moved to Charleston where his dad took a job. He might as well have been moving to Timbuktu. It was the mid-1970s and there were no cell phones or Internet. We kept in touch for a while, but since a telephone call was long distance, we corresponded by letters, delivered by the postal service.
 
By the time he came back to Bridgeport to visit, I was dating his friend – who told me many years later that his strategy had been planned when he found out the Claus family was moving south. Of course, it took him a while to put that plan into action. It was months later while I was on a date with another boy that Jeff Perine finally plopped himself down at our table for two at Sonny’s Pizza and announced that he thought I would be better off dating him. Charmed by his guts and sense of humor, I broke up with Brad McElfresh and started dating Jeff.
 
Unlike my on-and-off history with other boys, I never once broke up with Jeff. We dated the rest of the way through high school and while we commuted to Fairmont State College to get our respective degrees. Shortly thereafter, we got married and in our own little corner of the world, the rest is history.
 
Though this story crosses my mind once in a while, it’s been in my thoughts a lot lately. It’s just another example of how we are all connected. With Laurie’s recent passing, I’ve been whispering a thank you to her. Had she not hooked me up with Tommy, Jeff and I may have never happened either.
 
But hearing of Laurie’s death also brought some guilt. All these years later, I had no idea she was living so close and going to church at a little Baptist church which we consider a sister church to ours.  I would have loved to catch up with her, talked about old times and shared about our lives as adults. But life is so busy; too busy - in fact - that we sometimes don’t venture out of our routines to make those connections. Like everything, there comes a time when it’s too late.
 
I send my condolences, thoughts and prayers to the Barnes family and to Laurie's close friends.And to all of my fellow BHS graduates and friends, thanks for the role you played in my life. I hope to see you sometime soon. 
 
Editor's Note: Laurie is a 1978 graduate of BHS, where she was involved with the senior class play, "The  Pajama Game" and was on the JV cheer squad during her sophomore year. 
 
Julie Perine can be reached at 304-848-7200, ext. 2 or julie@connect-bridgeport.com. More "It's Happening" HERE.


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