I was 11 she was 12; one of a few new classmates sitting anxiously in a chair clicking a pen and shaking her leg. I first met Kate when she was referred to at Kati or Katie Shea or “the new hot girl” by every boy in our class – on the 1st day of 7th grade at St. Rose Grammar School back in 1985.
Although she sported a pleated two-feet-too-long hideous brown plaid uniform skirt (like the rest of us) and hair styled much like this hopeful contestant Wendy from “My Feathered Hair” contest (click here for visual http://imgs.sfgate.com/blogs/images/sfgate/parenting/2011/08/29/feathered_wendy_one350x487.jpg), Kate seemed to have a verbal edge by throwing comebacks in a room full of newbies… I decided to take her under my wing. After all, being at a new school was intimidating- I learned this same lesson when I had transferred to same school in 2nd grade.
After that first day of Mrs. Spanarkel class (aka Spanky), we completely hit it off. She also scored major points for instantly telling me apart from twin my sister, Julie. A feat that even the principal after 6 years in her office hadn’t yet mastered. I quickly told her if she truly wanted to fit-in she had to push her socks down, pop her peach blouse collar, roll her polyester sweater sleeves up and most importantly surrender her purple vent brush for me to comb my newly Sun Inned locks. She quickly retorted, “What the hell is this? The Pink Ladies”? “She spoke my language - psyched to have this new friend “Grease is the word!” I quickly introduced her to other Pink Ladies and from that day it was decided that our classmates would know Kate Shea, Stef Hopps, Christina Vaccaro and Bridget Gannon as “The Friendly 4”.
Who likes Sean this week? Who is borrowing who’s Firenza sweater? How many shades of Wet n Wild eyeliner and Silver City Pink Lipstick we could get away with wearing under the nose of the late sister Margaret Mary who was too busy "picking " her own to notice? Who had the daily record on Capri smoke rings? Who could get us the best grade on Mrs. Leonhardt’s English test? Kate could date all Sean’s 7A and 7B, rock a striped cardigan, get thrown out of Sear’s for stealing lipstick, blow smoke in the girls’ room and up the nun’s habit in a day’s work.
Most folks remember Kate’s unhealthy infatuation with Richie Sambora and all things Bon Jovi – yet she also had a soft spot for musical theatre… another reason why we got along so well. At lunch recess everyday, Stef and I would teach Christina and Kate all of the songs that we knew which spanned Mary Poppins – Momma’s and the Papa’s. We produced, choreographed, and performed a daily routine for our classmates out on the blacktop–- adding variety by switching lyrics with swear words and phrases that rhymed with the infamous name” Jeckadon”. This is a picture of one of our fine moments singing “Were Doin’ A Show...” notice the boys trying to pick up our amazing moves. That’s left to right: Christina, Stef, Kate and me (Scott and Josh). Kate is wearing her beloved denim women’s Deb Joy blazer-I think she wore this everyday as a winter coat for 18 months.
Kate lived in Farmingdale, which to a bunch of unlicensed tweenagers seemed like it may as well have been Pennsylvania. But she and her family always were very welcoming to us. We spent weekends for the next 2 years rotating sleeping over the 4 of our houses. Hanging out, torturing each other about guys, shopping for the latest 1980’s trends - we looked so rad in our stacked multi-color wigwams, stretch minis and boots. sneaking booze on the 8th grade trip, torturing Booger at the Bradley Beach movie theatre, waiting for Kate’s mom to pick us up in the schwaggon at Don’s Pizza King, getting ready for countless dances, playing truth or dare with all of the boys at The Vaccaro’s house, going to endless soccer games, dancing to Zip Zappity Zoom at the annual Christmas play, kickin it at Welsh Farms, babysitting Timmy and Meg Shea, taking verbal beatings from brother Ed, listening to Kate idolize over her older “ little” sister Erin – Kate was tall and Erin is like a pixie and engaging in random conversation with Mayor Ray Shea and the Suz.
Ah the memories... I would go on into my high school years, but I‘ve got wrap this up as it’s after 11pm, I’m 38 years old and Kate, your brother Ed is still calling me a hooker for not getting this entry to him last night!
Don’t go changin’ to impress anyone in heaven