Lori & Lisa

Names come and go in popularity. I had a great grandmother named Amy. She was born in the 1870s. Today I hear the name often. Even Colin was popular a few years back. Fifty years ago, not so much.

About 55 to 60 years ago, there was a funny little phenomenon. A pair of girls’ names were popular together. When I was born, the lady next door (in Englewood, New Jersey) had a Lori six months older than me and a Lisa six months younger. When I was about three, we lived in the little A-Frame apartments off of Chapman Mill Pond Road in Westbrook. There, my mother met a woman with three girls. The oldest was Lori, and the middle one was Lisa. They moved to River Street in Old Saybrook, and I grew up often visiting at their house next to the Ford Garage.

In 1971, we moved from Old Saybrook to Clinton and lived on Bluff Avenue for several years. By about 1975, I met a little girl who lived further back in the neighborhood, backed up to Grove Gardens property. Her name was Lisa. I soon learned she had an older sister, name Lori, of course.

So in my small sphere of acquaintance, I knew three families with this combination. And it wasn’t cultural. The first pair were of Polish extraction, I think. Those in Old Saybrook were a combination of German Mennonite and Puerto Rican. The last set was from a local family with English roots in Westbrook predating the Revolution.

If you are my age, born in the early sixties in the northeast US, did you know more than one family with a pair of daughters named Lori and Lisa? Were they always in that order, with Lori first? Is there a cultural reference for it? Some book or movie or TV show with that name combination? I understand Lisa was the most popular girl’s name of the 1960s, but how would that account for an older sister being named Lori so often?

No matter. The pairing of the two names reminds me of all three when any of them comes to mind. Lori and Lisa in New Jersey were my first friends. My first memory is of stealing cookies with them. And the first time I ever saw an ambulance at my house was when that Lori fell out of our cherry tree.

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Oddly enough, my father grew up with the name Laurie. His name is Laurence and his family had shortened it to Laurie for daily use. All of his early artwork, including his pencil sketch of my mother about the time of their marriage, which I still have, he signed Laurie. Within the family, we still refer to him that way, even though most of his friends call him Larry. But I digress.

The Lori and Lisa from Old Saybrook were fascinating to me. Lisa was older than me by 18 months and Lori by three years and I can remember finding them simply lovely. I recall the two of them coming down the stairs at the A-Frames, wearing skirts that went about to the knee, and probably wearing Mary Janes or saddle shoes with knee socks. I was only three, but the image burned into my memory as if they were glamorous models descending from the stars. Coupled with that memory is one of their little sister having a bath in the kitchen sink, which I thought was hilarious, but I must have been a little younger than three when that was happening.

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The last Lori and Lisa were the younger sisters of my friend David. I met Lisa first, but she was about three years younger than me and a very outgoing little girl who went around introducing herself to anyone she didn’t know. She had seen me around, I’m sure, but it was summer when she rode her bike up to me as I was riding through the neighborhood. She started talking to me and following me around. Later, her brother came looking for her and we soon became friends. He was older than me, but we were both outsiders with the neighborhood rat pack because our fathers were authority figures. We were both “narcs”, something worse than a scarlet letter, perhaps akin to the black spot in our little neighborhood.

David and I played Frisbee a lot, most often at my house. His mother’s aunt lived next door to me, and sometimes his cousins would visit their grandmother and we’d all get together to play flashlight tag or freeze tag, ranging across both yards, and sometimes the vacant lot across the street. I had known his cousins, Alan and Gwen, when I lived next door to them at the A-Frames many years before. Small world on the Shoreline.

After I met Lisa, then David, they finally coaxed Lori to join us and that turned into a regular, almost daily meetup. I’d go up to their house where we’d play in the woods or in the side yard. One while we tried to build a tree fort in the woods, but couldn’t come up with enough structural wood. Other times, we’d meet up and ride around on our bikes. Or the girls would come down and play with my little sister. Later, my step-brother joined in playing games around our yard.

Play would break up when David or the girls had to be at home for something. Their mother had our phone number as the first place to try when she was looking for them, and my mother had their number, too. It was a lovely, long summer the year we were all together so much. There was even a brief romance that budded between Lori and I. For about a week.

No, I’ll admit it went longer. I found her attractive, but she was my friend’s sister, which made it a little awkward, plus, she was two years younger. David wasn’t a very confrontational guy. He was a bit of a gentle giant. But he confronted me once about keeping my hands off of his sister. I never touched her inappropriately, and I don’t think we ever kissed, but we both enjoyed flirting just a little. I think it only ever went as far as riding double on the banana seat of old my old five-speed Stingray bike. That gave me an excuse to hold on to her as I pedaled and she drove.

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