Patti Rasmussen

Fond memories of a high school friend

Patti Rasmussen · July 5, 1997

This month is my friend Alba's birthday. She would have been forty-four. The reason I say "would have" is that Alba died last year of a heart attack. Why an "education" column about my friend? I met Alba in high school and because of that high school friendship, she will always hold a special place in my heart.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. As a teen-ager I felt I had a great life. Living so close to Topanga Plaza, I couldn't ask for more. Suddenly, in 1968, my family moved to the high desert, and I felt as though I had been transported back in time.

Antelope Valley High would be my third, and last, high school. Everyone I met in Lancaster seemed to be a member of the 4H. The teachers had girls kneel every morning to make sure their dresses touched the floor, or they would be sent home. (I hadn't done that since Catholic school! I was sent home a lot.)

Besides the heat, one had to deal with the wind. You couldn't open a car door without fear of it being torn off. And where was the mall? Antelope Valley, in the late '60s, boasted a Sears store, a J.C. Penney catalog outlet and a couple of dress shops on the boulevard. Basically, I felt that my dad had moved us to #@*! (this IS an education column, so I'll refrain from what I really called it).

The good news -- although I didn't realize it at the time -- was that the high school population was only half the size of my valley school. It was fairly easy to meet new friends -- it helped that I still had some of the "cool" clothes I had bought "down below."

I met Alba in my junior year. She had beautiful, long brown hair with huge, doe-like, brown eyes. She kept to herself, but there always seemed to be a lot of people around her, especially boys. In my sixteen-year-old eyes, she was the person I had to get to know if I was going to be on the right track.

Her parents, Eva and Alba (hence the first name), bought her a 1950-something car. We really didn't care what kind of car it was, we just needed wheels. We spent spring break of our senior year camping with a bunch of guys on the river (I think I told my parents Alba and I were getting a hotel). It was great! We graduated in 197, and Alba was voted best-looking of our senior class.

Alba and I went our separate ways for a couple of years, but in 1974 I needed a roommate, and Alba wanted to live in the city. We moved into a two bedroom apartment -- $220 a month was a little steep, but we each had our own bathroom, which was a plus. While I attended college and worked as a secretary, Alba made the rounds. She worked as a waitress, did some modeling and took a few acting classes.

She lived a totally different life than me. Alba seemed to come alive at night. I, on the other hand, was exhausted at night. Her parents paid for her car insurance and she barely ate a thing, so she could live on a small income. I not only had to pay for a car and my insurance, but I liked to eat, so we kept separate sides of the refrigerator to ourselves.

One day Alba came home and told me she had gotten a tattoo. Remember, this was the early '70s, and at that time only Hell's Angels got tattoos. Hers was just below the bikini line. It was just her name, "Alba." When I asked her why she had gotten it, she said that one day, when she got old and was living in a rest home, the nurses would turn her over and say "she must have been a lot of fun in her day!"

Alba was a lot of fun. We moved out our our apartment a few years later when I decided to get married. She moved to West L.A. and became a legal secretary. She got married in 1984, and I was her maid of honor. Alba never had children. She used to describe to me, when I was pregnant, that scene from "Alien." I guess she just visualized some sort of explosion.

Alba never stopped being the mysterious, quiet one. Everyone she met was captivated by her. We kept in touch over the years, but we should have been closer. I should have visited her more often. Maybe I would have known about her heart condition. Maybe I could have been with her. I feel a real sense of loss that I wasn't.

Her birthday is this month. My husband used to comment that she and Mick Jagger shared the same birthday. I think I'll get out some old Rolling Stones albums and celebrate it and our friendship in a special way.

Why an education column on my friend? High school is a little more than books and football games. The friends you meet during those years somehow form you as a person. Don't let go of them. Some of them will always hold a special place in your heart.

Happy Birthday, Alba!

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Patti Rasmussen's commentaries appear in The Signal on Saturdays.

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