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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Finding A Friend I Never Lost



“Why are you crying?” asked the teacher.

My five-year-old self didn’t have an answer.  I still don’t. But I know it had something to do with separation anxiety.

I was a kindergartner and my teacher, the sweet young lady with the name of Mrs. Cookie, was absent for the first time. For whatever reason they didn’t have a substitute teacher and decided to split my class into pieces for the day. I went to a third-grade class with my good friend, Freddy.  Other kids splintered across the elementary school to fend for themselves.

The disruptive break led me to uncontrollable sobbing.  The whole day I was balling my eyes out.  So was Fred.  But we had each other and that was a comfort that’s lasted many years.

I last saw Fred when his father was ailing. His dad lived in Brooklyn and Fred had relocated to Chicago a number of years earlier. It has been too long since we hung out.  For many years we were inseparable.  In P.S. 199 we were in the same class in kindergarten and first grade and then hung out during lunchtime and after school throughout K-6 years.  We paired up again for a two-year advanced program in junior high school. Then we went to different high schools and reunited for one year at Baruch College. 

I would introduce him on a blind date to the woman he’d marry and I transferred to Albany State. In the years after college our lives went in different directions. He got married young and had a daughter while a teen-ager. I would get married and move to Florida for a seven-year odyssey.  By the time I returned to New York, divorced, and starting over as I neared 32, he was raising a teen-ager and on a different trajectory.  His mom would die, he’d move away, and then his father passed away.  I got married again and am raising two kids.

Our lives got to intersect again during Book Expo. FYI, I actually met my current wife at BEA in Chicago in 2000. I am so happy I was able to reunite with my long-time childhood buddy in Chicago. BEA was held in Chicago this year for the first time in a while. I was so glad to turn the trip into a reunion with a guy who has known me for 44 years.

We immediately picked things up, laughing at everything and nothing.  I’d forgotten how witty we could be with one another.  I don’t think anyone plays off of me better than he.  We’re only 12 days apart and grew up 8 blocks away from one another.  No distance is too far that we can’t bridge things.

Writers often dig down into their own life and look for inspiration from those they’ve experienced the world with.  Fred, for many years, was my world.  He was like a brother. We spent hours playing chess, checkers, Chinese checkers, Scrabble, Monopoly, handball, Nerf basketball, two-hand touch football, off-the-wall, electronic QB, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, and every schoolyard, video or board game that was invented.  We could spend literally all day in a video arcade or go to a movie theater and see three movies. We played in different little leagues but occasionally our all-star teams scrimmaged.  Even our fathers joined in, playing 2 on 2 stickball games and going to see Met games with us.  Our mothers were good friends too.

If you have a good friend in your life, you are lucky. If you recall someone like a Fred that you grew up with but lost touch with for periods of time, as we have, go ahead and look to reconnect.  Your old friend thinks of you fondly and just needs a spark to stir things again. Life takes us on all kinds of turns and twists and sometimes you can wind up in the same place as that special friend.

Fred is my time capsule. He not only reminds me of the good old days, but reminds me of who I really am.  When he’s in the same room with me, life is better.  He also reminds me it’s never too late to come back to those who have always been there for us.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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