County College of Morris was a place where Penny and I spent a lot of time together. On Saturday mornings, I would pick Penny up at her home. She would bring her school books with her and we would study all day at the CCM Library.
The Sad Moment Of Truth
By Richard Mabey Jr.
There is in all of our lives, sad moments of truth. Those moments that last only about two or three seconds. However, in that very short span of time, often our lives are changed forever. We instinctively know it. We feel it in our bones. It leaves a scar on our hearts….forever. Thankfully, these moments in life are far and few between. For, often times, the change that comes upon our lives in that flash of a few seconds, alters our lives. Many times, not for the good.
My dear and sweet girlfriend, Penny, from the era of my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college, was a great inspiration to me. Penny continuously challenged me to do my very best. She was my best friend. There are times when I can still feel her guidance, as though she is whispering to me from Heaven’s Gate where she now abides.
January of 1972 was a marked time for me. Christmas and New Year’s Day had now passed. The final exams of my first semester of my freshman year of college were over. And, I had managed to get good grades of A’s and B’s. Not without sweat, hard work, and prayers.
I remember it was the last Saturday in January of 1972. I don’t know how it is that I remember it being the last Saturday of January, but it is in indelible ink in my heart and mind. I got up early. Penny and I had plans to spend the day together. It wasn’t very often that I got a Saturday off, from my part-time job at the grocery store.
I remember driving down Route 80 in the eastbound lane, on my way to Penny’s house in Paterson. I had a 1961 Ford Falcon. I thought I was just too cool. I loved that old Falcon. I loved the idea of having a Saturday off. Oh, and how I loved Penny.
When I got to Penny’s house, she was all ready to go. She had a stack of her school books on the kitchen table. Penny and I often spent our dating time at libraries. If it wasn’t at the local library in Paterson, it was the library in my old hometown of Lincoln Park. If not in either of those libraries, then we would do our homework together at the library at good old County College of Morris.
I remember knocking on the back door of Penny’s house and Penny opened the door. Wearing her old favorite blue sweater, denims and sneakers she greeted me. It was a funny thing. Every time I would see Penny, she would take my breath away. I was so smitten with her. I used to think to myself all the time, “what the heck does she see in me?”
When you walked through Penny’s back door, it brought you right into her kitchen. Penny’s Dad was sitting at the kitchen table sipping his coffee and reading his paper.
“Hi Mr. Lance,” I said to Penny’s dad.
“Hi kid. I hope you’re not stealing my little girl off to California?” Mr. Lance stabbed me with a less than friendly glance.
Before I could say a word, Penny spoke up.
“Oh, Daddy, don’t be silly! Richard and I are going to his college library to study together,” Penny told her father.
“Penny, I don’t see why the two of you can’t just study right here at the kitchen table here,” Mr. Lance told his daughter.
“Oh, Daddy, don’t be silly. Richard needs to look things up in the library books. Plus, he’s writing an article about the conditions of Indian reservations for his college paper!” Penny told her dad.
“Oh yea, we were so mean to the Indians. Is that whatcha you’re gonna write about Richie boy, how mean we were to the Indians?” Mr. Lance asked me in a less than kind tone.
“Well, Mr. Lance, we weren’t…..” I started to say.
“I know, I know. You and your liberal ways. You probably don’t even like John Wayne movies….” Mr. Lance cut me off at the bend.
“Oh Daddy, Richard got all good grades on his final exams. Didn’t you Richard?” Penny said to her dad, then turned to me, asking me the million dollar question.
“Oh, well, Penny. I did have to study a lot. But, you know that,” I said.
“Well, it ain’t like the boy’s going to Harvard, Penny,” Mr. Lance replied.
“Oh Daddy. Stop that. Richard is very smart. I’m proud of him,” Penny said.
“You still writing for that Mayberry Gazette, Richie boy?” Mr. Lance critically asked me.
“Lincoln Park Herald, Mr. Lance. I just finished a story about the big Klondike Derby that the scouts had,” I spoke up and told Mr. Lance.
“Yea, well, that’s a good story for that little paper. Now you take this here, Paterson Morning News. That’s a REAL newspaper boy. Too bad ya’ couldn’t get a job on a real paper like this one!” Mr. Lance said as he proudly turned the page of his newspaper, which was spread across the kitchen table.
“Oh Daddy, the Lincoln Park Herald IS a REAL newspaper. And, my Richard is a REAL writer! Aren’t you, Richard?” Penny said with pride.
“Well, thank you Penny. Yes, I guess I am Penny. I am a real writer,” I replied to Penny.
“Well, don’t keep my little girl out too long. Your mom and sister should be home from grocery shopping soon. You got to clean your bedroom today little girl,” Mr. Lance told his daughter.
“Oh Daddy, you know that Richard and I go to the movies on Saturday nights,” Penny told her father.
“Well, don’t keep my little girl out too late boy!” Mr. Lance laid down the law to me.
“No sir. No sir, Mr. Lance,” I replied.
“Well, we gotta go Daddy,” Penny told her father.
“Well, good to see you, Mr. Lance,” I said.
“Yea, now remember boy, not too late,” Mr. Lance again laid down the law.
“Bye Daddy,” Penny said to her father as we walked out the back door of Penny’s house.
As we walked down the back steps, I held Penny’s hand, as we carefully walked on the crushed snow. Walking to my Ford Falcon, I dug for my car keys in my right pocket. I unlocked my car and opened the door for Penny.
I held the door open for Penny as she climbed into my car. I had just vacuumed it out, earlier that morning. I walked around to the driver’s side and hopped into my cool Falcon.
“Penny, sometimes I get the feeling that your dad doesn’t care for me too much,” I said to Penny as I turned the ignition in my car.
“Oh, Richard, don’t be silly. He likes you,” Penny said with a quiver in her voice.
“I guess you’re right, I must be imagining it,” I said.
As we drove away from Penny’s house and through the streets of Paterson, I felt that Penny had something heavy on her mind. She was unusually quiet that morning. When we hopped onto Route 46, Penny moved closer to me on the old bench seat of my car. She put her left hand on my knee.
“Richard, I like you a lot. I really do,” Penny said in a rather quiet voice.
“Penny, I think the earth of you,” I replied.
“Richard, I got a lot on my mind,” Penny said with a quiver in her voice as we drove down Route 46 toward Route 287.
“I thought you did,” I replied.
To be continued.