An old photo from 1972, complete with scratches and folds. I would give a lot of talks on the subject of the spiritual life, every chance that I got.
Life After Penny
By Richard Mabey Jr.
In June of 1972, I finished my first year of college. My dear, sweet, beloved girlfriend Penny was looking forward to attending Rutgers University in September. She was no longer the girl in high school who looked forward to having her handsome boyfriend pick her up at school with his cool Ford Falcon. Penny was now a young woman, spreading her wings of independence and absorbed with dreams of what life at the big university would be like. The visits with her wonderful boyfriend to the community college, no longer held the charm, wonder and excitement that it had held in her heart, just less than a year ago. Everything changed in a blink of an eye.
And sadly, before the page of June was torn away from the 1972 calendar, Penny and I parted. She needed to be free. Penny told me that she needed to experience the university lifestyle unencumbered with the weight of her old high school boyfriend. Without betraying a sacred trust, as the years rolled on, Penny would reflect and wonder if she had done the right thing.
With great sensitivity and respect, while still keeping an eye on the sacred truth; I would be remiss not to note that there was a feeling in Penny’s father’s heart that the boy who attended the community college, wrote for a little Mayberry weekly newspaper and had his head filled with dreams; well, plain and simple, was no longer good enough for his daughter who was headed off to a prestigious university. Sometimes, life ain’t fair.
During the summer of 1972, I did three things. First, I cried a lot. Second, I read a lot of books. And, third, I worked full time at a local grocery store. It was during that summer that I read the Holy Bible from cover to cover, twice. I read every book that I could find on the spiritual life. Actually, I didn’t read the books, I absorbed them. I read The Book of Mormon. Then I read such authors as Billy Graham and Robert Schuller. I read several books on Eckankar by Paul Twitchell. I simply wanted to know everything I could possibly find out about the spiritual life.
In the latter part of the summer of 1972, I began giving talks on spiritual matters. My subjects ranged from angels to life after death. I continued giving these talks when I began my second year of college, in September of that year.
There was a formal living in the old Mabey Homestead. It was just to the right hand side of the main foyer as you walked through the front door. I would set up dining room chairs, kitchen chairs, and some folding chairs that we had in the cellar. I would invite friends, relatives and fellow students to my talks on the spiritual life. About one in ten people, whom I invited, would come to my talks. Sometimes I would have a couple of dozen people come to my talk, other times I would have two people come out. It didn’t matter to me. I put my heart and soul into every single talk that I gave.
Then, in September of 1972, my good friend, John Mansberry, introduced me to this wonderful girl. Her name was Susan. I forgot her last name. I did my best to remember her last name, all day today. It just didn’t come back to me. It’s just one of those things. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have forgotten Susan’s last name.
Susan had long, curly blonde hair. She was a senior in high school. She lived in Lake Parsippany. She had this wonderful, sweet disposition. She was incredibly smart. And, amazingly, she put up with all my talk about the spiritual life. In many ways, she helped me to grow in my thinking on this subject.
We used to sit at this bench at the shore of Lake Parsippany and talk and talk and talk for hours about the books that I had read. Susan began reading a lot of these books herself. She had an incredible insight into spiritual matters.
Long story short, I liked Susan a lot. Still, to be blatantly honest, she never got to my heart the way that Penny had. I enjoyed talking with her, sharing my ideas and thoughts with her. Still the magic that I had with Penny, never blossomed with Susan.
I would tell my closest friends about my plight. My friends thought that I was crazy. Plain and simple, Susan was gorgeous. I know how superficial that sounds. But, the plain truth of the matter is that Susan really was gorgeous. I’m not trying to be a male chauvinist. Just trying to give you a feel for who Susan was. She was a very pretty girl.
There was a moment that haunted me. Nearly 44 years later, it still haunts me. On Wednesdays, I would be done with my college classes before high noon. I would study for a couple of hours, then drive off from Randolph to Susan’s high school. I would wait for her to come out of school, as I leaned against the front fender on the driver’s side of my dear old Ford Falcon.
At any rate, I remember this so very well, like it was yesterday. On one particular Wednesday afternoon, I was leaning on my Ford Falcon, and for one single solitary moment, I thought that I was going to see Penny come out of the high school door. The thought, the moment, the eeriness of it all, frightened the living daylights out of me. It left me feeling very lonely. Obviously, I couldn’t talk to Susan about it.
My months of dating Susan were filled with twists and turns. A couple of times, we visited County College on Saturday afternoons. We would go to the college library and study. Then, we would go to the big auditorium in the evening to catch the film that they would show every Saturday night.
It was a wonderful time. It was an enchanting time. It was a time filled with wonder and glory. But it was also a time filled with an eerie feeling that I was watching a rerun of a movie that I had seen before. Looking back, I was a jerk. And, after all these years have passed, I still regret my mistakes.
Life is funny. Stranger things have happened. So, even though the odds are ten million to one; Susan if by chance you read this blog, please do message me on this blog site. And, as a code so that I’ll know it’s you; please write down one of the movies that we saw at the old State Theater in Boonton. Life is strange. You just never know.