The ticking of the clock continues, without favoritism to any of us.
Farewell Not, Kind Childhood Friend
By Richard Mabey Jr.
I don’t know what it is. The most recent passing of a childhood friend has hit me hard. I confess, the tears have fallen quite a bit, these past two days. I had known my friend, Cindy, since first grade. The Lenni Lenape Native Americans had a tradition to define a person in a number of words, no more than the fingers on one hand. Try it some time. It is not so easy. I have thought about this challenge a lot today. I believe I have defined my childhood friend, Cindy, in five words: “Beautiful Girl With Kind Heart.”
Ten thousand and one memories flooded my heart and mind all day today. Many of them brought tears to my eyes. Cindy was 63, my age. There is both mourning and rage existing in my heart at this moment in time. Cindy was simply too young to say farewell to this life.
In sixth grade, at the old brick schoolhouse they called Chapel Hill School, Cindy sat behind me. We had this very unique, strange, bazaar male teacher. Mr. Y was about 40 years old. He was a retired Marine Drill Sergeant. Now, before you all write in to tell me that I am not being patriotic, I assure you that I believe in the good old U. S. of A. as much as the next fellow. I love America. Mr. Y was probably a great Marine Drill Sergeant, but the sad truth of the matter is that he was not a really good teacher.
Mr. Y was always grumpy. It was like he was mad at the world all the time. He was a strict disciplinarian. Man oh man, was he a strict disciplinarian. You just didn’t want to misbehave in his class. Well, one class time, Mr. Y was writing on the blackboard, his back to the class. Well, out of the blue, Cindy leans over her desk and whispers to me, “I think the guy wears a wig.” Don’t ask me why, but it hit me as hilarious. I was in pain, doing my best to hold back my laughter. From that moment on, I could never look at Mr. Y the same. Because, I had not noticed it before Cindy mentioned it, but I am positive that Mr. Y did in fact wear a toupee.
We grew up in a little Mayberry in northern New Jersey called Lincoln Park. Cindy and I went to the same church, the First Reformed Church of Lincoln Park. We used to have Sunday School at nine-thirty on Sunday mornings. The first half-hour was Junior Church where all the Sunday School classes would meet in the church basement. Mr. Moore was in charge of Junior Church. We would sing the old favorite hymns, say a prayer or two, and Mr. Moore would present a little sermon.
Well, it was during the singing of the old favorite hymns that Cindy’s love for the good Lord would shine. Cindy had a most beautiful voice. She could hit the high notes without even trying. Cindy resonated above the rest of us kids, with a confidence that inspired even the kids who would lip synch, to sing out as loud as they could. Plain and simple, Cindy had a beautiful singing voice.
In Old Lincoln Park there was a point where Route 202 took a bend to the right, changing the direction of the road from going west to east, to going north to south. It was at this bend on Route 202, that stood a little brick building that the town used for the PAL Little League supply and meeting hall. Right next to the little PAL Building, as we all called it back then, there was a cute little pond. When we were kids, everyone from the neighborhood would go ice skating there.
I used to ice skate a lot there, when I was in those early grades, up to about fifth grade or so. Cindy would ice skate there also. The little frozen pond would be covered with kids, skating around and having a blast. I thought about this moment in time today. I hadn’t thought about this moment, in ages. I remember Cindy falling down on the hard ice. I think we were in third grade.
I skated over to Cindy. I reached out my hands and helped her to stand back up. In one split second, I had the chance to look into her eyes. In that moment I became a bit smitten with her. Cindy thanked me for helping her to get back up off of the hard ice. I stammered and stuttered my reply of “your welcome.” From that moment in time, Cindy held a little special place in my heart.
Even though we grew up in a small town, there were a lot of kids in our grade school graduating class. Some were too cool, some were fun loving, some were mean and tough, some were loud and outgoing, some were quiet and shy. In eighth grade, I was very insecure about myself. I had missed the entire year of seventh grade, being in and out of the hospital, fighting a serious bout of rheumatic fever.
We used to have these eighth grade dances in the grade school gymnasium. Well, the gym was actually also the stage for the school auditorium. It was physically ugly. It was built with walls of red brick. The ceiling was high. The lighting was horrible. And, it provided such a classy place to have school dances.
I was shy, insecure, and terribly self conscious when I was in eighth grade. But I remember this so very well. The boys would sit on one side of the gym and the girls would sit on the other side of the old, ugly gymnasium. Somehow and someway, I got the nerve to walk across that gym floor and ask Cindy if she wanted to dance with me. To my amazement, to my surprise, she actually said yes. I thought it was all a dream.
Well, my palms were sweaty, my heart was beating like an old bass drum, I felt weak in the knees, it all seemed unreal. It was a slow dance that we danced. Once again, like when I was in third grade at the ice skating pond, I looked into Cindy’s eyes. All I could think to myself was that I was way out of my league, way out of my league. Simply put, Cindy was so very pretty.
Looking back, I think that Cindy knew that I was a bit insecure. Cindy had an incredibly kind heart. She gave to me a bit of confidence in myself, by just being a kind friend. And, Cindy was kind. She was truly a kind person.
I don’t know what it is. I mourn her passing very deeply. My old friend and fellow classmate, Tom C, put it perfectly in reflecting upon Cindy’s passing. Tom wrote that he was looking forward to seeing Cindy at future class reunions. But now, it just isn’t meant to be. Cindy came to all the class reunions. Somehow, I don’t think that our class reunions are ever going to be the same. I really and truly mean that. Cindy was truly the “beautiful girl with kind heart.”