This is the very book that my good friend, Mary Tafaro, gave to me when we were both in grade school.
The Gift of Kindness
By Richard Mabey Jr.
One of the most precious books that I have in my library is a book that my friend, Mary Tafaro, gave to me when we were in grade school. The book is a First Edition, 1929 hardcover edition of Felix Salten’s book, “Bambi.” I treasure this book. And, yes, at 63 years old, I still read it again, from time to time.
Cute Mary Tafaro’s eighth grade picture, complete with autograph.
There is a special story behind my “Bambi” book. Mary Tafaro and I were in the same classes together, in both grade school and in high school. Mary lived on the same street as I did, in dear old Lincoln Park. Mary lived about two blocks down the street from me, on the very same side of the street!
Mary and I were part of a whole tribe of kids that walked to and from good old Chapel Hill School, Monday to Friday. Mary lived on a corner lot, so she her house was set on an extra large lot. Her home, like mine, was an old farmhouse. It was a grand and glorious home. It proudly stood a bit lower from the street, so there were about three or four steps that you had to walk down to get to the concrete sidewalk that led to Mary’s front door.
When we were kids, when Mary and I walked home from school together, I would always watch Mary walk down those steps and then walk down her front sidewalk that led to her front door. I always made sure that Mary got in her home safely. You see, you never know, there could have been some mean old wolf walking around the neighborhood.
I think it was when we were in the fifth grade that Mary invited me to her birthday party. That was a few years ago, so I guess it’s okay to confess. I had a bit of a crush on Mary and it sent my heart soaring when she invited me to her birthday party. I will never forget how special that made me feel.
I was very shy when I was a kid. I was especially shy with girls. And, this was the first boy and girl party that I had ever attended in my life. So, it was a big, big deal. Mary’s party was held on a Saturday. I still remember how nervous I was. I wore my navy blue suit. Well, actually it was the only suit I owned. I remember that my dad loaned me his cool blue striped tie for good luck.
I had bought a birthday gift for Mary at Two Guys Department Store. It was some kind of a board game, but I can’t remember exactly which game it was. I think it might have been a Monopoly game. I wrapped it up in brightly colored wrapping paper. And, I signed Mary’s birthday card to go with her gift.
I remember that I walked to Mary’s house, the day of her birthday party. I distinctly remember that I was so nervous that the palms of my hands were sweating badly. I walked down about a block from my house and I noticed that my sweaty palms were having a negative effect upon the wrapping paper around Mary’s gift. So, I tried not to sweat so much. But, still my palms kept sweating. I was a nervous wreck.
Well, we all had a lot of fun at Mary’s big birthday party. We played all kinds of games, including “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.” We had cake and soda and ice cream. It was just a great time, all around.
At the end of the party, Mary gave everyone a gift. How gracious was that? Mary gave her guests a gift at her birthday party! I remember being quite impressed by that.
Well, Mary gave me the Bambi book. From the time Mary handed it to me, I cherished it. I remember walking home alone, just looking at it. Well, more than just looking at it, memorizing its cover. It was filled with great woodcut illustrations. It just meant the world to me.
Mary and I graduated high school together from the famous Boonton High School, three towns over from Lincoln Park. As you travel westward on Route 202 it goes: Lincoln Park, Towaco, Montville and then Boonton. We graduated in the biggest class that Boonton High School ever had and will ever had. I think there were over 500 kids in our class. Some high schools today don’t even have that many kids in the entire school.
Mary and I are still friends. She has a kind spirit. I still cherish my Bambi book that Mary gave to me, all those years ago. I still cherish Mary’s friendship.