The summer I opened the door to friendship

Children lying on grass outdoors. Children lying on grass outdoors. Photo Credit: iStock

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I was a shy, intense adolescent. I would prefer sitting in the house, pen to paper, writing magnificent reveries or, sketch book open, drawing my interpretation of images from Vogue magazine, to being stuck in a group of people having to socialize.

Summer arrived. I had all the time I wanted to immerse myself in my arts. Perched on my dad's comfy chair, I was in the midst of conjuring a mystery: What if Alaska suddenly hit temperatures of over 100 degrees? What if New York was incapacitated by a blizzard in the middle of July?

Mom marched into the living room, hands on hips, and asked, "What are you doing?" Sarcastically, I responded, "Can't you see I'm writing?" Mom ignored my retort, "You are not going to spend the entire summer sitting in a dark house writing. It's a beautiful day out there. Go and get some fresh air."

"I don't need fresh air," I replied. "I need you to leave me alone." Mom was not about to be put off. She took my writing pad and pen, slapped them on the end table, pulled me up and headed me toward the front door. "You can just go sit on the front steps," she said.

I said, "Just sit and do nothing?" She grabbed the radio, shoved it at me and said, "Here. Now, you have something to do." With that she opened the screen door and slammed it shut behind me. I sat on the steps, turned the radio on and pretended to be interested in the latest tune.

That's when I saw two girls about my age. They walked to the end of the block and walked back. I heard someone call out, "Hi."

"Hi," I responded.

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"I'm Mary and this is Sandy. We live around the block."

I walked to the curb and said, "I'm Barbara."

Mary said, "We go to Island Trees. You go there too, don't you?" She asked if I was the one who did a solo during the last chorus concert. I answered, "Yes."

"Oh, you were very good," Mary said. She invited me to go to the playground down the street from my house to meet a bunch of kids after dinner, and we agreed to meet at her house at 6:30. When I got back inside my house, Mom asked, "Who were those two girls you were talking to?"

I told her about Mary and Sandy and our after-dinner plans. I was secretly glad that Mom threw me out of the house with my radio.

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Mary would become my very best childhood friend. She and I had great adventures that summer. We were together all day, then met with a gang of kids every night after dinner. We remained friends for many years. We sang on street corners with our neighbor, Eddie Mahoney, who later became the rocker, Eddie Money. In our teens, Mary and I walked down to "the stream" every night to meet up with kids from MacArthur High School. By that time, I was attached to my guitar and would serenade the group with my original tunes.

Mary was my greatest fan. She came to gigs when I fronted my rock band. She was there when I had the lead in the school play. And Mary rushed to my side the day my first dog, Cookie, died. She took me for a ride in her car and let me dissolve in tears. We were close until life and different directions pulled us apart. There were never any hard feelings or arguments that caused this separation.

In recent years, I have reunited with some of my closest childhood and college friends. Debbie is back, so is Carol and Laurette. We are known as the "Adelphi Girls" because we were inseparable in college. My Nassau Community College theater pal, Jo Ann, and I found each other, too.

The time will come for Mary to return. And when that day happens, we will reminisce, laugh, cry and regret all the years spent apart. Yes, the circle will eventually complete itself, I am sure of that.

Meanwhile, I hope life has been good to this dear friend. She was kind to anyone who came in her path. She cared about people, and I hope people have been kind and cared about her, too.

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Barbara Anne Kirshner,
Miller Place

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Kirshner's hometown.

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BALLET, AND A FRIEND, EASED ME INTO A NEW LIFE

There we all sat, with frozen fearful faces, driving to Long Island and leaving our beloved Boston. At age 13, I was horrified to be leaving my school and most of all, my friends.

Entering a new school in the middle of November, dressed in a style of clothes that no one else was wearing and walking those cold, cavernous halls was not a good scene.

By some miracle, a student invited me to eat lunch with her, which had been one of my top concerns. The anticipated loneliness had been filling my every thought and movement.

A few months later, there were tryouts announced for the eighth-grade variety show. I showed up with my toe shoes and leotard and the next thing I knew, my name was on a posted list of those who made the show.

Now, I needed a costume. My mother found a seamstress who could make this happen. My mother never drove a car, so it took us three bus changes and getting lost, but we did finally find this sweet lady's house. I wanted a pink tutu with lots of layers of tulle that would encircle me like a cloud of pink froth. When I saw the finished product, I don't know what fell more, my face or the very limp skirt that hung from the bodice of the costume.

The big day arrived and, with my heart pounding, I listened for my music, "Blue Tango." I danced my ballet and, to my shock, the auditorium was loud with applause. The rest of the day, my peers were congratulating and praising me, and suddenly everyone knew who I was. I was invisible no more.

The girl who asked me to lunch became a lifelong friend. To this day, we are always in touch. I spent many hours at her home in Wantagh, and at her wedding, I was her maid of honor. We shared many secrets together as well as all of the fun and silliness of being teenagers.

Sylvia Essman,
Plainview

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