Oct 13

Best Friends

I remember the first day of school in fourth grade. My sisters and I walked up the long, steep sidewalk to Fairmont Elementary which was nestled in old trees right on the edge of the small town. The High School football games had been held in the small stadium right beside the school and it was only a five minute walk to my dad’s dentist office. I remember it was a nice, cool walk on most mornings to and from our small duplex on West Hamiliton.

I remember wanting a best friend so badly as I walked up the hill that morning. And I’d find her today, I knew it.

And I did.

Her name was Michael Inspektor and she and her family had just moved to town from Israel only weeks before.

That’s right, I picked the girl who didn’t know a word of English to be my best friend.

I remember watching her on that first day and feeling a little bit sorry and a little bit fascinated at her standing and saying her name in a quiet accented voice, in the classroom where she knew no one and had no idea what they were saying.

I remember raising my hand to volunteer to walk her to the ELS room, though being new myself, I had no idea where it was either. But we made it to the little room where I dropped her off and turned to go back to class. And I remember smiling at her and her tentative smile back.

“I met my best friend today,” my mom remembers me saying after school.

And for the rest of the school year, Michael learned English really well and I found myself copying her broken accent. I even learned a few Hebrew words and phrases from her and her family and started saying, “Shalom” to people. We wrote notes to each other in class, sat side-by-side at lunch, made up songs and sang them into the tape recorder, laughing at our attempts. I remember visiting her family’s apartment in Nittany Gardens, laughing at her younger brother Yeul’s tantrums and running from her older brother Boaz’s tricks. On the weekends, we’d go to the dollar store in the mall with my mom and pick each other out presents and it never mattered to me that it was my own money that we both used. We exchanged best friend necklaces, and held hands everywhere we went. I got a Jewish star, she a Christian cross.

Best friends.

Michael moved away after that fourth grade year, and I remember how devastated I was and how much we wrote to each other but how awkward talking on the phone was. I saw her once after that, but it’s been almost seventeen years now. I heard at one time that she went back to Israel to serve in the army.

But I wonder where she is now. If she’s doing well and remembers that fourth grade year with the fondness that I do.

And I had other dear best friends throughout my lifetime and even still, but thinking about that fourth grade year at Fairmont Elementary is like thinking of that promise of a rainbow after the storm. Or a brilliant flash of light that was there for one brief moment in time and then quietly flickered off.

But not completely…never completely.

Because I still remember the rainbow promise of that year, the brilliant flash has not gone all the way out.

One Response to “Best Friends”

  • Michelle says:

    You made me cry …. Memories …


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