Saturday, October 14, 2023

My Israeli Friend

This is Henrietta Berman, my good friend from Israel. In 1965, she arrived at Belltown Elementary School in Stamford, Connecticut. I fell in love with Henni immediately--in the way only an eleven year old girl falls in love with another girl. Henni was a year older and more mature and she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen.

The teacher placed us next to each other where we immediately began passing notes and sharing whispered answers to test questions. After school, we stopped at Nick's Variety for Bazooka Bubblegum and bottles of Coca Cola. We walked home listening our transister radios as the Beatles croon to us about how they wanted to hold our hands. Because all you need is love, love, love. 

Love is all you need.

In a world full of often hostile grown-ups and boys hiding in wait to terrorize us, we were best friends, co-conspirators and protectors of all that is good and kind. When we crossed Tom's River Road--where there were no cross-guards to speak of--together we faced down the threats from the notorious Belltown Boys.

Our childhood was full of casual and not-so-casual cruelties, but we survived on our wits and imagination.

During the summer, we read Anne of Greene Gables. One day Henni and I decided that we were just like Anne Shirley and Diana Barry. We were kindred spirits and bosom buddies! However, we had never seen the word, "bosom", so we looked it up in the dictionary. When we found out that it meant "breast,” we felt a little embarrassed and so decided to change this to blossom buddies. From thence forward we pledged our loyalty with gifts of flower blossoms in the summer and pretty leaves in the fall.

This is how girl-friendships are formed--through flowers and leaves, music and dancing, soda and laughter, fear of boys, dreams of boys, homework and jump rope, secrets and stories. And reading books.

Beloved books. 

A few years after this, Henni's family moved back to Israel. We wrote letters for a few years and then, I lost track of her. Today, I wonder if she is still alive. I wish I could tell her now how much she changed my life.

Creative Friends--your prompt for this week is to think back to a first friendship. Consider how this friendship changed you, but also consider the ordinary details surrounding this friendship. Next, reconnect with what you consider the most important book from your childhood. Ask yourself what life lessons it offered up to you and finally, ask yourself how these lessons can bring solace to a hurting world. 



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