My Evening with Ted

by Brian on August 19, 2010

in The Old Country

One of my closest childhood friends flew into town recently for a whirlwind Jewish Federation-sponsored tour of Israel. Ted had a couple of hours free in Jerusalem, so along with my friends David and Shelley Brinn (who had also known Ted back in the day) and Ted’s old girlfriend Evelyn, we met up at a local branch of the Cup O’ Joe coffee chain.

Ted had been a critical part of my tween and teenage years. We had become close at a JCC summer camp and shared myriad adventures until I took off for college. In the years afterward, we mostly fell out of touch – that is until Facebook brought us together again.

Our meet-up was great. We reminisced about old friends from high school and where they are today and, being Jewish, inevitably discussed politics, religion and international perceptions of Israel (“it’s not a flotilla, it’s a convoy,” the government spokesperson told Ted’s group of Federation professionals).

When I got home, I was inspired to pull out the old diary that I had kept since sixth grade. In-between such mundane entries as “I washed my hair today,” and “the combination for my new locker is 26-10-20” (don’t bother trying it; they’ve changed the locks at least several times since 1974), there was Ted. But not just a mention here and there; he was on nearly every page.

“Today Ted and I took the bus to Berkeley and had a hotdog at the Orange Julius.” “Ted and I went to Audrey’s party and we didn’t come home until 5:00 AM.” “Ted and I talked on the phone for two hours tonight.”

Ted was “my best friend,” I wrote, whom I now remembered was the subject matter for a chapbook of poems I wrote for Creative Writing class during my sophomore year at Oberlin. What a joy to have those memories awakened again!

As I dove deeper into the diary, though, the mood began to darken as the chaos of my teenage years asserted itself: all the confusion and chattering and trying to interpret every infinitesimal move a friend might make as somehow earth-shatteringly significant.

Slowly, I found myself being pulled back into a world I realized I’d idealized over the years, coating it with the pastel sheen of pre-responsibility, before the weight of adulthood, with its financial decisions and career malfunctions, transformed buried torment into hazy memories of “carefree” days.

There were the unrequited crushes; the incessant attempts at re-inventing myself; the four-month break when Ted and I didn’t speak (for the life of me, I don’t remember why, but it must have had something to do with a girl).

I wanted to call Ted and tell him to rush over, to sit with me and pour over the pages. To provide a reality check for my gushing teenage prose. We had such good times together, didn’t we? So why was my nightly analysis so depressingly dour.

But I didn’t call. Instead I turned to my wife Jody and we replayed the 30 years after high school: our tender and happy life together; our three beautiful children; the decision to move to Israel and all the wonder and tragedy that has incurred.

I put away the diary. Will I open it again? Perhaps. Those years will always be a part of me and it was courageous, I suppose, to dwell there, if only for a brief few moments. I will make a point of staying in touch with Ted (Facebook makes that deliriously easy). He was a huge part of my life. He should be again – but in the future, not the past.

I wrote about Ted on the Israelity blog.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jen van Stelle August 20, 2010 at 2:20 am

I have to say, I think all teenagers are courageous — that time of life is confusing, stressful, altogether harrowing. And it’s a lot harder than it was in 1974 — the greater access to prescription drugs, the appearance of cyber-bullying, the rise in childhood obesity, even the increasing pressure to succeed, have all given teens a tougher go than in years past. It’s amazing how many teenagers actually manage to make it to adulthood in one piece, let alone with a positive self-image!

I hope your story will help today’s teens see that they CAN ride out those storms of adolescence and one day find that they, too, are in a position to look back and reminisce with their best friend, the way you have with your friend Ted.

2 judy massarano August 20, 2010 at 10:18 am

this all sounds very grown-up, Brian. part of this summer for me, has been sorting through boxes of the past, from 4th grade until today. much of the memories, happy, some sad, some very difficult. but the process, and noticing my reactions, was growth-ful. your last lines felt very grown up.

thanks for sharing your story,

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