In the summer of 1996, my husband Bob and I spent our days in a small apartment in the heart of Queens, one of the five boroughs that comprise New York City. Born and raised in Philadelphia, I made peace with the move to the Big Apple not out of happiness, but pure necessity. Bob had been transferred, and, well....we needed to pay the bills.
Throughout that long, hot summer, I longed to move to a more suburban home closer to my friends and family in Philadelphia...and I also longed to start a family. For quite some time, neither objective seemed achievable, until finally, luck drew us to a townhouse community in central New Jersey. The owner of the tiny, two bedroom home could not wait to find tenants, while Bob and I were more than willing to move right in! Several weeks later, we learned that in nine month's time, we would happily welcome our baby daughter Melissa to the world!
In the summer of 1997, a new baby in tow, our days should have been full of delight...however, new challenges forced us to rethink our lives. His sales job produced limited earnings, while I brought home a tiny slab of the bacon through a part-time public relations job. We juggled the bills, raided our change jar to buy groceries, traded in our car for a used lemon, and begged and borrowed from sympathetic family members.
The bright spot in our lives...our townhouse community! Full of fellow young parents, Melissa joined a team of toddlers in daily play on our close knit street. Eventually, my job turned into full-time employment, and Bob started his own business, a move that, a few years later, began to pay off. By the time Melissa turned four, we were more than ready to change our status from home "renters" to home "owners". Our meager savings bought us a slightly larger townhouse a couple miles away. I hated saying goodbye to my neighbors, but happily embraced my new home, equipped with three bedrooms instead of two, and..wait for it, an actual dining room - which my former townhouse lacked!
Any doubt I harbored that my new neighbors would not be just as nice as the old floated away the day I moved in. For there, standing outside on her front steps, stood our new next door neighbor Angelica, who gave me a truly warm "welcome to the neighborhood" greeting while holding a chubby cheeked, adorable two-year old baby boy.
Angelica and I bonded instantly. The baby, Brandon, I soon learned, was the younger of her two boys. Her first-born, Chris, at five years old, became a ready-made play mate for my four-year old Melissa. We took turns hosting dinners at each other's homes, whiling away the hours with wine and conversation while the kids, safely tucked away in the playroom, tackled puzzles, and videos, and board games, and TV.
The friendship grew over the ensuing months. From trick-or-treating, to holiday dinners (I hosted Hanukkah, while she treated us to a Christmas feast), to playing in the snow, to swimming at the town home association's pool, to standing together, cameras in hand, as Chris and Melissa boarded the bus for their first day of kindergarten.
I silently cried inside the day she told me that she would no longer be my next door neighbor.
Fate took Angelica and her family to North Carolina, but a small silver lining landed them just a few miles from Bob's parents. When we traveled to my in-laws the following year, our trip included a visit to Angelica. We had breakfast, and reminisced....then we got in the car for the 10-hour long drive home.....and then...well...
we lost touch.
Thanks to a new job, we moved away from the old neighborhood a year after Angelica left, and traded in our town house for the family home we always dreamed of in a suburban community about two hours away. I don't know why, but I never contacted Angelica to tell her we had moved.
Two years ago, on a chilly December evening, Melissa and I sat in our living room, busying ourselves, as usual, on our respective computers while Bob sat comfortably watching TV in the family room. I honestly don't know what made me think of Angelica, but I suddenly turned to Melissa and asked her if she remembered Chris and Brandon, even though she had been so young. She, like me, had not forgotten.
A search for the boys on Facebook ended with no luck. I then discovered I had an old email address for Angelica, perhaps it still worked.
I asked if she remembered me. I told her that we tried to get down to see Bob's parents at least once a year, and that perhaps during our next visit, we could get together. Her reply came about an hour later. Of course she remembered me, and, she said we didn't have to come to North Carolina to visit, because they had returned to New Jersey. Unbeknownst to both of us, she now lived a mere 10 minutes away!
I called her immediately and we scheduled lunch the next day! Everything had changed, yet nothing had changed! That weekend we reunited with the kids, who, despite their obvious evolution into teenagers, still looked the same!
Since that fateful December evening two years ago, we have, once again, shared holiday dinners, lunch dates, movie nights, and countless hours together talking, laughing, and sometimes, even crying.
When Angelica told her mother about our reunion, she had a simple explanation...she said it was God.
As for me, I'm not sure whether to thank God, or fate, or telepathy for my sudden desire to send Angelica an email.....I'm just so glad I did!
|Bob, me, Brandon, Chris, Angelica, and Melissa....so happy we reunited!
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