In 1981, I went back for my second year at Buck’s Rock sleep-away camp in New Milford, Connecticut. I’d gone the previous summer for a half session (four weeks) and wanted to do the full summer. And I imagine that my mother loved the idea of eight full weeks without me under her feet. So, off I went. Very quickly in, I made friends with Michael Robbins. Mike was thin as a rail (so was I, if you can believe it) and had hair similar to mine, though much blonder. Over the next two summers we both got into photography and by 1983, when we were 15, we were Counselors-In-Training (“We are the CIT’s so pity us/The kids are brats the food is hideous…”) in the Photography Shop. We took lots of photographs and worked endlessly in the darkroom creating some neat stuff and we spent a lot of time showing other kids how to use the equipment and develop their own film and pictures. (I loved it so much that over the years I have continued to work in darkrooms whenever I’ve had the chance, though it’s been 6 years since my last opportunity.)
When summers were over, we got together sporadically throughout the school year. I lived in the northern suburbs of New York City (in the Bronxville area) and, when I was 17, in Manhattan. Michael lived out on Long Island. So, we saw each other when we could. And talked on the phone a lot. I remember going to his sixteenth birthday party and I also remember recruiting his help on a photo-essay project I decided to do for my dreaded religion class I was forced to take my first year at Fordham Prep (turns out non-Catholics don’t have to take religion classes at all but we found this out only after I was already in said class my sophomore year). After that, the details are a bit hazy. We have vague memories of hanging out in New York City but my last concrete memory is Michael calling me sometime during my freshman year at college. We caught up and hung up. It would be nearly 16 years before we spoke again.
Sometime this past fall, after a year or two of periodic efforts, I finally managed to track him down via some pretty clever (if I do say so myself) sleuthing. And yesterday, Ann, Jack and I visited him and his wife Nicole at their home in Western Massachusetts. They have two lovely children, a wonderful house, and we had a simply wonderful afternoon. Ann’s comment as we drove away was “Now why don’t we live next door to them?” The kids played, we ate food, told stories, and dug through old photographs. It felt like there was no gap in time. It’s amazing how old friendships can slip right back on like an old glove. Of course there was that fear that we would talk for five minutes and just hate each other. Or the fear that one of us had become weird and try to sell the other some kind of kitchen gadgets they made in the garage or religious literature they wanted me to read or herbal life samples. But no such thing happened.
By the end of the afternoon I just felt so comfortable and happy to have made this connection again. And his wife is just wonderful. Ann and Nicole hit it off. All in all, aside from the damned heat wave and the sheer buckets of sweat, we had a perfect afternoon.
Of course, I have this image of them watching us drive away, sighing, looking at each other and saying “Oh GOD! They’re finally gone!” but I somehow doubt it.