Genna and I were in our first house a few years when our next door neighbors invited us over for drinks. We were very close to Lisa and Joe, having a lot in common, around the same age, married a few years, struggling to carve out our new lives, etc. After Joe served the first round ( drinking in those days was more like a boxing match, now its more of a one and done), he said they had an announcement. Genna and I glanced at each other, thinking the same thing. They already had a little girl, but we knew they planned to have a couple, or few more. Great, here comes number two.
"We're moving," Joe said.
Lisa chimed in, "Wait til you meet Barney and Flora. They both were recently widowed, and this is the second marriage for both. John, believe me, they are both just sooo nice!!"
Shit. What was she going to tell us? First of all, its tough to replace really nice neighbors, with another set of really nice new neighbors (this was proven to us when another neighbor moved out a few years later, but that's another not so funny story that I'll make into one anyway). They're a generation older. That usually doesn't make for alot in common. When we left to go home, we weren't sick from drinking, but were sick from the news.
Guess what? Lisa was right. They were both delightful, and we all hit it off from the get-go. This is how delightful. We've kept in touch and continued to visit each other, although the four of us have moved a couple of times each. Their company has been a constant joy, and we just had dinner with them last night, 31 years later!
All I really had to know about Barney's goodness was the way he related to children. When our son, George, was a toddler, Barney came home from work one afternoon and saw his good little buddy playing on our front lawn. George ran over to him, yelling, "Boinie's home!!" and jumped into his arms.
Before I could correct George's speech, Barney said, "You know, George, everyone calls me Barney, but you're the only one who pronounces it the right way!" We've called him Boinie ever since.
A few years after they moved from Bergen County in northern N.J. to East Hampton, Long Island, N.Y., we visited Boinie and Flora one mid week summer day. Boinie mentioned another encounter with a child while he was an usher at a local museum. The young boy was accompanied by his parents, but had obviously had too much sugar for lunch, or missed his dose of ADHD medication. Before he bounced off a priceless painting or sculpture, Boinie quietly called him over.
"Would you do me a favor? Please tell your parents to be very quiet, and not to touch any of the artwork on display. Would you do that for me now?" The child did just that, and his parents relievingly smiled at Boinie, knowing their trip to the museum would be more enjoyable.
Last night for dinner, we went to an excellent, reasonably priced, store-front Greek restaurant. After 31 years, Boinie and Flora live right down the street from us in South Florida. They're permanent residents, while we are still "snowflakes", but we see them every time we come down.
Looking at the menu, Boinie said to me, "I've never had octopus."
I summoned the waiter, and said," This man just told me he hasn't had octopus in 94 years. Please make him a special dish." We all laughed, Boinie the loudest.
As we left the restaurant, I looked at the both of them. Flora is 84, but doesn't look 65. Time has bent and bowed, but not broken Boinie.
"Boinie," I said, "You're still my gold standard."
After 31 years, I still hear Lisa saying, "They are sooo nice!!"