“We meet the people we’re supposed to when the time is just right.”– Alyson Noël, New York Times bestselling author.
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“They met through a mutual friend at work,” my friend offered as to how her daughter met her husband. The conversation about our children led to talking about how lives are often influenced by little more than chance meetings.
One of those chance meetings for me was at Mount Pleasant’s South Ward Elementary school in 1959. I was finishing the last few weeks of the fifth grade there following our move from West Texas. Home was on Redbud Street, just a short bicycle ride around the corner. While wrangling my bike from the rack near the front door at school one day, I heard someone asked, “You new here?” I looked his way and said simply, “Yes,” guiding my bike toward the street. “Where ya’ live,” he asked, falling in to ride along beside me. “Redbud,” I said. He replied, “I live on Stella, but I’ll ride as far as Redbud with you.”
The friendship that followed that bicycle ride lasted 57 years before Oscar Elliott’s time on earth was up. We built hot rods and race cars during many of those years, rode motorcycles, and swapped life advice. Through it all, we made memories, some of which we took a solemn oath never to divulge. In fact, it was Oscar’s observation in later years that we had to remain friends because we knew too much about each other to be enemies.
And, all by chance because we met at the bicycle rack in 1959.
A couple of years later, riding the school bus home instead of a bicycle required waiting for Mr. Ricks to complete a run out in the county first. After that, he returned to the old Mount Pleasant junior high on Riddle Street downtown for his second run to make sure a handful of city kids who lived on the south side of town got home. Passing time while waiting for him to return often included tetherball on the parking lot separating the junior high and high school buildings with others also waiting.
Most of the time, those games were with David Neeley. Once we discovered that we lived little more than a block from each other, a friendship developed that lasts to this day. Memories of band trips, Saturday trips with David and his mother to Dallas, time spent together at East Texas State University, and getting in the car with some kids in Monclova, Mexico, for a joy ride.
While David’s mother, who was like a second mother to me, relaxed at the hotel, thinking we were at the swimming pool, David and I took an impromptu tour of the Mexican city. Forget a parent’s advice never to get in the car with strangers. Never mind, they could speak English no better than we could speak Spanish. Two kids in Mexico driving a Volkswagen Beetle and two naive kids from East Texas added up to adventure that summer afternoon.
David and I have gone through periods in later years lacking opportunities to visit as much we used to. But when we do, we pick up where we left off the last time as if the last time was just last week.
And, all by chance because we were both waiting on the school bus in 1961.
And it was also by chance that Jim Chionsioni and I were at a Lions Club meeting in Center. He was the relatively new owner of The Light and Champion, and I was new in town looking for a job. Taking a chance on my short experience at The Naples Monitor under Morris Craig’s tutelage, he not only gave me a career but also became a lifelong friend who shaped my life in many ways.
And, all by chance because of a Lions Club meeting in 1979.
Maybe it’s true we meet the people we’re supposed to when the time is just right. All I know for sure is I’ve had a great life because of friendships developed from little more than chance meetings.
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