While the end to my parents’ marriage was fraught with difficulties, their friendship as teenagers was filled with romance, even if my mother didn’t recognize it as such at the time. In the following passage from her journal, she describes walking together after rehearsing a high school play.
We ended up spending a lot of time together after school at rehearsals as a result. At the end of the first day, I was standing outside the building waiting for my bus, shivering in the cold air and wishing I didn’t have such a long wait ahead of me, when Leon came out and said, “Let’s walk.”
This took me by surprise, for I usually took the bus in one direction and Leon walked in the other. When I commented on that, Leon – always the chivalrous gentleman – said not to worry, and we began to walk the two-and-a-half miles to my home. As we started to cross the first street, Leon said, “When I step off the curb in Newton, it matters in China.” I was profoundly moved by what he said and thus looked at Leon in a new light, suddenly appreciating that there was far more to this boy than the popular dancer who was always joking around. Behind his extroverted persona was a deep thinker, and my respect for him soared. I took his philosophy to heart, believing that everything we do affects the lives of others. It gave my life a sense of purpose and made me think twice about every decision I made from that time forward.
My siblings and I grew up hearing this story and I always understood why my mother cared about it. I will admit to a little hero worship when it comes to my parents; they raised us to think we could make a difference in the world and I’ve tried to live by that. I recently discovered, though, that my older sister Connie always found the story a little silly and thinks the statement about stepping off the curb might well have been one that my father used repeatedly with any teenage girl he wanted to impress. Whether or not that’s true doesn’t really matter, for my mother was electrified by his words and let them mold her entire life.