Guest Columnist Brenda Greenberg: Small Towns, Big Memories


Brenda Greenberg lives in Toronto with her husband, Rob Wagman, an eye surgeon; her son Jake, 22, a recent Dean’s Honor list graduate of Queens University in Kingston Ontario; and a crazy mini Aussie shepherd puppy named Waldo. She is a veteran television writer and producer.

Dear Jake,

This fall, as we drove north to close our cottage for the season, you stared out the window, and ever the sophisticated city kid, you asked, “What do people in these small towns do?”

Quite a question, that.

And having grown up in the small town of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, I asked myself a question, too. “What did we do?”

Instantly my memories came flooding back.

We did many of the same things typical kids everywhere did. We hung out at each other’s houses, went to proms, dances, and holiday parades. My favorite was the Memorial Day parade because as a girl scout I got to participate. There was something fun about marching down the street and waving to people I knew (my first experience as a celebrity).

As teens, we sneaked into New York City to see concerts in Central Park, Carnegie Hall and the Fillmore East. We hung out in Greenwich Village and ate at trendy restaurants trying to look cool — look, if possible, like anything but the suburban kids we so obviously were. I loved my adventures with friends in the city. But always felt a sense of relief when we stepped off the bus, back safe on our hometown turf.

We had a circle of friends that constantly expanded and contracted, with a core group always intact.Together, my friends and I shared so many firsts: first kisses, first booze, first cigarettes and first…well, let’s leave it at that. We had no idea at the time that our shared adventures would build bonds that would last a lifetime.

Now we live in a different country, (America’s best friend to the north), and I could easily feel lonely and removed from those friends. Thanks to social media I have stayed connected, and also reconnected, with so many old friends from high school. It gives me a sense of a “larger family” and warms my heart to hear about what’s going on in my high school pal’s lives.

This past year you graduated from college (or “university,” as they say here in Canada) and I’m happy to see that you, too, are keeping in touch with many of your friends from home; Skyping with a buddy in Hong Kong, sharing a birthday dinner with another and lending support to friends in need.

I’m proud of you, son, and hope you’ll continue to “make new friends, but keep the old.” If you’re unfamiliar with the ditty that gave us that line, I’ll be happy to sing it to you any time.


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