Beloved Friendships


By Richard Mabey Jr.


In the beginning of September of 1971, I turned 18. And also, in the early part of September, I began my studies at County College of Morris. At the time, CCM did not have the number of buildings that it now has. It was a beautiful campus and all of the professors that I had, were very dedicated to the fine art of teaching. 


I had signed up for a tennis course. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, beginning at 8:00 sharp my tennis class would begin. There was a young woman in my class, Teresa, whom I became good friends with. It was a most strange time for me. Because I was still dating my high school sweetheart, Penny Lancaster. 


Penny and I had began dating, the summer of 1969, when I had just finished my sophomore year at Boonton High School. Our parents were both members of the Trailmates Chapter of the National Campers and Hikers Association. About twice a month, the members of this club would go camping at a New Jersey state park. Some of their favorite places to camp included Swartswood, Stokes, and Allaire State Parks. 


Penny was a year younger than me. So, when I began my freshman year of college, Penny was a senior at Eastside High School in Paterson. Penny and I were best friends. We both enjoyed writing poetry, we were both avid readers, and Penny was always encouraging me to put my feelings and thoughts down on paper. Penny was an important person in my coming of age, in my last two years at Boonton High School.


But now I was developing a close friendship with Teresa. After our tennis class was over, Teresa and I would go to the college cafeteria and have breakfast together. It was all such a quaint and charming friendship. However, it left me feeling very guilty and confused, for I was developing heart-felt feelings for Teresa. And, sadly, Penny and I were finding that we had less and less time to see each other. For at the time, I was attending CCM full time and working 29 hours a week at the A&P. 


I always cherished having Teresa in my tennis class and having breakfast with her after tennis classes. Part of me always wanted to ask Teresa for a date, or at the very least, ask her for her telephone number. But I had this strong inner feeling that it would be all so wrong, that I needed to be true blue to Penny. 


Penny and I continued to date during my freshman year at CCM. But we both knew, deep in our hearts, that we were drifting apart. It was no fault of either one of us. Our ships were now sailing in different directions. Penny had developed a great interest in oceanography. 


While I did my best to support Penny’s new love for the science of life within the deep blue sea, it just didn’t spark a flame within me. Also, Penny had gotten a job as a lifeguard at the Paterson YMCA. Penny was a great swimmer, while I was at best, a mediocre swimmer.


In June of 1972, I completed my first year of college. Penny graduated, with high honors, from Eastside High School. That summer, Penny pretty much only talked about looking forward to attending Rutgers University in September. She had become more and more obsessed with an immense love for life deep within the ocean. We found ourselves talking less and less about the fine art of writing poetry. 


In September of 1972, Penny began attending Rutgers University. We would write each other, but within a couple of months, our letters to each other became further and further apart. It was in the very month of September of 1972, that I did see Teresa in the student center. We sat and talked for a short time. Teresa talked and talked about the wonderful boy she had met during the summer. There was a certain sadness that filled my heart when I saw a spark in her Teresa’s eyes as she talked about her new boyfriend. Part of me deeply regrated never having asked Teresa for her phone number, when we were close friends, the year before.


Sometimes people come into our life for a season and a reason. When I was in high school, I was painfully shy. Penny helped me to overcome my shyness. She encouraged me to join the staff of my high school newspaper. When I began my studies at CCM, new people began to come into my life. Sadly, between attending CCM, doing homework, and working at the A&P, there was less and less time to see Penny.


Hold dear to the friends in your life. But know that sometimes, there comes a time when the best gift you can give a friend, is to let them go and move on to new vistas in their life. It isn’t easy. And, yes, it does hurt. But truly, sometimes people come into our life for a very specific purpose. And sadly, when they have fulfilled that purpose, they may need to move on and no longer be a close friend. It’s just the way life is sometimes.   


Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at Please put on the subject line: Beloved Friendships. 





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