Ollie by
200
(319 Stories)

Prompted By Photo Booths

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Dec, 1991

David was a very shy youngster, so shy that his nursery school teachers wanted him to do a transition year. We thought that was not in the best interests of a child who was already interested in reading and math, so instead, we found a small private school for his kindergarten year. There, his best friend was Ollie Murphy.

Ollie lived with his mom, Juliet (she explained that her mother was reading the Shakespeare play when she was born; an immediate connection for me) in a South End condo. They commuted out to Chestnut Hill by the MBTA each day. The stop was a block from the school. Juliet was herself in school to finish her degree. Ollie’s father worked in broadcasting for the Christian Science Monitor, which was also close by and lived a few blocks away. They had parted amicably just after Ollie was born.

Ollie, too, was shy and he and David became fast friends. He frequently came back to our house after school, or I’d drive over to the South End and visit with Juliet while the boys played. I noticed posters for various high-profile play productions in the hallway along the entrance of the condo. It was a one bedroom condo and Juliet showed David the futon she pulled out to sleep on so that Ollie could have the huge bed. David loved playing with Ollie.

Jeffrey was a little boy at the time; sometimes Dan took care of him, but often Jeffrey would come too. Since Juliet didn’t have a car, I’d take them all when we went to various places around greater Boston to play…out to the Old Grist Mill in Sudbury (near Longfellow’s Wayside Inn) to run around, or take in the Children’s Museum. Or play make believe at our house. Clearly at one of these venues (probably the Children’s Museum), there was a photo booth and David and Ollie crammed in together to have a souvenir of their deep friendship and time together. David barely made it into the photo. Ollie must have the other snap shot.

David spent one year at the school, then came out to our public school. Ollie remained in the area for one more year, but it was less easy for them to get together. When Juliet finished her degree, she took an offer from her mother to teach at the American School in Vienna, where her mother was Head of School. David was bereft to lose such a close friend. We tried writing, but Juliet wasn’t a good correspondent. They came to visit once or twice. Below is a snap shot of one of those visits, in August, 1993. You can see how happy David was to be with his friend again.

Visiting from Austria, Aug, 1993

As a gift for David, Juliet brought a little flag stand with a French, American and Austrian flag standing in salute. I no longer remember the relevance of the French flag, but David was delighted and kept it on top of his bureau, where it remains to this day.

During the year that David was in kindergarten with Ollie, they slept over at each other’s homes a few times. Juliet and I became close as well. She finally confided in me how she was able to afford such a fine condo in the South End (even before it became the hottest location in Boston) and why there were those theatrical posters, hanging in the hallway. The condo belonged to her brother – Harvard grad and former theatrical “wunderkind” Peter Sellars, who had moved to California, but kept the condo, as he still worked often enough in Boston to make it worth his while to have the place when he came back. He now worked mostly directing operas. This was an interesting revelation, which I kept to myself. I tried to not be over-awed. As a theater person, of course I knew of him, but it had nothing to do with how I related to Juliet or Ollie.

We missed them very much when then left. We haven’t heard from them in years.

1993, the kids and I have fun too.

 

 

 

 

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.


Characterizations: been there, moving, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    What a lovely story of childhood friendship, Betsy, and beautifully told. And, yes; actually captured in a photo booth in those adorable pictures of them — and you, too!

    And fascinating connection to director Peter Sellars — whom of course, we cognescenti do not confuse with the British comedian Peter Sellers.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, John. Of my vast array of photos, these are the only ones I have taken in a photo booth – pretty sure the booth was in the Children’s Museum. David and Ollie were very close and David was so sad when Ollie moved away, but that’s the way it goes. Two of my early childhood friends moved away. I quickly lost touch with them.

  2. Thanx for this bittersweet tale Betsy.

    We’ve also lost touch with old family friends much to my regret. Might you send this story to the last address you have for Juliet on the chance you can reconnect?

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I never had an email address for Juliet and long ago lost track of any snail mail address. When her brother was in town to direct something, I confess that I tried to get in touch with him to ask her whereabouts (via the production company). I enclosed a photo of myself with his sister so he knew I wasn’t some random idiot, but he never answered.

  3. Dave Ventre says:

    I loved this story, and am familiar with losing a friend in childhood. My early grade-school besty was taken from me when his family moved out of state for his father’s career. For some reason we never kept in touch. I remember being very sad; I had very few friends and now I had one less.

    He has a rather distinctive last name. Recently I searched for it and found him! We exchanged some emails. He has done well in life; happy, married, kids, etc. From what I could gather via on-line snooping, he is indeed a lot like me in interests and values.

    I have no big desire to re-kindle the friendship, and it seems neither does he. That is fine…not everything lost can be found. But it made me happy to know that he has had a good ride so far.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I’m glad you found your friend again, Dave, but, as you found out, after so many years, the fond memories may linger, but not the need to reconnect. I am in a Detroit-specific Facebook group, though I moved out of Detroit-proper when I was 10. It seems everyone in the group is older than I am and everyone went to high school in Detroit, but occasionally, fun stuff is shared.

      Once, I saw a distinctive last name of a friend who had moved away long ago. This was a man talking. I messaged him and asked if he was related to Debbie. He was her older brother and gave me her contact info. I joyfully emailed her, we caught up, (her birthday was the day after mine and we were very friendly until she moved away when she was 8 years old). But we fell out of touch again. We had grown apart and really didn’t have much in common any longer. That’s just the reality of the situation.

  4. Suzy says:

    Betsy, you have taken this prompt and made it so much more! Sweet story about a childhood friendship, and wonderful that you still have that photo booth photo of the two boys. My son also had a heartbreak when his best friend moved away (at about age 7), so I know exactly how it was for you. I love that the flag stand is still on top of David’s bureau. Also, what a wonderful photo strip of pixie-haired you and your adorable kids.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, Suzy. Funny, I mentioned Ollie to Dan today, but he doesn’t even remember him. It was a very long time ago and life moves on. David made other friends and remains close to friends from high school and college.

      Though that last photo strip doesn’t really relate to the main story, at least it was taken in a photo booth!

  5. Betsy, I’m so moved by your sweet story! You captured the essence of the appeal of photo booth photos…somehow they add another layer of nostalgia to the pleasure of looking at old photos.

    I’m disappointed that you weren’t able to find Juliet but I love that you went so far as to try to contact her brother. I’m surprised no one got back to you.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, Barb. It was a sweet time in my children’s life that I enjoyed as well, but long gone. I was disappointed but not surprised that her brother didn’t get back to me with her contact info. He was known for being sort of wild and spontaneous. He’d come into Boston at the last moment to rehearse and put on whatever production he was involved with and couldn’t be bothered with me. I don’t think he had a large entourage around him to take of these sorts of things.

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    Such sweet pictures, and wonderful that David and Ollie could be such good friends. Has David ever tried to track down Ollie or vice versa? It used to be that lost was lost, but Google has made these things much easier, sometimes. I had a fast friend in second grade I tried to locate, with no luck, but then women change names more often. You would think Juliet would be traceable though. Seems the internet lets you find everything but what you are looking for.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I thought of trying to look for Ollie (or Juliet) as I wrote this story, Khati. The problem is two-fold. One – Murphy is a very common last name. Two – it is possible that Juliet has remarried. I would have no way of knowing, or indeed where she is or what she’s doing. The events of this story are close to three decades old now. I’m not sure if David cares and I’m only curious, as opposed to really interested at this point.

  7. I enjoyed this reminiscence, and especially the reveal about her being the sister of Peter Sellars. I’m glad you have fond memories of the Grist Mill; mine are wrapped up with a very painful and tumultuous first marriage (we got married at the Wayside Inn, with photos in front of the Grist Mill).

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      My kids always enjoyed playing at the Grist Mill (and one night, we drove all the way out there to get away from all the light pollution in our part of town) in order to see a comet, I believe it was Hale-Bopp). But I am sorry to hear of the bad memories it brings you.

      We used to take my mother to the Wayside Inn for dinner and I’ve seen lots of wedding parties assemble at the Martha-Mary Chapel, but the only wedding I’ve attended was at the sister chapel in Greenfield Village in Michigan. That is where John and Patti Zussman (founders of Retrospect) were married almost 49 years ago.

  8. Laurie Levy says:

    What a poignant story of a beautiful friendship. So glad you kept some of those photo booth shots as a memory of that time in your life and David’s.

  9. Love the booth pic at the bottom, Betsy. You look like one of the kids!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Charlie. I cut off my long hair a few months after I married in 1974 to look older. But almost 30 years ago, I guess I still retained my “youthful” appearance. Now I’ve grown out those locks again in a bid to retain my youthful charm! Guess women can do that.

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