Sea Isle City in New Jersey, is not the sort of place where you would think something unusual would happen - a peaceful sleepy town, where homes seem to be kept in the same family from generation to generation. I would not even have been there if not that my friend Virginia, who has spent many vacations in Sea Isle, decided to rent a place for several weeks and invited me down for a few days.
Sunday, September 19, 2004 was our first full day there. While Virginia attended a local church service, I took off on one of my favorite activities, a long walk. As a focus point, I decided to see where the Acme Market was located. I asked a man sitting on the boardwalk for directions and decided that I could walk what I thought to be about 3 miles.
The weather was perfect and the ocean sparkled in the sun. Many places were shut for the summer. Feeling hungry from the walk, I was checking out the places that were open for the possibility of getting something to eat. I saw an interesting looking place only a few blocks from the Acme. I decided to head back there to eat.
I know there are some people who do not like to eat alone at a restaurant. For me, living alone, it is not unusual, but I do prefer having company. I went in and asked for a table. I was taken to a long line of tables for two, which were all empty, and seated at the end next to the window. While placing my order, two ladies came in and they were seated with one empty table between us. The one I could see the best was a pleasant looking woman about my age. The two ladies proceeded to check out the menu and were having a laughing discussion of what to order. I smiled to myself and was thinking it would have been nice if they were right next to me and I could have joined in the fun. So then, I looked over at the woman I was facing and smiled and said, "It's hard to make up your mind, isn't it?" She replied with a nice smile. While waiting for the food to come, I amused myself looking out the window. Finally, my plate of waffles with peaches and ice cream came. The ladies looked over and I asked them what they had ordered. They replied and a conversation was started. I noticed the lady I was facing was looking at me with a puzzled look on her face. Then she said, "What is your name?" I said "Elaine." And she said, "I know you." I looked at her, speechless. She said, "You are Elaine Procida and I am Mary Jane Giacobbe." The name sounded familiar but I did not pick up on it immediately. Then she said, "We went to elementary school together."
And then I had it. Anthony Wayne Elementary school in South Philadelphia back around 1950. As a child, going slowly deaf, it was a lonely, difficult time for me. It was a time when my days consisted of situations like not knowing where my place was during a reading lesson, because I could not hear the other students. It was a time when I realized that many of my schoolmates did not have the patience or desire to be my friend... except for one girl, my best friend Mary Jane.
Now, here we were more than 50 years later; Mary Jane, her younger sister Barbara and I, looking at each other in amazement. After 6th grade, Mary Jane's and my path separated. We both moved to New Jersey but to different towns. We did keep in touch and occasionally would visit each other. The last time I remember seeing her, was shortly after she had married.
We made arrangements to meet at Mary Jane's place the next day and spent about 3 hours just talking about the things we remembered from our childhood. At one point, Mary Jane said it was my voice that she remembered; and also my smile. And we marveled that, if I had not spoken to them, we would never have known our paths had crossed.