The grammar school I attended was the local parochial school, St. Luke School. After the eighth grade my parents put me in the public school system and I attended our town’s brand new junior high for ninth grade. Lloyd Broomhead was in my grade and facing this trauma together brought us into a friendship that really hadn’t existed before. The Broomheads Senior were friends of my parents so there was that familiarity to build on, and as they lived near the junior high it was natural to walk home with him. It was this association which brought me into contact with the Howes, who lived next door to the Broomheads, and whose son David was in our class.
David was a rather large overweight and somewhat goofy young man, but a true wit, even in his early teens. It was David who taught us that by carrying a clip board and pen one could get into almost anyplace, as people always assumed one to be reporting on them, and the desire to ingratiate themselves would always be more forceful than the fact that they shouldn’t let you pass. He took particular delight in the irony that the effort to get good reviews would involve actions directly contracting their purpose. It was David who used to say, “Work fascinates me, I love to watch it!”
Stopping at David’s on the way home from school became a habit, as much because of his mother as because of him. The source of his wit was soon discovered. The first time I met her she introduced herself as “Hazel” in reference to the TV character. She had been cleaning and I suppose looked the part. She was of course toying with the irony that a person in “Mrs. Howe’s” circumstance would have a maid, and I think testing for those poor souls so gullible to accept such a thing. I pity the thought of such a person at her hands. In any case she was thence always Hazel.
We were sitting at the kitchen table one day admiring a rather impressive cake she maintained that she had made “From scratch.” When she noticed that my glance had fallen on the waste basket beside me, but before I had really taken in what I was looking at she stated, “of course the box was the hardest part!”
David and I fell out of touch after High school, he going west to San Francisco and I to Ireland for college. Contact with the Howes slowly dropped off, but many, many years later I was at Symphony one night and in response to a tap on my shoulder turned to find Hazel and Mr. Howe sitting behind me. We had a warm reunion and I was pleased to find that they were well and happy. When I inquired after David her response was stunning in it’s wry statement on self knowledge:
“You know, Michael, some things never change. David is still trying to find himself, and we are still trying to lose him!”