I thought I had good reason to trust the May 4th Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant. My Dad was a close friend and neighbor of both her parents as a child. He was in their wedding and he was also godfather to her older sister Diane. When she and I landed in the same class at Guy Park Avenue School, the Tambasco/Cinquanti friendship entered its next generation.
That’s why what she did to me when we were in fourth grade came as such a shock. Every winter the City of Amsterdam’s Recreation Department would turn the Guy Park School playground into a skating rink and the kids in Amsterdam’s West End and Henrietta Hill neighborhoods would spend their evenings between Christmas and March gliding together across the ice. Everyone except me that is. I was probably the only kid in Miss DeRose’s fourth grade class who still didn’t know how to skate and had no burning desire to learn. That’s why when my pals finally convinced me to give it a shot one night, my heart really wasn’t in it.
I was wearing my brother Jerry’s hand-me-down hockey skates which presented a first obstacle. At the time, my feet were already as big as his which meant his three year-old blades were at least two sizes to small and I had to force my toes into right angles to get them to fit.
When I got on the ice, I did nothing but fall for the first fifteen minutes and in one memorable spill, I hit the back of my head so hard I’m pretty sure I suffered a concussion. But I finally figured out that I could stay upright if I took a series of rapid little step-strokes. I wasn’t skating, I was chopping ice but at least I was standing up. That’s when Karen Tambasco and her best friend and partner in mischief, Mary Jo Condello showed up and asked me to join their skate line. They told me all I had to do was hold hands with the next person in line while everyone skated in a circle. So I grabbed my classmate’s hand and before I know it I’m being propelled at what seemed like fifty miles an hour around the rink at the very end and fastest moving part of the line. Sure enough, she lets go of my hand and I went tumbling head over heels over a snow bank and broke my left arm. Some friend she turned out to be huh?
Actually we remained good buddies all through the rest of our childhood and teenage years until we went our separate ways after high school. Then a few years ago, I received a Facebook friend request from my long-ago classmate. Her name is Karen DeVed now and for the past twenty-five years she’s been living in Atlanta, Georgia, where she enjoyed a great career as a much loved and respected principal of a private pre-school. She and her husband Bob have two beautiful grown up kids and she is now a proud grandma-ma. In addition to being great at her job, Karen is also a talented artist.
We’re hoping to get together and reminisce at our next high school reunion. One thing is for certain though, if we do the “chicken dance” I’m not standing anywhere near her.