Max was in preschool when he met Justine and her brother Lindsay. They became close friends and spent most of their time at our house or their apartment, where they lived with their dad, a single father.

Justine was an unusual little girl, with long blond bangs that hung over her eyes and a dreamy smile. She would often burst out laughing when I least expected it. She was less sensitive than her brother, but both of them screamed their heads off during long epic games of monopoly with Max, who likewise played with ferocious determination. Justine was a good mediator when Max and Lindsay had a spat.

When they moved back to Cleveland, their dad’s hometown, we lost touch for the most part.   A few years ago, Justine came to visit me with her beautiful little daughter, who I longed to steal. Justine now played professional softball but somehow she was the same sweet dreamy girl I remembered.

Recently, after a mutual friend put us in touch via facebook. Justine sent me a message –

It is so good to reconnect with you. I miss max. I liked just knowing that one day we could see each other again. I remember being in 2nd grade and you telling us that we should get married one day. You would serve us a grilled cheese and then we would eat a flintstones vitamin. Being friends with max was some of my best childhood years.

Naturally I cried and cried. I saw that Justine had a website, and that was how I discovered that she recently made history by being the first woman to pitch batting practice to a Major League team. Not only that but she is also the first woman to coach a men’s professional baseball team.

I’m so proud of her achievements! I am also reminded that children come into the world with characteristics that can make them resilient or fragile, shy or outgoing, placid or temperamental.   They will take their own path in the end, regardless of what you do or don’t do. It’s a mystery and a miracle.

I loved so many of Max’s friends and I’m grateful that he brought them into my life. Justine holds a special place in my heart. Those were some of my happiest years, too.

Justine and Max –

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23 Responses to Justine

  1. harmreduction says:

    thank you.
    for all of this.

  2. Dexter VanDango says:

    At times you find all the right words. This was one of them…

  3. Marmalade Wombat says:

    That’s beautiful. I went and listened to all the songs on Max’s website several times … they’re absolutely brilliant. What a talent. They were so clever and they made me smile.

  4. Heidi says:

    Aw, that’s great you’re back in touch. She certainly seems like an exceptional woman. I think you needed this!

  5. I love that you gave them Flintstoen vitamins! Such a cute picture of the two of them xx

  6. Ann says:

    A beautiful story that brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad Justine and you are back in touch! And yes – that picture of the two of them is amazing.

  7. Justine says:

    My other memory is thinking you were one of the most beautiful women I knew. And that I loved your muscles! I knew I wanted to grow up and get those muscles. So you were a strong influence on me – even in those early years.

  8. daisy says:

    ” I am also reminded that children come into the world with characteristics that can make them resilient or fragile, shy or outgoing, placid or temperamental. They will take their own path in the end, regardless of what you do or don’t do.”

    as my son continues to suffer with his losing battle with opiates, these words help me. a little. why one child can be so resilient and another cannot is a mystery that plagues me daily.

    i’m happy justine has brought you some comfort.

  9. Sheri says:

    The excerpt that Daisy quoted above is not only beautifully said, but also one of the wisest and most helpful things a parent can remember. You can help your children, advise your children, love your children, but you can’t make them into anyone other than who they are.

  10. DCD says:

    I like your posts about words, and I really like your posts about your childhood and family. I love your posts about Max the most. And that excerpt is beautiful…as the mother of a 14-month-old baby girl, I daily marvel at and celebrate the truth in those words, and fear it deep down in my core.

  11. Helen says:

    I cried, too. I’ve cried a lot lately, thinking about the death of my parents, I feel it approaching day by day… I cannot imagine my life without them and I cannot understand it, how people deal with the loss of their family, what life looks like after death. I have so many things I want to tell them and I can’t get it out and every time I see them I feel like I am wasting time and cry more but I can’t connect in the utopic way I imagine in my mind. It probably sounds crazy but it is what it is. A pain that is dull and paralyzing, a sorrow in advance.

    I feel such a tremendous respect for you.

  12. Andra says:

    Thank you,

  13. Caroline says:

    oh this is the sweetest thing and so sad at the same time. ;__;

  14. Cricket9 says:

    A lovely heartwarming story and I’m so glad that you connected!
    Helen, I by now lost both my parents, and it can be devastating but eventually the pain scars over. If at all possible, try to get some joy from the present time when you still have them around, don’t “advance” your sorrow. Sadly, there will be quite enough of it later. Don’t wait for some incredible connection – just spend some time with them and tell them that you love them. One of my very few regrets in life is that I did not tell my mother that I love her often enough. She knew, I’m sure, but still…

  15. Cat says:

    I am lost for words… this is such a sweet, inspiring story. It is amazing how through you we all get touched by little pieces of Max’s life <3. His awesomeness lives on and will for years and years and years and years to come. Thank you.

  16. Nick McGivney says:

    ‘They will take their own path in the end, regardless of what you do or don’t do.’ You manage to break my heart every so often with your goddamn pursuit of the truth. Much love and respect to you, sister. Even when I don’t say it.

  17. Ann says:

    By the way: Justine’s blog is lovely. What a gracious, aware woman she is!

  18. Jaimi says:

    Beautiful photograph, beautiful words, beautiful and messy life. In a way, he continues on. Your words, his voice, everyone who knew him.

  19. Kathleen says:

    I love the picture you painted of Max and J as children…..grilled cheese sandwiches and all. Whatever conspired in the universe for you to find each other now is a gift, a good thing. I wish you grace & strength whenever I read your posts.

  20. hammiesays says:

    Justine should be in a Movie of the Week – played by Clare Danes. xx (you will be played by Catherine Keener of course)

  21. Helen says:

    Dziekuje Cricket – it means a lot!

  22. oh this is so sweet. mad me cry and cry. btw SW, my son Yllac is 4 months now. Am a happy mom. This post made me think of who my son’s friend are gonna be. It’s just exciting.

  23. candy says:

    crying, so beautiful and sad.

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