8 seconds to the boy next door

by Angela on January 17, 2012 · 8 comments

8 seconds.

That’s the time it took to run full speed door to door, from 25 Tuscan Place to 21 Tuscan Place โ€” but only if you cut through the row of evergreen trees that separated our properties, instead of going down my driveway and back up Danny’s. It was a familiar run across stone, grass, asphalt and cement, a very routine run, as was the unmistakable voice of the impish little blond boy who came to call through our screen door. “Can Angie come out to play?”

Danny Barry was my childhood playmate, the literal boy next door in a middle-class suburb in New Jersey. From toddler time to about age 8 or 9, we were inseparable. When we weren’t swinging from the monkey bars in his backyard, we were playing board games in my basement or riding bikes down the hill on Tanglewood Drive. I became the consummate tomboy, trying to copy all of Danny’s bike wheelies, his baseball bat swings, his cops and robbers moves. Innumerable scrapes, bruises, scars and sprained body parts were my badge of honor. And I loved being at his house, with his family. We’d spy on and pester his two beautiful older sisters. I’d cuddle up with his cat Samantha, despite my itchy eyes and hives up and down my arms. His father would give me a huge, warm smile every time he saw me, and belt out, “Angelina, please no leana on the bell!” I never knew what he meant by it, but I glowed from the attention.

These memories are burned in me. I can count these times with Danny as some of the happiest of my childhood. At age 8, we had produced a “talent show” on his backyard deck for our families, in which he donned a bandanna, white tee and jeans รก la Bruce Springsteen and did his best “Born In The USA” rendition, while I pulled on my red leotard and white tights with a little dance to “Let’s Hear It For The Boy.” (It was in this talent show that everyone got to see my true talent, which was being extremely bossy.)

Then, the inevitable happened. We got a little older and realized that hanging out with the opposite sex was in fact, gross. On top of that, we went to different elementary schools. Soon, it seemed that I just bumped into Danny every few weeks, and only when we happened to be in our driveways at the same time. Even then, it was a quick wave hello, seen through the shrinking spaces between those same evergreen trees whose branches had grown thicker. We were growing, changing, and no longer needed each other.

When I was 12, my father got a new job and we had to move out of Tuscan Place. I was headed to a new junior high and had convinced myself that I was actually excited to start over. With the moving truck still outside, Danny and Mr. Barry came over to say goodbye. Danny handed me a black and white photo of his cat Samantha. He said he had started to do some photography and wanted me to have it. I smiled, thanked him, and gave him a hug. As the door closed behind them, I burst into tears. The best part of my childhood, closing the door behind them.

Since then, I’ve moved countless times but only cried one other time: yesterday, I packed up the last of our house in Vegas, and Max and I headed out. I’m feeling these goodbyes through my son, and there is so much gratitude I can’t even put into words. Our Vegas life was such a pleasant surprise. He had a wonderful daycare, an amazing time at his swim school, and fun with his Lion King comrades. He also had his girl next door โ€” sweet, blonde impish Piper. They had become best friends. Today in the car I caught him mumbling, “Pi-puh, Pi-puh.” Yes, I know Max is only 18 months and will not remember his time with her, and that is why I write and take photos and cry. Every moment for him can be burned into memory. You don’t get the girl or boy next door too often. In fact, it’s rare.

20 years later. Through the wonders of Facebook, I found Danny Barry. To say I am over the moon about reconnecting with him would be an understatement. He is a brilliant photojournalist, married, living in Brooklyn. Our sons are just 7 months apart. I call his wife for mama advice. I call his sisters for PR and style advice. The Barrys are like family, again. We just had to make the effort to find each other.

I once thought moving your home meant moving on, but now I realize there are people in your life that are just as portable as the backpack on your back. Strapped to your heart, they take the ride along with you wherever you go.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Nikaury January 17, 2012 at 8:01 pm

LOVE this story!


Ron January 17, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Can this blog get any better?! Why hasn’t some official stamp for ‘blog of century’ been appropriately placed on it, yet? I read this blog and I approve!


Marian January 17, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Love it….so sweet!


Jen Barry January 17, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Angie!! You have officially made all of the Barrys cry. I remember that talent show like it was yesterday. You were the cutest girl to ever walk Tuscan Place. Soooo so glad to be in touch again.


Jim Barry January 17, 2012 at 10:25 pm

How very sweet. Such wonderful memories. You brought them all back so beautifully. Thank you.


Stephanie January 18, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Made me cry (in a good way) ๐Ÿ™‚ Beautifully written.


Amber January 19, 2012 at 3:32 am

Piper has been asking about Max….wants to know why he is no longer next door…
๐Ÿ™ we miss you guys!!


Johnny January 19, 2012 at 8:09 am



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