One year ago, I received some very sad news. With permission from his mother, I am posting this about my friend, which I wrote last year.
Recently, I found out that a friend from my childhood; Mickey Shindle passed away. This news stopped me in my tracks, and slowly I started to realise how much my life had been enriched because I had known him. I only spent one school year with Mickey, and sadly I would never see or speak to him ever again. I wrote this short memoir of our friendship to remember him by and share with his family and friends.
I lived in America between August 1992 and June 1993, during which time, Mickey Shindle was my best friend. The first thing he asked me was ‘do you like football?’. I was from England, Mickey was American but he supported England. He loved Paul Gascoigne like we all did in England back then, and he often wore his blue 1992 England top to school, so naturally we became friends. I had to use the sacrilegious word ‘soccer’ during my time living amongst Americans, but Mickey and I knew the greatest sport was football, English football.
I was the only kid from England in the entire school, if not the whole of Moorestown at the time. I spoke with an English accent and was often teased by the American kids for ‘being English’, although I am of Indian descent and born in Kenya, I had grown up in London pretty much all my life. That made me stick out in the early 90s in an American school, no one cared about the colour of my skin or my religion, it was my accent that defined me. At William Allen middle school, I would often be called ‘tea cup’ and ‘muffin’ by Jesse Ayers, have said “cheerio pip-pip” to me by Bill Cahill, and be told to “go home it’s time for tea” by just about everyone else. Of course, it was harmless (but annoying) teasing, but in Mickey’s eyes, my ‘Englishness’ made me cool because I loved football the way he loved football, and supported the England football team the way I did.
Mickey and I were in Mrs Gillon’s Language Arts class at 7th period, where he helped me out with a book report that I hadn’t done. Mickey had done his book report on The Titanic and had all the facts, so to help me out he kindly omitted some parts from his own report so that I could use them instead. I did an awful job delivering my last-minute book report to the class that day, whilst Mickey stifled a look of innocence watching me fail in lying to Mrs Gillon. No one bought into my acting, and Dana Cassel said out loud to the class that she thought I hadn’t actually read the book and that Mickey must have helped me. Both Mickey and I clamoured to shield ourselves from the truth, and guilty as I was, Mickey had been a true friend to me that day.
Obviously, Mickey was first to be invited to my birthday party, he came over with a small group of school friends, wore his blue England top, sat right next to me as I cut my cake, and sang happy birthday to me along with everyone else.
A week earlier, Mickey had given me a clue about the gift he had gotten me for my birthday. He kept offering the clue; “What is red and turquoise?”. I hadn’t heard the word ‘turquoise before, so I was only further confused. I had no idea what the gift could be, but then on the day, I discovered that he had bought me a Liverpool FC baseball cap that was red on top and had a turquoise peak. Mickey was a Spurs supporter and he knew that I was a Liverpool supporter, I treasured that hat and wore it all the time. When I brought it back to England with me, I was the only person who had it, as baseball caps were still an American cultural thing that people in England were starting to adopt. Almost 30 years later, I still have his gift as one of my most prized possessions.
Mickey also stayed over once too, he crashed on the sofa in my room and brought his sleeping bag, into which his grandma had stitched a big football. We hung out all day, went deep into the forest near my aunt and uncle’s house, where we were like the Goonies. I even saw a snake and a huge frog before deciding that we should head back before we were eaten by whatever else lurked further up the aptly named Creek Road. Mickey was a little enamoured by the girls from our school who also happened to be staying over in a sleepover that my cousin had arranged with her friends. I was still shy around girls and Mickey knew that, but he duly confided in me that evening that he thought Casey Bell had a really nice arse. 😂
End of the year
At the end of the school year, Mickey and I made sure we stood next to each other for the 8th grade photo, our time together was almost at an end.
Mickey wrote extensively in my yearbook, more than anyone else did, and today I re-read those words with such a joy in my heart because it is a gift to have his expression to me recorded in ink from an era that seems all the more magical, because I had got to share it with him. He also noted in his words to me that he hoped I would actually read the books I did my book reports on. After my Titanic shambles, I had learned nothing except that improvising was a survival strategy. For our final assignment of the year in Mrs Gillon’s class, I delivered yet another book report that I had completely made up. On the day the book report was due, I drew a picture of a shark eating a scuba diver during Mrs Aubert’s GT Art class in 3rd period. By 7th period, this drawing was the showpiece of a story I made up and credited to a book I had ‘read’ and had most conveniently checked back into the local public library. Mickey shot me a very cheeky grin, I can still see it now in my mind’s eye, looking-on in incredulity from his seat this time. Watching me talk so convincingly of an elaborate story that I was making up as I went along, knowing that I had pulled-off one of the most classic juvenile stunts of American school life. Even Mrs Gillon was impressed with me this time, and I got a passing grade. I had completed the stunt of a true American school kid.
Final day together
I was scheduled to return to England just a few days after school ended, so Mickey came to visit me before I left. He cycled over on his mountain bike and wore a t-shirt of the 1990 England football team.
We played basketball together and took photos of us jumping on a trampoline, on a lowered basket so that we could dunk and look cool.
Before he left, Mickey gave me one final gift, a commemorative blue jar inscribed ‘Moorestown 1682’. I still have it, resting on my bookshelf at home, reminding me of where we had got to meet each other, where I got to attend school and live the American school life, make great memories in America, and a great friend in Mickey Shindle.
Some people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Mickey, I may have only known you for a season, but my memories of you have stayed with me for a lifetime.