To a Friend on his 60th Birthday


On the occasion of my friend Michael’s 60th birthday, his daughter asked people to share their reminiscences. My brother George wrote something beautiful.

An excerpt:

First, a confession: when asked to write to you reminiscing about old times, I was at something of a loss. The truth is that I have an absolutely terrible memory—so bad that when people tell me stories about things that happened in my own past, as often as not I have no idea whether they’re pulling my leg!

Well, I do have one recollection. It is, I’m afraid, utterly devoid of drama. And yet it has plenty of meaning for me, because it concerns one of those not-especially-spectacular occasions that comes to my mind whenever I reflect on what now seem to me the really happy moments of my past. In fact the event is so utterly unspectacular that perhaps even you may not recall it at all!

It was during [a high school] winter, and a bunch of us (the usual gang, I suppose—Peter, Chris, Burke, Kirk, and myself) are in Chris’s father’s Peugeot. It is evening, and we are (I think) on our way back from one of those drives to nowhere in particular—perhaps to visit those girls in Brookfield whose names I no longer remember. Snow is falling, and the ground and trees are thick with it. We are on some quiet back road, with no other vehicles or houses or lights anywhere, and Chris switches off the headlamps.

Suddenly everything is magical. The only light is the moonlight, reflecting off of the snow, and the only sound is the bare rumble of the tires as they meet the snow with that odd sound, like when someone twists a balloon to make it look like a dog, only very muffled. Yet it doesn’t feel like we are in a car any longer. Instead, we are gliding. The Peugeot has become a sleigh.

Apart from the muffled scrunching of the snow, it’s eerily quiet. If anyone is speaking, I can’t remember. I imagine that everyone was entranced, as I certainly must have been. For that short trek—how long can it have lasted? A minute? Five minutes at most!—still survives as an especially magical moment in my otherwise lousy memory.

But of course it wasn’t just the snow and the sound and the moonlight that were so magical. I think it is that for me those moments recollect better than anything else all the good times that our little gang spent together, distilled to their essence. And that’s perhaps why this seemingly insignificant memory has managed to linger in my porous brain, outliving so many others which, though more lively and colorful, are less pure, and therefore less potent, reminders of those very special times, and the very special friendships that made them so.


About Peter Selgin

Peter Selgin is the author of Drowning Lessons, winner of the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award for Fiction, Life Goes to the Movies, a novel, two books on the craft of fiction, and several children’s books. His memoir, Confessions of a Left-Handed Man, was short-listed for the William Saroyan International Prize. His latest novel, The Water Master, won the William Faulkner Society Prize, selected by Random House Senior Editor Will Murphy. His work has won the Missouri Review Editors’ Prize, the Dana Award, six Best American Essay notable essay citations, and two selections for the Best American series. A second memoir, The Inventors, is forthcoming from Hawthorne Books in April of 2016. He teaches at Antioch University’s MFA program and is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia College & State University.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.