In January 1970, my family and I moved from East Point Georgia to a split-level house at 5 Alpine Court in East Brunswick, New Jersey, with my father's red convertible Sunbeam Alpine automobile packed in the moving van. Dad insisted the road and car names were a coincidence.
Dad was a salesman at the time with an office at home, and frequently had heated telephone conversations with a business associate he called Charlie. My brother Mike and I later learned that Charlie was not his real name, but it was being used as part of an expression.
Our living room had a large picture window into which birds would occasionally fly. We later tried to close the drapes when the sun was brightest, but one Sunday afternoon while we were watching TV, we saw a shadow dart quickly across the window and heard a THWUMP that prompted us to run outside. We found a little brown wounded bird and put it in a shoe box, and Mike and I named it Charlie. The bird died shortly afterward and we buried it in the back yard, in the same shoe box. When Mike and I returned from school the next day, "Charlie" was a new blue parakeet in a cage from the nearby aviary. Our sister Matthea was only a few years old and my parents had decided to promote continuity of life rather than having to explain death to her at such a young age.
Three more siblings were born after Matthea, and although Charlie only lived for a few years, we always had a blue parakeet named Charlie, until well after I had grown up and moved out.
In tenth grade, I had Mrs. Briscoe's Chemistry class right after lunch, and I sat in the second desk from the front of the class. Our first day back to school after Christmas vacation, I arrived a little early and turned the desk in front of me around 180 degrees and propped up my feet on the chair. A few minutes later, the class filled and then a student showed up in the doorway, surveyed the room and decided to sit at the desk where I was parking my feet. He did not turn the desk around. I introduced myself and he told me his name was Carlos and he had just switched from an earlier section of the same class. I asked if I could call him Charlie and he said yes. When Mrs. Briscoe arrived, she looked around and said, "Carlos, would you like to join the class?" Charlie reversed his desk and did, and we have been the best of friends ever since.
After Charlie graduated that year, he was drafted by the Argentine Army and he would serve two years. The last night he was in-country, Charlie and John and Keith and I drove around town all night. We were eventually pulled over by Tallahassee Police after Charlie rolled through a Stop sign. No, Charlie did not have his driver license at the time, but presented his library card and received a warning. Charlie is one of the luckiest people I have ever met.
When Charlie came back to the United States and Tallahassee, I gathered everyone I could and we all met him at the airport. He knew a few of us.
Charlie and I have shared and exchanged several jobs, delivering pizzas and newspapers over the years. He gave me a kerosene space heater when I had no heat, and an electrical light socket with a receptacle to tap into external apartment lighting when I had no power. Charlie gave me my first and only motorcycle ride and taught me to drive a standard transmission vehicle. We have been camping, bowling and pinball buddies, and he was best man at my wedding. We still see each other about once a year when he is in town.
Thank you, Charlie, and happy birthday!