I just lost an old childhood friend who was my neighbor at age 6, my elementary and high school mate and fellow summer camper and counselor. Her name is Elaine Boraks Kadets and she was a very special woman with many endearing qualities.
Elaine was wise, level-headed and adventurous, and so much fun to be with at every age. And oh-so-stylish and stunning! Her parents were German Jewish immigrants who escaped in the 1930s to the safety of Brookline, Massachusetts, my hometown. They were exotic in their European ways and opened up my parochial world as a young child to the customs and habits of others from another culture and a world left behind.
Sadly, Elaine lost her battle to lymphoma last week, despite her most valiant efforts and her cheering squad of four loyal women friends—a de facto support group of Camp Tevya alumnae whom I’m proud to call my dearest former bunk mates.
We are sad and in shock, though we knew at some level that her days were numbered. But isn’t that the case for each of us? Our days being numbered, that is?
Elaine, your special blend of street smarts, high humor and fashion are part of us. We carry you with us now and forevermore. In your memory, I dedicate these two poems. You maintained your spirits throughout your recent years of illness and, as a result, you have injected your soul into each of us who called you friend. In the spirit of Elaine, as we used to say at Camp Tevya, let us go “onward and upward to glorious heights”—to a victory of the spirit and loving friendship that is everlasting, even in the face of death.
It is not easy to lose a childhood friend. They embody our past and remind us of our own fragility and mortality. And, if we’re lucky, they send us back to the loving collective embrace of our old childhood buddies with whom we find unique solace and comfort.
We are friends til the end.
“Friends and Family”
Two kinds of loves
Two kinds of losses
Losing a parent: inevitable, understandably sad
Losing a friend: tragic, losing your past
Weeping for her high spirits
Weeping for her laugh
Weeping for our past joys
Missing her steady presence
Are you really gone? Or just kidding us?
Please text next week
Tell us it was a gag
We won’t be angry
We’ll just laugh and keep playing
As we did as children
In the warm sunshine of New Hampshire
“The Old Neighborhood”
We never really left, did we?
St. Paul, Egmont, Fuller, Dwight, Coolidge, Russell, Columbia Streets, Winthrop Road
Harvard and Beacon Streets
Devotion School, Brookline High, Ohabei Shalom, KI
Jack and Marion’s, Irving’s,
S.S. Pierce, Feldman’s Bakery, Howard Johnson
They are our precious roots, our DNA
Yesterday you reminded us, Elaine
We are denizens of the Old Neighborhood
Always and forever
Playing and laughing
Dancing and cheering
Shopping and hanging out
We can’t let go
We won’t let go
And we won’t let you go
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