Don’t you love small-world stories? I’ve written before about my fascination with them. There is just something magical about unexpected connections between strangers on this planet. Connections which inevitably invoke a delighted, “What a small world,” response from everyone involved.
One of my favorite such connections happened when I emailed Bing’s obituary to the Miami of Ohio alumni magazine for them to include in their list of deceased members of the Miami Class of 1960. I sent the obituary to one of about seven email addresses listed on the masthead of the alumni magazine. I picked the address at random, having no idea which one was responsible for that page in the magazine, but I asked whoever received my email to please forward it to the proper channel.
Within minutes I received an email back: “Molly, you’re not going to believe this, but I’m from West Bend!” Turns out, I had picked the email address of one Vince Frieden, an editorial assistant at Miami who grew up on a farm in West Bend. Further, when Vince told his parents of the coincidence, his mother responded, “Bing did some legal work for us.”
There ensued over the next six years a lovely back-and-forth email exchange, which included Vince’s inquiry, “Did you and Bing kiss under the Upham Arch?” One of the beautiful buildings on the Miami campus is Upham Hall, which features a huge arch with stone benches underneath. Campus legend decrees that if a couple kisses beneath the arch, they will marry and live happily ever after. I told Vince, “No, I was stood up under the arch.”
I was to meet Bing there after one of my classes and go to a local hang-out for coffee. I waited and waited, but no Bing, so I rushed back to my dorm and called his fraternity house, sure that some awful fate had befallen him. (This was long before cell phones took over the earth.) He came to the phone full of apologies, explaining that he had taken a quick nap to ease a headache and slept through the appointed time of our date.
Many years and several children later, he ‘fessed up: he had been in a hot poker game with his fraternity brothers and was loathe to leave it since he was on a winning streak.
Vince loved that story and asked if he could write about us for the Valentine issue of the magazine. He wrote a great piece, which I treasure.
Our friendship eventually included a couple of in-person meetings when Vince visited his parents in West Bend. The first meeting was at a local coffee shop, with both of us wearing Miami sweatshirts so we would be sure to recognize each other. A couple of years later, same song, second verse, only this time I got to meet his wife, Jill, and daughters Quinn and Jenna. Last week, our third in-person meeting occurred.
We picked up right where we left off, regaling each other with funny stories from our pasts and sharing memories of Miami, although there’s a 40-year gap between when Bing and I were there and when Vince joined the sports-writing team there. Nevertheless, the Miami connection is strong, as is the “I’m from West Bend, I’m from Algona” connection.
Don’t you love small-world stories?
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