Sixty Years Later a Wonderful Gift from an Old Friend

Last July when I heard my old friend George Steinbrenner had died I went to my dresser drawer and brought out the letters he wrote to me over sixty years ago.

As I read the letters I realized that gifts can arrive in unexpected ways. Sometimes they come wrapped in a memory.

I’ve always thought of my mind as a small treasure chest and my happy memories are precious jewels. Over time I placed these precious jewels in a secret corner of my mind never knowing I would, once again, relive those distant yesterdays.

After hearing about George’s death I opened the chest and took out my memories.

While I held the jewels in my hand I noticed a beautiful diamond begin to shimmer. So, I set it on a piece of black velvet in order to see into it better and there deep inside the jewel a memory came alive. It carried me back to a gentler world.

It was July 1949. George and I were sitting beneath the oak tree in my front yard. Warm summer breezes caressed us and sprays of sunshine brushed our faces but the most amazing surprise was our voices were clear as a bell.

George Steinbrenner Running Hurdles at Williams College 1952

We were laughing and joking about all sorts of silly things the way teenagers often do when our conversation began to take on a serious tone.

George was telling me his dream for the future. “I’m going to be the star of the Olympics. I’ll even run faster than Harrison Dillard.”

Then he asked me if I had a special dream. I replied, “I hope to become a famous writer and lots of people will want to read what I have to say.”

George hesitated for a moment then said, “Well Margaret Mitchell, maybe I can help you write a great masterpiece like her novel, Gone With The Wind.” But I was sure that couldn’t be.

The day had ended and the diamond’s glow was fading but as hard as I tried to hold on to the memory sleep overcame me. The next thing I knew morning had come and the phone started to ring.

It was my son, Michael. He called to let me know the NY Times wanted me to write a short story about my friendship with George. Their plan was to publish it the day before his funeral.

I was apprehensive at first because I’ve only shown the stories I have written to a few relatives and friends. Over the years I kept them tucked away in a box under my bed but soon my words would be read by many and I didn’t want to disappoint George or his family.

I used his letters as a backdrop and, as if by magic, the words flowed upon the paper. Suddenly, what I thought would be a difficult task turned into a joyful journey back from those long ago days when we sat beneath the oak tree.

On July 16th my articled appeared in the Times and I was so pleased to see that they hadn’t changed a word. Over the course of that day I received numerous calls saying how much people enjoyed the story and I honestly felt that this was a tribute to what a fine young man George was.

That night while I was relaxing in my favorite chair and I was locked away from the busy world outside it occurred to me that the dream shared with an old friend had finally been realized. And for at least one day, I was a famous writer. What a wonderful gift.

Now when I open the treasure chest and a jewel begins to sparkle I will take the memory out and place it on piece of black velvet for everyone to see because I love writing about those golden days when we were young.

Mary Jane Schriner