A Friendly Encounter Forever Remembered

By Billy Lee March 2017

The Annual New Years Letter from Abbie and Don arrived from Maine, a bit late this year.  It was, however, filled with joyful events the couple enjoyed during 2016 – with their family members and with friends from different parts of the globe. At bottom of the page, Abbie scribbled by hand: “ We are still chugging along ! We might get to a Reunion ( she meant Andover ) sometime.  All the Best in 2017 “.

Abbie, Don, and I are all over 80 years of age now ! Abbie and I met in 1948 at a Tea Dance hosted by Abbot Academy for Andover students at Andover, Mass. This was almost 70 years ago. As a newly arrived foreign student from Shanghai, I was socially immature, and my house master, Mr. Harold Howe, suggested that I should sign up for the Abbot-Andover Tea Dance. I complied without questioning.

Neatly dressed with coat and tie on, plus carefully polished shoes, I arrived on time at the assigned Abbot Tea Room.  A number of boys clustered on one side of the room at first, and the girls on the opposite side. Abruptly music began, and I found myself challenged by a smiling brown-hair girl: “ Would you like to dance with me ? I am Abbie. “

I had never been to a dance before, and I had never danced before. I had never spoken to a foreign girl before, and I had never been asked to dance by a girl before. Stuttering feebly, I consented, but Abbie had to show me how to stand and how to stretch out one hand and place the other behind her waist. To avoid clashing she suggested that we just do side-steps one two, one two until we feel the rhythm. She was so kind, so encouraging, so joyful, so civil, and so truly friendly.

This was one of my most memorable experiences as an adolescent in a foreign country. Abbie’s kind gestures forever influenced me, and I learned from her on how important it is to reach out to others. Smile, be kind, and be helpful – especially to new Foreign Friends. It’s also truly rewarding to be able to stay in touch after so many  years !  Indeed, Abbie, I hope to see you and Don at our next Andover Reunion!