Schroeder from Peanuts
I met Berni (short for Bernadette) Garvey when I was 7 years old. We met on the first day I walked into a brand new school and instantly became friends. Berni was the class clown. She was full of life, easily the funniest person I knew, and a true friend from the start. In middle school, Berni’s family moved to another town, but we continued to stay close. One Christmas, she gave me this Schroder ornament. Like most kids I liked the Peanuts, but didn’t understand why she gave me Schroeder. However, I joked that Schroeder and Berni had the same smile. They each had that big wide grin. Later, just as we were beginning high school, her family moved from Maryland to North Carolina. I was devastated. I thought I would never see Berni again. We cried and promised to write each other all the time. We wrote often the first year of high school (this was before cell phones and email.) Though as we went through our high school years, we corresponded less and less. We touched base again near the end of high school when she sent me her senior year picture and I sent her mine. We discussed college and our futures. Though we had spent many years apart, I always felt that Berni would be a life-long friend. But I soon learned life often takes unexpected turns.
It was the start of the summer after my first year of college and I had gone away for the weekend with a few friends. I returned to find my mother and sister sitting on the couch waiting for me, both visibly upset. My heart sank. I instinctively thought something had happened to my grandmother. She was the oldest person in the family. I asked if she were ok, dreading the answer.
“Oh, yes,” my mother began “Mom-Mom is fine. It’s…Berni.”
“Her sister called here yesterday.” I froze. My mother quickly explained that Berni had been at a party on a rooftop at her school. Her friends were sitting near the edge of the roof. As she walked toward them, she stumbled on some loose rocks and fell three stories. She lay in a coma for days but never woke up. Just like that Berni was gone forever. The months that followed I walked around in a daze. Utterly shocked, shaken, and completely devastated at the loss of my oldest friend.
When Christmas came that following December, I opened my mother’s box of Christmas tree ornaments and there he was. Schroeder. The silly Peanuts ornament I had for years was there with his happy smile. Berni’s smile. She passed away when we were only 19. Now, 30 years later, Schroeder continues to sit on my tree, playing his piano. Every year when I take him out of the box, I think of my friend. I am so blessed to have him.