Topic: "The Pre-Fellowship"(4)
Frodo has always had a song in his heart, and a friend at his side. Mick, the Wonder Dog, is ever present these days, but even in the time before the Fellowship, Frodo kept close to those who shared his dreams and his passion. Too rarely do instances now occur in which paths cross for those who shared thoughts of a different world than that which molded Middle Earth. Such an event took place this past week, and Frodo reflects back on the time spent by those whose friendship crosses boundaries, if not explanation.
Frodo had used the magic of the Internet to first find his old friend. Frodo knew that he had matriculated at Amherst, in Massachusetts, and beyond that there was only a wilderness. The Webmaster at Amherst graciously forwarded Frodo's message on to one of its' alumni, allowing arrangements for the demise of a 40-year absence. Afterwards, it would be four more years before the visit just concluded. This time, in a replay of the adolescent "I'll show you mine, if you show me yours," they brought their wives along.
Bill Kelly's father was the first pilot to safely land his fighter plane on Tarawa, in 1943. His subsequent career carried him to the rank of Captain in the US Navy, and meant that his family would travel with him on each of his assignments around the world. When duty brought him to the Pentagon, Bill was of high school age, and the domicile, by happenstance, was in the neighborhood of one known as Frodo. Frodo had lived most of his life in one or two places, unlike his new-found friend, who seemingly took all the world for granted. Bill, on the other hand, knew that he would soon be moving on, and friendships had to be quickly developed, without deep entanglements, for they were sure to soon be ended.
Bill Kelly, by the time that the junior year rolled around, was the top student in all the land. With a perfect 4.0 average, he was the example by which Frodo was compared when admonished by his father. Frodo took pride in his friend, and did his best to learn his habits and his insights so that he could do better himself. Frodo did not have the discipline that had been instilled in his friend, but he did have the capacity to sometimes drag his friend away from effort and to discover play. Perhaps this single element became the grounding of their friendship; to Bill, Frodo was boyhood fancies, and to Frodo, Bill was a view of the larger world and how to get there.
It was a truly gray day when, after that junior year, Bill Kelly was following his family on to the next assignment in someplace called Italy. Frodo still has the yearbook where it is written that "only two or three times in one's life does a true friend come along." It ended with the word "Ciao," which, at the time, required translation.
It was amazing to Frodo that the words which composed the tales flowed so freely in their first reunion. On two straight nights the bar was closed before they had completed their conversations. All others had retired for the night while Bill and Frodo talked of families now dissolved, and mentors long absent from current events. Saying "Farewell" then was just as difficult as it had been two score years earlier.
The convention that brought Bill to the Shire provided the current opportunity. Louisa, whose name is pronounced to befit one who fancies flowers, architecture, and knowledge, captivated Frodo as she sought to learn more about one of whom she had heard so much. Frodo was only too anxious to provide them both with an eye into the Shire, and to not disappoint. Frodo, a mere Hobbit, and Samwise, effervescent and engaging, were, after all, escorting the Chairman of the Anthropology Department of Yale University and his First Ladyship.
An early and brisk spring day, with only a fraction of the flowering potential at hand, passed too swiftly, and without opportunity to delve deeply into the poetry of life. Frodo was struck by the fact that Bill spoke of a desire to stay, for all time, in New Haven. He seemed to fear another relocation, to stay, perhaps, "where everybody knows your name." Frodo, as we know, looks to the sea, and dreams of lands far away.
Shaking hands good-bye, once again, Frodo committed to an offer to visit the house where Mark Twain once lived, and to sit in the same gazebo where famous words were penned, in Connecticut. Frodo will bring the mixings of a mint julep, to share with Louisa.