August 28, 2013

Old friends reunite

By SUSAN TOBIAS, Pinch of Time

---- — Life can present some really enjoyable times that are meant for reflection. We’d be fools not to embrace those moments.

Such a time presented itself when my husband, Mirza (Mirzie or Toby to his friends), got to reunite with a kindred spirit, all brought together by finding an old newspaper clipping.

Toby was about 14 or 15 when he was part of 4-H in the Schuyler Falls area. Leeward Babbie was the same age, a 4-H member and a farm boy in Champlain. Both were prone to growing bushy, healthy gardens. That year at the Clinton County Fair, the two ended up with prize vegetables, Toby a hubbard squash and Leeward a field pumpkin. Their picture landed in the Press-Republican. The clipping, of course, became part of the multitude of pictures and newspaper clippings Toby’s mother, Marge, kept in a keepsake box.

Fast forward to 2011. I was cleaning a closet and found Marge’s keepsakes. Therein was the newspaper clipping. I said to Toby, “We need to see if Leeward is still alive!” — something you automatically think when you haven’t heard about someone for a very long time.

Just a few months later, I was asked to write a story about the Babbie Rural and Farm Learning Museum in Peru. Leeward is the founder and ardent supporter of all things agricultural. He wasn’t there that day, but I asked the volunteers about him and told them about the clipping. They said he was in good health and would love to see Toby.

Fast forward, again, to a warm summer day this August. Toby and I had decided to take a day off from mowing and cleaning to visit the Babbie Museum, hoping Leeward would be there. After paying the very small admission price, we asked for him and were told he was around somewhere, would we like to watch a demonstration of Irish dancing while we waited?

No sooner had the music started, Leeward appeared from a side door, quietly slipping into the crowd. I knew it was him. He looked “like himself,” to use an oft-used expression. When the music stopped, I nudged Toby and pointed him to Leeward. With newspaper clipping in hand, Toby said, “You’re Leeward? I bet you don’t know who I am.” A quizzical look came over Leeward’s face.

“You and I had our pictures taken when we were about 14, and it was in the newspaper,” Toby said, showing him the clipping. The look of delight that came on Leeward’s face was priceless.

“Mirza! Oh, my goodness. It has been a long time!” Leeward said. At that moment, the two 75-year-olds were back to being 14 again in their minds, shaking hands and complimenting each other, saying that they don’t look their age.

I stood on the sidelines, snapping pictures, of course, and thoroughly enjoyed a magical moment that won’t happen again. The last 61 years were encapsulated in about 20 minutes. Among the other ups and downs of life, Leeward had been a farmer and school-bus driver, and Toby had been a Teamster, driving tractor-trailer for 40 years. We spent the rest of the afternoon touring the museum and grounds, petting the horses and miniature donkeys and listening to Leeward’s passion about passing on the old farming traditions to future generations.

The two were “old friends,” young again at heart, all from a yellowed, well-loved newspaper clipping from years and years ago. When we left that afternoon, we were tired but committed to visiting the farm museum again. Days like that don’t come along often enough.

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at