I Remember Fritz
Age Rating: 7 +
I Remember Fritz
by Marilyn Wilkerson
Kids are really cruel, aren't they? Each school seems to have at least one person that everyone ridicules and picks on. In our elementary school, Fritz Brill was the one the kids picked on.
Fritz lived in my neighborhood, and was a really nice boy. His my mother and mine were good friends, too, so by virtue of their relationship, I had a bond with him. My mother had taught me that we were never to pick on anyone, and I know that also affected how I treated him. I felt sorry for Fritz, but I liked him and called him my friend.
One of the reasons the kids picked on Fritz was his name. His real name was Fred, but that was also his father's name, so he became Fritz. Poor Fritz came from two very tall parents. I believe his mom was close to six feet tall. Fritz was probably also that tall by the time he was in the sixth grade. He was also very thin, and the bully boys were always grabbing his wrist and putting their fingers around it to make a point about how small his wrist was. They were so unkind.
In seventh grade, my family moved to another part of Pittsburgh, and although I did see Fritz in junior high, we drifted apart as friends, since we didn't share a bus ride to and from school anymore. Then, in high school, I moved to an entirely different school district. I believe shortly after that, Fritz moved out of state. That's when we started corresponding by letter.
Fritz and I shared so much of ourselves in those letters. We weren't by any means boyfriend and girlfriend. We were just friends. And I was so excited for him when he announced that he had a girlfriend.
During that time, I had a poetry class, and was supposed to write lots of poetry, as well as study famous poets. For one assignment, I was just coming up dry. I'm not always able to write my best on command. Rather, my best ideas often come in the middle of the night. I've learned to leave a tablet and pencil by my bedside for the times when I awaken with some word or phrase. Sometimes I've written entire stories or poems when I awake with an idea. But, writing on command sometimes just doesn't work for me. It wasn't working for this assignment. Everything I wrote either sounded too sing-songy or too romantic or too much like the hippie culture of the time. Fritz came to my rescue!
Below is a letter I wrote to my mother on September 7, 2000 about how Fritz helped me write a poem.
Some time ago, I mentioned that I had a poem that Fritz Brill wrote for me in high school. Actually, he and I were exchanging letters, and I told him that I had to write a poem. I had been writing poems for Mr. Caroll's class, but I wanted this one to be different. Fritz wrote one for me and told me I could use it if I wanted. I changed some things and sent it back for him. He changed some more things and passed it back. I changed some more, and this is the final version that the two of us came up with. I couldn't find the original one that Fritz wrote alone.
I may be confused about the year, but I think this was the beginning of school in 1970, our senior year. I believe that Fritz died around Thanksgiving, so whatever year it was, we completed this poem together about a month before he died. Perhaps you'd like to share this with Mrs. Brill.
If And Only If by
Marilyn Mackenzie & Fritz Brill
If only I could move, and my carefree masses come alive
My rough edges take human form, and a brain,
Why maybe I'd even use it to think.
My eyes would be blind to the colors black and white.
And ears, ears I'd use to listen to my fellow man,
The gap between us paper thin.
But I am only a rock, unfeeling, uncaring, unkind.
In that sense, I am like man,
but I lack something, I lack a heart.
Dirty, rough, gray, ugly, a crumbling rock, I hide.
But one day soon, I'll hurl myself
At the first unconcerned person I find.
I do wish I had the original poem that Fritz wrote for me. Just a month or so after this exchange, Fritz was killed in a hunting accident on Thanksgiving weekend. I still don't know the details of his death. At the time, the story was told that one member of his hunting party, a family member, was responsible for the accident. Recently, someone else suggested to me that Fritz had killed himself. I find that hard to believe, considering how happy he was.
Fritz was only about 17 or 18 years old when he died. It was over thirty years ago. But, I still think about him now and then, and I miss him because he was my friend. He should have never been on a hunting trip, for he shared with me that there was no way in the world that he could ever kill any living creature.
I'm sorry the kids made fun of you, Fritz. When we meet in heaven, maybe we can sit beside one another again on the bus. I'd like that.