Like the Chinese New Year

Today, like the Chinese New Year, seems a time for revaluing, for setting right old wrongs; above all, for wiping out all debts - and I think of one debt of long ago always unacknowledged and unpaid. He was an older boy who made himself my protector. His were the hands that steadied me before I stumbled, raised me when I fell, guided me on slippery paths between drifts of snow heaped higher than my head. He was the one who, all that year until we moved away, brought gifts: an apple, a cookie from his lunchbox; a spray of forsythia blooming in the snow, and once a book: a slim green leather Shakespeare, inscribed in a bold hand: "From your friend, George." And now, like a Chinese New Year obligation, I think of him once more and settle the oldest of my unpaid debts at last, with a silent "Thank you, thank you, my friend George."

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