1 Charlotte Street. It’s hard to believe it has been almost twenty-three years since Michelle and I bought our first house on the corner of Market and Charlotte, right next to St. Luke’s Church. We were the first young couple to move onto the block. Most of the folks had raised their families and were older. The neighborhood would soon change and become full of kids running yard to yard, riding bikes in the church parking lot, catching lightning bugs on warm summer nights, sled riding down the small hill behind the church and going door to door trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Not long after we moved in, Troy and Stephanie Long and their young daughter Amber settled in next to us. Only the side yard separated our homes. Amber was the first of the what would soon be a growing number of children in the neighborhood.
She was very petite and tiny at the time and immediately struck up what was to be a very special friendship with Michelle. I was amazed how smart and mature Amber was even then. Michelle described her as always being a miniature grown-up. Delicate, but not fragile. She spoke with an adult vocabulary in a child’s voice.
It was obvious her parents spent much time with her. If they went somewhere, so did Amber. During her early years she was off to amusement parks, concerts, wineries – whatever the Longs were doing Amber was at their side. I think that helped to make her wiser and more mature at an early age. She was very loved by her parents.
Amber was always over at our house with Michelle doing cartwheels, then back handsprings, then flips – I can’t even tell you what they were. They would do arts and crafts, play hopscotch; I would tell you she was like a daughter to my wife, but even though there was an age difference, they seemed more like sisters. Michelle would tell me how Amber was brilliant and had an ‘old soul’ because of her wisdom and ability to carry on adult conversation.
Amber gave energy and spirit to our neighborhood. She had a great sense of humor. Once when I was in the doghouse with Michelle (you all know I didn’t deserve to be), Amber said to her in that young child voice, “Stop being ridiculous and stubborn and give the guy a break.” Michelle laughed hysterically and Amber got me out of the doghouse.
When I was not home and there was a summer thunderstorm, Amber knew my wife didn’t like to be home by herself, so she would walk over and comfort her. This amazed me that this young child had such understanding and compassion.
The greatest gift Amber gave us was after Jimmy was born. She was like having an older sister, friend and nanny rolled into one. She would come over and help Michelle when he was an infant. She was Jimmy’s first playmate and was always looking out for him. Remember, she was just 8 or 9 at the time. When he got older, it was the Scooby Doo marathon and there was Amber with her sleeping bag and blue satin pillow to give us a break. I love Scooby, but enough was enough. Amber would make popcorn and spend the night like a campout with Little Jimmy.
Along came Hunter, our youngest, and there was Amber. He would run the neighborhood in a diaper and cape like an infant superhero. His sidekick Amber would make sure he was not getting into trouble and bring him home cape in hand. Always patient and glad to help.
As Amber grew older it was obvious she would do great things. Her gift of flipping and tumbling in the side yard, turned into a state championship in gymnastics for my friend Robbie Tagge at Dynamats. She amazed me with her smarts, artistic talent and athleticism. We knew whatever she put her mind to she could do. My wife was amazed by her knowledge of plants, gems and astronomy.
Of course time went on and the Longs moved off Charlotte Street – we would shortly follow. As time passed Michelle would keep track of Amber and was always proud of her. She would tell me of her accomplishments; high school and college graduations, living in Philly studying to be a young architect. Whenever Michelle would mention Amber I would always see that little girl doing cartwheels in the side yard.
As most of you know, Amber left us a week or so ago. A senseless act of violence in a robbery gone bad while her mom was visiting her in Philadelphia.
This story is not about that. It’s about a special young lady who made the world a better place. I am forever grateful she graced our lives. Troy and Stephanie, you can be proud of the daughter you raised. From an early age she got the most out of her years and lived life to the fullest. My family’s thoughts, prayers and love are with you.
We love you Amber. God bless.