It was Springtime, the beginning of the month of May, 1970. I was a college freshman. Like many other college students, I was protesting America's incursion into Cambodia. During the next few weeks, final exams would be ahead of me. Then tragedy struck at Kent State; protesters were shot by National Guardsmen, and four students were killed. There would be no finals this year at Buffalo State. Suddenly school was over, and everyone was told to go home.
I found myself home on Long Island, when in any other year, I would still have been in school. My mother did not have a car that spring, as I had taken it to college. On my first day at home, she asked me to take her to Loehmann's in Hewlett, so that she could shop. I politely said no, but my mother never took no for an answer. She then asked me several different ways to drive her, promising that she would not shop long. I was basically nagged into taking her. After being in the store for a period of time that seemed to me to be forever, I asked my mother if we could leave. Naturally she told me, "Just a while longer." I left Loehmann's to get a slice of pizza down the block. After eating my slice, I started to walk the block back to Loehmann's to get my mother and leave. I was a few stores away from Loehmann's when a girl called out my name. It seemed that I had just passed by her, as if she didn't exist. She and another girl had been walking toward me from the opposite direction. Passing her by without seeing her was very strange, as I knew her well. The girl, who called to me, was Dennie Miness, a friend from Baldwin, to whom I had been introduced to by Paul Forman, a close high school friend. I knew her for a couple of years and had even visited her at her home. The girl that she was with was Robbin Libin. The moment that I saw Robbin, I thought that she was beautiful. How I missed seeing these two good looking girls is beyond me. Luckily, Dennie didn't take offense at being ignored and called back to me. She introduced me to Robbin, and the three of us chatted. I told them about how my college had closed before finals and that my voice was still hoarse from the tear gas that was employed by the police on my campus. The direction of my conversation then turned mainly to Robbin.
Robbin and Dennie were at the spot where I met them because Dennie was getting a fitting for her prom dress and had asked Robbin to come along with her. The dress store was across the street, and they had crossed over to get something to eat. Robbin had never been to the area before. As we talked, she informed me that in the middle of June, she would be leaving for the summer session at Penn State where she would be attending college. I was disappointed with that news, and though I had felt an immediate attraction to Robbin and would have attempted to find a way to ask her out, the knowledge that she was leaving for the summer the next month made me put that thought out of my mind. I said goodbye to Dennie and the girl that I had just met and went on to get my mother.
Almost a week later, I was with my friend Mitch in Nathan's, a hangout in Oceanside, when I saw Robbin sitting at a table with her friend Lauren. I sat right down across from Robbin, and we started talking. The conversation was easy, and I was still very attracted to her, but still not interested in getting involved in the losing situation of starting something that would very likely have no future. After spending some time with Robbin and her friend, I again said goodbye.
The next week, my friend Paul (who had introduced me to Dennie) showed up at my house and asked if I wanted to go to an Elmont Memorial High School (my alma mater) Nassau/Suffolk championship lacrosse game at Hofstra University. I told him that I wasn't interested in high school games (as I was a college man), or a lacrosse match for that matter, and that I didn't want to go. He told me, "Come on. It'll be fun." Like my mother had done with Loehmann's, he nagged me until I agreed to go. When we arrived at Hofstra, the stadium was already filled with thousands of people. I was walking with him along the walkway at the bottom of the stands towards the midfield when I glanced upward. Out of nowhere, it was as if I had tunnel vision, for when I looked up I saw Robbin twenty rows up, yet I didn't see any of the hundreds of other people that were surrounding her. I left Paul and walked up to say hello. As before, Robbin and I spoke in an easy and familiar way. After speaking with her for about five minutes, she introduced me to her date, George. I hadn't noticed that she was with anyone, and it seemed that she had forgotten as well. When she made the introduction, it was pretty weird because I had known the guy from high school, but had not even seen that he was beside her. Robbin, who went to Baldwin High School, was only at the lacrosse game because she was on a blind date with George, who was from Elmont. It was her first and only date with him, and she doesn't recall who set the date up or anything else about the date. Before this date, Robbin had never gone out with anyone from Elmont, had never been to Hofstra, and had never even heard of lacrosse. I again said goodbye to Robbin, but this time I was angry with myself for not having taken the chance to ask her out to see where it could go.
A few days later, I was at Nathan's again. It's important to note that while Nathan's was a popular spot, it was only one of many hangouts on the South Shore. It was a place where on occasion you'd stop to eat. You'd stay for a while, socialize, and then move on to some place else. Everyone moved around a lot. Kids would go there at different times, on different days, and sometimes you might not stop there for weeks. Robbin and I were from towns that were more than ten miles apart. There were more than a dozen high schools in the area. There were lots of kids that would hang out in Nathan's, but it wasn't as if all the kids, from all the high schools in the area, would be there all the time. Running into someone you knew was always a coincidence. My crowd, including my friends Paul, Danny, Mike, Mitch, and others, and Robbin's group including Dennie, Karen, Lauren, Diane and others, were only sometime patrons. You'd usually stop by there with just one or two friends. What I'm trying to get across is that it was already a major coincidence just to run into Robbin at Nathan's the first time. But amazingly, there she was again! We found ourselves away from our friends and walking together. At that point, I said to her that this was ridiculous (how we constantly were bumping into one another) and asked for her phone number. Robbin got a piece of paper and wrote down her number and address.
I called the next day to ask her out. At first she said that she couldn't go out, as she was washing her hair that night. I didn't give up. I tried to charm her into reconsidering, and my persistence paid off when she said yes. (I later found out that I had some help, as her brother Jeff, who had been in the room with her during our phone conversation, had suggested to her that she should get out instead of staying in.) We went out on our first date that night, June 9, 1970. Robbin's parents were away in Hawaii, and we saw each other almost every night the rest of that week. On Saturday, June 13th, we went to the Filmore East to see the band Procol Harum perform. The opening act was a then little known duo named Seals and Crofts. They made a big deal about a new song they had just written named for a sweet and lovely girl that they knew. I was going to say to Robbin that the name of the song was "Robbin", but I didn't because I thought it would be too corny to say. Unbelievably, the name of the song was "Robin". It is the only song that to this day is named simply "Robin". I immediately told her that I was about to say that to her, and she sweetly said she believed me. The song started with "Everywhere I see Robin, she's everything - for she comes out in the springtime bringing roses with her words". We had a great time that night.
Robbin lived in Baldwin Harbor, as did my cousin Harold Semel, who, as a very successful clothing manufacturer, was well-known in the community. I had mentioned this to Robbin. As I said above, while we were dating that first week, Robbin's parents were in Hawaii at a convention for Met Life, the company that Robbin's father worked for. While at the convention, her father was approached by a woman whose husband was also attending the Met Life event. This woman recognized him as someone she knew from her past, 35 years prior. Although he was 42 years old, she remembered him as little Marty Libin, the 7 year old that had lived next door to her. They talked, and when she heard that he lived in Baldwin Harbor, she told him that her nephew, Harold Semel, lived there as well. When Robbin's parents got home that Sunday, she told them that she had been seeing a boy and mentioned who his cousin was. They said that they had just met Harold's aunt. The woman that they met was my mother's sister, my Aunt Shirley. Harold was the son of another sister, my Aunt Anna. It seemed that my mother had lived next to Robbin's father in East New York as a child. Although my mother, who would never have recognized Robbin's father as that 7 year old, did well remember the family next door. The fact that my mother and Robbin's father had been neighbors as children was an extraordinary coincidence. The timing and manner in which the connection was discovered was equally remarkable.
We had had, as Robbin described in a parting letter, a FANTASTIC week. But our time together was up, as Robbin had to leave for Penn State, where boys would out number the girls by a big ratio. I stayed home and was in just the situation that I hadn't been interested in getting involved in. We exchanged 'Love Letters' (mostly from her) and calls (mostly from me), and we both saw other people. After all, it had only been one week of dating. Robbin came home for the July 4th weekend, and we had some additional together time. Then I traveled to Penn State for a weekend in the beginning of August. We had an amazing day of doing fun things, we dined out, and then spent the evening together on a blanket in a secluded meadow, gazing skyward at an unusually magnificent, starlit sky. It was on that day that I realized how much she meant to me. However, both Robbin and I were strong-willed, and that first week of dating, the July 4th weekend, and even that amazing day and evening at Penn State, weren't enough to prevent us from a quarrel that could have kept us apart and derailed our future together. But it didn't, as we sensed a special connection between us, and we quickly reconciled. It would be three more weeks until the summer session was over before we would see each other again. And then, there would be only two weeks left at the end of the summer before I would have to leave to go back to college. We spent most of those two weeks together, and we had, as Robbin again wrote me in a card, a FANTASTIC time. As Robbin described it, we had become closer than ever. It was even harder for us to part this time. Still, this was going to be a difficult, long distance relationship, with us still going out with others, and our schools more than two hundred miles apart through the mountains. We parted on September 13th, with plans to see each other as soon as Robbin got back to Penn State. I would drive to her school to see her. That visit never happened. On the second day of classes, I got major stomach pains. My appendix had to go, and I was out of commission. Robbin almost came up to see me. She told me that her mother had encouraged her to do so, but Robbin didn't because it would have been too complicated, as she needed to prepare for her return to Penn State. After getting out of the hospital, I had to do my best to catch up on missed school work. Again, we exchanged 'Love Letters' and calls, but I didn't get to see my girlfriend until October 16th, Penn State's Homecoming Weekend. After that, I was at Penn State almost any weekend that I could find passengers that would supply me with the money that I needed for gas and for spending. Robbin came to Buffalo whenever she could. She was always checking on the ride board in the Student Union for rides to or near Buffalo. On occasion, she'd take the long bus ride. By November 1970, we were exclusive and no longer dating others. If we were lucky, we managed to see each other almost every other weekend. When we were unlucky, it was sometimes more than a month that we would be apart. I drove through dangerous blizzards to see her. We made the most of our time together, sharing twenty-four hours a day. Although they didn't totally coincide, we spent our Christmas and Easter vacations together. Being apart so much meant that each time we met, we'd have to renew our relationship, finding our balance and boundaries. But even when we fought with each other, we'd find each other before we parted. The parting was always torture for us. It was always very difficult to break away from that last embrace of the weekend to say goodbye. Within six months of October 16th, Robbin and I were engaged to be married. It was a two year engagement. I had met her at a time and place where I should not have been (I should still have been away at college), and at a place that she was unlikely to be at. That we repeatedly ran into each other in those few weeks before our first date was against any logical odds (I have never experienced anything else like it in my life). That we survived that first summer apart after just one week of dating, and that we survived three years in a long distance relationship, was also against the odds. I have always felt as though we were soulmates brought together by Fate. The Yiddish word for this is Beshert. It was a word that I heard being spoken and didn't then fully understand when our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles got together at the first gathering of the mishpucha (family). As of now, Robbin and I are together more than forty years and married more than thirty seven. We have a wonderful family with two great sons and a new daughter-in-law. We're still very much in love and the romance continues...