64 and sunny.

Debra Fried
Human Parts
Published in
9 min readApr 19, 2024



64 and sunny is nothing to sniff at. Especially after a rainy weekend that followed a series of cold, grey weekends. That bookended the weekdays of a very dreary winter. Which followed a sad fall.

Let’s face it. I’ve been sad as hell. Waiting for your mother to die will do that. And the sudden death of a dear friend in the midst of that wait will confuse the hell out of your dull, ongoing sadness in ways you can’t untangle. A slow, sad good bye, and the slap of a quick exit without one. And then, the quiet.

Peter was a joy. My mother was a joy. Two more different brands of joy have never been born, but there they were — year after year, sitting across from each other at Thanksgivings, hugging at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and weddings.

My mother was legendarily polite. Peter was legendarily loud. My mother was conflict-averse. Peter loved a good fight. My mother spoke gently. Peter bellowed.

And yet. They got each other in the way all kind people get each other. Their smiles, their genuine joy, washed over whatever room they entered. Their sweetness created lightness. They lifted everyone. God knows they lifted me.

Both had nicknames. My mother’s was her first initial, F, which is the only thing I ever called her. “Peter” was short for Peterson, his surname. His first name was Richard, but no one called him that.

They both wore white to my wedding; my mother’s dress, understated and elegant, Peter’s cream-colored jacket, perfectly tailored (“This? Oh, Debbie. I got this at B. Altman 20 years ago — Saint Laurent. 200 bucks — down from 2,000.”) Peter could shop. So could F.

My mother greeted everyone as if it was her job to make them feel welcome, because as far as she was concerned, it was. She floated from table to table, hugging her friends and introducing herself to mine. Peter left his husband Hugh chatting away at their table, and managed to find every 85-year-old woman tapping a toe on the perimeter of the dance floor and waltzed her to the center.

Peter and my mother. Joy-makers. I miss their joy with all my heart.

The pain of losing my mother is significantly deeper, of course. She was, as Peter used to say of his own mother, my sweetheart. But as spring approaches, Peter and F are becoming intertwined in my heart. I’m resolved with their being gone, but I hate that they won’t see spring. My mother loved a good daffodil moment. And Peter spent hours taking care of the garden he planted in front of his apartment building in the East Village.

Back to 64 and sunny. I’ve finished a long workday and am about to do a spin. But we just turned the clocks ahead. So it’s sunny. At 6:00 p.m.

I grab my sneakers — a pair of Soludos I sometimes love and sometimes think are nerdy. I slip into my first lightweight coat in months. And there I am — on the sidewalk — saying “holy moly” out loud.

I head toward Washington Square and call my friend PK, who I met online, when we were pregnant. We’d joined a group called Downtown Mothers of Twins, where soon-to-be mothers of two gave each other tips about buying cribs and Diaper Genies. You’d sign your post with your due date, and I, “Debra, July 4th” noticed that “Patricia, July 4th” and I had more in common than our due date. We seemed more freaked out than the others.

One day, she contacted me directly and asked if I wanted to communicate one-on-one, and we went from diaper talk to real talk. About being scared of motherhood. And fraught with doubt about our abilities to nurse, or even properly hold one baby, much less two. About desperately wanting to be good at the thing we were afraid we’d fail at. And about our big fat feet, that wouldn’t fit into Birkenstocks, much less the heels and boots we loved. Although we hadn’t met, we ended our emails with “Tell me everything.” And we did.

24 years later, we still are.

PK’s initials are now PS, but her maiden name is Kiel and once a PK, always a PK. (Wow — everyone in this story seems to have nicknames that need explaining!) None of which matters, because PK and I are on a last-name basis.

“Fried” she says, when she picks up.

“Steele,” I answer.

It makes us laugh to address each other so brusquely, because we’re so damned girly. I wind my way around college kids and the park’s usual assortment of stoners, nannies, toddlers and guitarists as she talks about dating on Hinge.

“Or Unhinged, as I call it,” she says.

“I know. You make that joke every time we talk,” I say.

“Shut up, Fried. I’m the one who’s stuck dating,” she answers, and I give her that, as she describes the three upcoming dates she has, in delicious detail. She’s still on Bachelor #1 by the time I get to Houston Street. I keep walking. She keeps talking. We keep laughing.

I look longingly at a white pantsuit in the window of Gucci as she says, “Now this guy is a Climate Change Expert and he’s handsome, but not gross handsome.” I ask what a Climate Change Expert does and she says “God only knows.” But PK is game. That’s my girl.

I make my way toward Grand Street as she gets to Bachelor #2 (“a professor who’s really funny, not like haha-funny, but insightful, witty funny.”) Outdoor tables turn the sidewalk into a buzzy, slightly chilly cocktail party and I eye the margarita that a laughing man brings to his lips with desire. The sight of New Yorkers drinking with coats draped over their shoulders has a certain spontaneous swank to it. I feel a sense of affinity with these people, who, like me, have popped outside because it’s finally sunny.

Bachelor #3 sounds great too.

“Ooh, I love French Jews!” I say, although I don’t really know any.

“Oh, wait til you hear this — the other two guys are Jewish too! I wasn’t trying for that; just a weird coincidence,” she says.

“Well somebody’s gotta like us,” I say.

I’m thanking her for giving my people a try when I hear live music.

“Wow. There’s this pharmacy I’ve never noticed on Thompson Street, and they have their doors open, with a bluegrass band playing inside,” I say.

PK talks about the French Jew a little more but I’m not really listening. “Watch the music,” she says, accepting that her love life has been upstaged by a fiddle. As we hang up, she adds, “Have fun, Fried.”

And I do. A guy who I wish I could hang out with plays what looks to me like a small saxophone but I’m sure there’s a better name for it.

He then grabs what I think is a guitar but holds it horizontally, like a zither (I’m saying that, but I don’t really know how a zither is played. I just know I love this.) The people who’ve gathered aren’t tourists — they’re neighbors.

They sit on folding chairs. The young people are cool. The old people are cool. The dogs are cool. A woman holds a bag of meringues out and asks if anyone wants to get high on sugar. I take one with a smile, as she sings, “Sugar, uh uh uh uh uh uh…” and join in on the “Ah, honey, honey,” and we laugh like old friends.

A very pretty woman plays fiddle and sings a song that’s part happy, part heartbreak, pure Appalachia. I linger, not wanting it to end, but needing to get home for dinner. I walk through the park again, smiling at a little boy who holds the small bunch of daffodils his mother has handed to him as she looks for something in her bag. I pass the fountain and think of my kids, and how they used to squeal when they splashed in it, as I prayed they wouldn’t get typhoid. And of, how many years before that, I stood at this very spot with my friends Tamara and Alan, and decided to move here.

I head up Fifth Avenue, and, since my earbuds are still in, hit Play. Aretha sings Say A Little Prayer and when she gets to “forever and ever, you’ll stay in my heart and I will love you,” my eyes fill. Because I can see Peter dancing, elbows bent at the waist, his loosely fisted hands moving to the beat. Aretha keeps singing and I keep crying.

The air is finally soft again. Normally, I’d be calling F at this time, right after her dinner. On bad days, her hello was a weak, monosyllabic sound. But on good ones, she’d say, “Hello my Darling,” and I’d exhale the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. My Peter tears are mixed with F-tears.

But, I’m smiling through them.

The joy they showered me with is everywhere today. And I’ll be damned — I can feel the numbness that has encased me beginning to crack.

I have time for one more song, and as corny as it is, I choose Feelin’ Groovy — a live version, performed at Carnegie Hall. As soon as its first chords are strummed, the audience lets out a united “Ah!” and bursts into applause.

I instinctively feel a connection to whoever was there that night. Theirs is the “ah” of familiarity — I know, without having to know, that the people in that crowd grew up hearing The 59th Street Bridge Song (which no one calls it) in all its tinny glory, through the transistor radios that made them, if they were fourth graders like me, feel groovy.

I smile more broadly now, not caring, as I walk up Fifth Avenue, that I look like a kook. I shake my head at the utter poetry of “Let the morning-time drop all its petals on me,” but it’s the next line that stops me.

Life, I love you.

Oh, God. It’s been so long.

I miss Peter. I yearn for F. But life, I freaking love you. Even more so, because they were in it, dropping their petals on me, all the time.

I’m still crying, but it’s not only with the sadness of loss; it’s with the joy of having had.

I stop at a bodega and buy tulips and daffodils, and when I get home, put them into a vase that F made. I don’t realize I’m in the picture until after I take it.

But there I am. Smiling at the beauty of it all. Joy is seeping back into my life. And finally, it begins to feel bigger than the sadness of absence.

Thank you, my one and only PK, for telling me everything. Thank you, Aretha. And Simon. And Garfunkel (how I wish you two liked each other.)

Thank you, bluegrass band, and fun woman with meringues and my beloved New York, for coming through. But mainly, of course, thank you Peter.

And, above all, F. For making life so much fun. And so damned beautiful.

And so worthy of love.



Debra Fried
Human Parts

Debra Fried lives in New York City and works in advertising, as a Creative Director.