Jeremy M Staiman

Will we ride that bike again?


It was a memory that tickled at the very edges of my imagination, as if it had wafted in on a warm breeze. 

It was oh, so familiar.

At the same time, it belonged to a stranger. Someone from a different time. A more innocent time. 

The memory was beckoning to me, but I couldn’t hear its message.

The only sentence fragment which I could decipher was: “When I was a young boy in Binghamton…”


You’ve probably heard of Binghamton, New York.

You probably know that there’s a university there. Maybe you drove by it, driving on Route 17 from New York to Toronto. 

You may even know college students who have attended the school. Lately, it’s made some news, as the Student Association passed a BDS resolution. To be fair to the school, the president of Binghamton University is a good friend to the thousands of Jewish students who attend there, and the Chabad recently held a Shabbat dinner where 2200 attended, and exhibited their Jewish pride. 

I know a very different Binghamton. One just miles from the university, but very much on another planet. I grew up there, in idyllic, charming small-city America. 

The Binghamton of my youth was the kind of place where you could ride your bike a mile or two without fear, to Carvel’s for ice cream. 

It was the kind of place where the Reform Temple was a block away from the Orthodox Shul, and the rabbis all got along, and helped each other out.

The kind of place where my parents would leave the car in the driveway at night, with the keys on the dashboard, without giving it a second thought. 

I left Binghamton, at least on a full-time basis, when I went away to high school in New York City in 1977.  I returned home many times over the years, until my parents fled the frigid Upstate New York winters and headed south, almost 20 years later.

From what I have heard, much of the innocence and charm of those days are relics of the past. Nowadays, the Shul has trouble getting a minyan on Shabbat. 

Now there are BDS resolutions being passed, and the crime rate has soared. 

Now, no one would think of leaving the keys in the car sitting in the driveway. 


Perhaps the mysterious memory had risen from a bottomless well, the echoes reverberating off the walls until they were but a faint — almost unrecognizable — remnant of the original. 

It arose because it wanted something from me. “When I was a young boy in Binghamton. Don’t you remember?”

Still oh, so familiar.


My childhood in Binghamton was a life that is very much part of me, yet the half century that has passed often make it seem like another lifetime.  

One of the matriarchs of the community, Marlene Serkin, recently passed away. My purpose here is not to eulogize her — others have done a fine job of that at her funeral and beyond. 

But it is about honoring her. Not in a 1970s kind of way, but in a very 2020s kind of way. 

Someone had the great idea to create a WhatsApp group of former and present Binghamtonians, in her memory. Within days, the number of people in the group soared past 100, and kept climbing. 

The group spans the years from the 1960s (perhaps even 1950s!) to the present, and includes accomplished academics, learned rabbis, devoted housewives, doctors, lawyers, school teachers and principals, and even a rocket scientist who was instrumental in creating the Iron Dome. A surprising number, given the small size of our hometown, have made aliya over the years and now live in Israel. 

But on the playing field of this WhatsApp group everyone is equal. Everyone has come to reminisce, to reflect on childhood memories, to share old class photos, to joke about this or that thing that happened to them in the course of growing up in the fantasy world of Binghamton. 

Everyone brings their inner child to the group, and feels free to let it roam about, and to hop on its bike and pedal to Carvel’s once again. To travel on the school bus together to Hillel Academy. To sing and dance with the NCSY group after Shul every Shabbat morning.


“Where are you?”, the echo calls. “You used to know me so well! Why can’t I see you?” 

The voice, the memory, was beginning to take form. 

Oh, so familiar. 


The banter is delightful on the WhatsApp chats. Representing many decades, not everyone on the group knows each other, but there are so many shared experiences that it’s always a fun read. 

Is it a rabbit hole, like so many traps on the internet? If it is, it’s a supremely heartwarming one. While there have been times when I’ve awoken to close to 100 new posts, most days there are just a few. As Pesach approached, someone posted recipes from an old Shul cookbook. One was from my mother, a”h, for a an apple kugel. I hadn’t thought about that dish of hers for decades. 

The group has also featured some brilliant observations. The rocket scientist, who would have every justification to be prideful of his accomplishments in so many areas, keenly noted that growing up in Binghamton, with its sense of simple living and collegial teamwork, infused its residents with a lifelong sense of humility. 


Despite the uplifting injection of youth and beautiful positivity in the group, I somehow find reading the posts disquieting at times. There’s this nagging feeling that I don’t really belong. That I’m too old for this.

At first, I couldn’t place it, but I think I have reflected enough to realize that while everyone seems to have dived head-first into this digital sandbox of nostalgia, I had somehow left my childhood behind, my youthful exuberance long ago dissipated, having been locked away in a closet. 

It was tiring — and even a bit scary — to open that creaky closet door and peer inside. I didn’t go digging for photos to post, or old school memorabilia, or scrapbooked memories. I replied to the posts of others, but didn’t initiate much of my own. 

I held back.


“I see you now. There you are! Come take my hand. Let’s go play!”

I think I figured out who you are now!

No wonder you seemed so familiar!


There is sobering responsibility that comes with realization. My inner child was calling me. It wanted to get out and play with the other kids in the group, but it was unsure where to start. 

I want to let that free spirit roam free, but it means laboring up a mountain of hesitancy and uncertainty until reaching the peak, and peering over to the other side. 

All these years later, it’s going to be a challenge, both mentally and physically, but I’d like to give it a shot. Can a body which now relies on handfuls of medications each day actually manage to get on that bike, to once again feel the wind in its hair as it clambers up the long hill to the ice cream shop?


“I know you can do it,” says that voice not from beyond, but from before. Not from afar, but echoing from the deep recesses of within.

Before I know it, he has grabbed my arm, and he breaks into a sprint, as I struggle to keep up.

I notice that my injured shoulder, on which he is tugging, isn’t experiencing the shooting pain it normally does. Maybe, I think to myself, this isn’t so bad, after all. 

“Hurry,” he says. 

“We’ll do this together. I’ll help you remember how.”

I start to run faster. 

Not so bad. 

Not so bad at all.

About the Author
Jeremy Staiman and his wife Chana made Aliya from Baltimore, MD in 2010 to Ramat Beit Shemesh. A graphic designer by trade, Jeremy is a music lover, and produces music on a regular basis -- one album every 40 years. He likes to spend time with his kids and grandkids slightly more often than that.
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