The 10th annual Julia's Run for Children, remembering Julia Rusinek, will take place on March 29. Julia was a graduate of Great Neck North High School and a star on the school's track team.
Julia was already a veteran at Camp Q when we met in the summer of 1988. We took an instant liking to one another despite being assigned to different cabins. Julia, with her trademark mosquito bites adorning every inch of her lean legs, was the epitome of interesting in my adolescent estimation. Worldly, smart, fun, serious and sensitive, and goofy too, Jules seemed to encompass all of the qualities I wanted in a friend. We could talk about everything from books to art to music (especially the Beatles) to boys.
Summer after summer we swam and canoed in the waters of Lake Kanasatka, drove Uncle Arnie crazy with our incessant singing on hiking and camping trips in the beautiful White Mountains, shared meals together in the dining hall, surely complaining about the food, but our favorite past-time of all was being with friends. The summer's inevitable end always stirred a great deal of anguish for us both, for we were never ready for it to be over. With tears streaming down our faces, Jules and I, along with the rest of our gang, prepared to say goodbye once again and braced ourselves for the long months ahead of being apart. It was back to a small suburban town just north of Boston for me, as Julia returned to Great Neck.
Looking back now, those months apart from Jules may have actually deepened our friendship in ways never thought possible. In a time when email, Facebook, and texting were alien concepts, we relied on letter writing to stay connected. Julia was a prolific letter writer and boy did her brilliance shine in her writing. She graced us all with so many letters after the camp season ended that she was on a first-name basis with her mailman. Jules often wrote little notes to mailman Mike on the back of envelopes that she was sending. Soon enough I was also writing silly messages to Mike. (Mike responded!) I saved every single letter Julia wrote to me, whether it was written from her childhood bedroom in Great Neck or her dorm room at Yale. They are all accounted for. Not only do they serve as sweet reminders of her beautiful spirit and vibrancy, but they also tell the story of our friendship; our coming-of-age tale of discovering who we are and who we wanted to be in this world. And though the time she was with us was all too brief, one thing is certain, Julia never seemed to waste a minute of her life. She lived passionately and with conviction, leaving an indelible mark on my life and on those of so many others.
Julia's Run for Children, now in its tenth year, has become a favorite tradition in my life and one that I feel fortunate to be able to share with so many people who loved and adored Julia. It is in the spirit of celebrating and honoring her life that I make the trip to New Haven every spring to run those four miles. This race has never been about the sport of running for me, though every year I try to improve my time. In the same way that it was not about the camp itself that kept us coming back to Quinebarge every summer. It has always been about friendship and community, back then and now.
For information go to www.juliarun.org.