An Invisible Thread
Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski
In 1986, Laura Schroff walked right by Maurice Mazyck, a young boy panhandling on the corner of New York’s 56th Street and Broadway. He’d asked her for money, but she was busy.
“I ignored him, very simply because he wasn’t in my schedule,” she admits. But something made her turn back and offer to buy him lunch at McDonald’s. That was the beginning of their thirty-year friendship and a time in which Maurice grew up and out of a dangerous and unstable world of poverty, neglect, abuse, and drugs, into a successful and happy life.
An Invisible Thread is the story of this remarkable friendship – how it began and how it grew. It explains an unlikely connection which Laura calls destiny. She compares their meeting to the ancient Chinese proverb that says, “An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, and circumstance.”
Laura was a busy ad executive, living in New York when she met Maurice. Maurice lived in a welfare hotel on West 54th and Broadway, two short blocks from Laura’s luxury apartment. He’d been panhandling for a couple years by then. “Maurice came and went as he pleased; no one ever asked him where he’d been or where he was going, no matter the time of day or night. He answered to no one, and, in turn, no one really looked out for him.”
Every Monday for four years, Laura and Maurice met and she taught him the rituals of a stable family life. She took him out to eat, to the park or to a baseball game. He visited her in her apartment where they cooked dinner and baked cookies together. He did his homework at her kitchen. She bought him clothes and helped him with laundry. Laura brought him with her on holidays, showing him the joy of sharing special times with her siblings.
Maurice came from a family plagued by drug abuse. His father was a violent gang member, an alcoholic, and a heavy drug user who abandoned the family when Maurice was five. His mother was addicted to heroin and crack cocaine, and was in and out of jail during most of Maurice’s childhood. They shared a one-room apartment with his grandmother, his two sisters, and an ever-changing number of uncles who used the place to buy, sell, and use drugs.
Laura’s friendship with Maurice drew skepticism and concern from her friends and co-workers, but Laura shared his feeling of insecurity as a child and wanted to give him a place where he felt safe and loved.
Although she grew up in a solid middle-class town, there was trouble beneath the surface. As one of five children, she had a strong bond with her sisters and brothers. But Laura’s father was an alcoholic and was an abusive and disruptive force in their family. Laura and her siblings tried their hardest to protect their mother and their brother who were their father’s frequent targets.
As time passed, Laura and Maurice continued to meet until Maurice turned nineteen, but for two unsettling years, each would face unique challenges that threatened their connection. Fatherhood and its responsibilities reminded Maurice that he needed to break out of his dangerous world, but he struggled with his choices. For Laura, a marriage she thought would mean family and acceptance changed the ease and flow of her friendship with Maurice. But when Maurice stopped calling, she stood by. “The thread may stretch or tangle,” the proverb explains, “but it will never break.” When Maurice’s mother died, he understood who his real mother had been. He picked up the phone and now, after thirty years, Laura and Maurice know they are family.
I enjoyed reading An Invisible Thread and recommend this memoir to readers who enjoy stories about friendship and overcoming adversity.
For more information about Laura Schroff’s story and her initiatives to help others, visit her website at aninvisiblethread.com.
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