While growing up, I lived with my family in a great neighborhood in a friendly midwestern town. The residential area and the houses in it were new. Mostly young families, those who lived there had small children so there was no shortage of kids to play with. Back then, there were rarely fences between yards. While we were respectful of others’ property, we were able to move freely from yard to yard within our parents’ instructions.
There was a boy in the neighborhood who lived next door. One of four brothers, he was my age and liked many of the same things. We spent hours swinging on my swing set and playing in the sandbox alone together. We made elaborate houses or farms in the sand and we made games out of jumping off the swings. We also spent time with the rest of the neighborhood kids playing in the snow in the winter, or group games of Kick the Can or Red Light Green Light on summer nights. We were pals in the best sense of the word.
I remember meeting at the lot line between our houses to find out if we were allowed to play that day. It was exciting when we both could, and disappointing when one or both of us couldn’t; but we had many a conversation there where our lawns met.
He was an integral part of everyday life and special occasions, like birthday parties.
When school started, we walked there together sometimes. Some years we were in the same classroom. I found some school pictures of us. These are from kindergarten,
these from first grade,
and these are from our awkward fifth grade year.
The older kids teased us because we spent so much time together – making a good thing sound like a bad thing, as bullies are prone to do.
It’s funny, the things you remember. One day we were swinging on the swing set when another neighbor boy who lived behind my house started singing a song that sounded happy. The lyrics, however, were confusing. In it were letters that spelled something, but we didn’t know what it was. “Kerri and Pat sittin’ in a tree, Kerri and Pat sittin’ in a tree, Kerri and Pat sittin’ in a tree…and then those letters followed. We were just learning to spell so we slowly put the letters together, sounding them out in our heads. k… ki… kiss… kiss ing. When we put it all together, we were surprised and upset. It made no sense because we weren’t in a tree and we surely were not kissing…nor could we have imagined that – our young minds thought “who would waste time kissing if there was a tree to climb?!”
Our fondness for each other survived in spite of what anybody else said to deter it.
My mother kept some treasures from those years.
Our family moved to a different house when we were in sixth grade. He went to a private high school and I went to the city’s public school. We got older, got busy, made different friends and drifted apart. I wish we had kept in touch, but I was a stupid teenage girl. He did come by my new house once during our high school years and we got together in a group one time during college years.
Years passed by quickly. When I played with my young kids, especially on their swing set or in a sandbox, I remembered my own childhood and he is always part of those memories. We reconnected on Facebook awhile back. It’s fun to see pictures of him in his life now. I wondered, when he played in the sandbox or swung on swings with his child, did he think of me?
The people in our past make us who we are today. Having a special friend in my early years provided a lot of fun and a sense of belonging in that place and time. The special bond formed then is one that I think of fondly and has remained with me through the years. I’m grateful he was my childhood pal and there will always be a place in my heart for him.