When my first best friend and his family moved to Colorado, I was inconsolable. During the first few years of grade school, John and I were inseparable. I think one of the main reasons we had become best pals, was that we were next door neighbors. We also had plenty of things in common including brothers named Mark. His older brother and my younger brother.
We became “official” best friends when we became “blood brothers” one summer afternoon near the alley bordering our backyards. I’m sure the safety pin was unhygienic but we each had a drop of blood on the pads of our right thumbs, then we squeezed them together to symbolize our eternal friendship. There is something about solemn ceremonies that people need to celebrate milestone situations in our lives. Becoming blood brothers was certainly one of those moments for John and me.
I still remember many mundane things about John and his family. They were connoisseurs of onions, the aroma of the vegetable seemed to be a constant presence in their home. The family cat was a grey and white tabby named “Boots” because all four feet sported white fur. To John and his brother’s embarrassment, their baby portraits were displayed on the wall above the teevee set. John and Mark swore me to never tell our other friends because the photos were bare-bottom baby pictures.
The saddest day of my young childhood was the family’s moving day. John, Mark, the parents, and Boots had piled into their two-toned copper with white 1957 Chevy station wagon. John waved a tearful goodbye from the back window, as the car drove away. Our family’s neighbors were gone along with my best pal. To this day, we’ve never again seen each other.
The next year, the Nebraska highway department promoted dad to a job in Lincoln with an office in the state capitol building. Our family moved into a sub-development of “prefab” houses that had been assembled during the early 1950s. There were plenty of kids our age living in our new neighborhood. Jeff, from across the street became my new best pal. Gary, from two houses south of ours liked everybody. The neighborhood’s tattle-tales, Chuck and Chris lived two houses to the north of us. We got along with the tattlers because all of us liked to skateboard down the hilly street that intersected ours.
One of my classmates, Bruce, lived a few houses to the north. Bruce’s family seemed very cultured because they had lived in Heidelberg, West Germany for a few years because his father taught at Heidelberg University. Bruce was a shy kid with serious allergies. We walked to and from school together when he wasn’t wasn’t suffering from one ailment or another. But Bruce was sick more often than not. Whenever Bruce accompanied me to school, we discussed what we knew about philosophy during that one mile trek.
Michael was Bruce’s next door neighbor. He befriended both my brother Mark and me. Michael was a goofy, fun boy who got along well with everyone. He was also my first Jewish friend. I learned a lot about Hebrew culture because his family kept kosher. Sometimes his paternal grandmother, who also lived in the neighborhood, invited Mark and me to eat lunch with Michael. She had special Gentile plates and utensils that she served our portions on. Michael and I were “second best friends” because he was my brother’s “first best friend”.
I wrote about my childhood friends because I awakened this morning after dreaming about John and my discovery of a very large butterfly. Such a beautiful memory, triggers more of them.