My first best friend was Christine. She lived across the street with her parents and siblings. Our neighborhood in Cumberland, Rhode Island was made up of newly built homes with lots of kids. The dads and moms had not so long ago served and lived through World War II.
Down the street was a forest with a stream and pond. The forest was our playground. We kids called it ‘Smokey Bear Land’. I don’t remember much adult supervision. The parental rule seemed to be ‘keep out of the house and come home for dinner when the street lights come on’.
In this setting Christine and I grew up. We played games, established a pecking order (the older kids made the rules) and lived our life immersed in the moment as only children can.
I remember one day in particular. The day of my ‘first kiss’ It took place in the backyard of a neighbor’s house when Christine and I were about six years old. We decided to kiss. My memory is that after our kiss we returned to playing with our friends.
That I remember that kiss 50 years later is telling. One of those markers that suggest a new world to one day be discovered. Instinctively we knew we could trust the other with that first kiss.
Over the next several years we grew up in the neighborhood. I remember going with Christine to see my first movie in 1962, ‘Kid Galahad’ starring Elvis Presley. I remember playing all sorts of home made games in her backyard.
One day, I think we were in Third Grade, my parents told me that Christine was moving. Her dad had gotten a new job in a far away city (in reality it was 30 miles or so away but for a child it was the ends of the earth).
I remember saying good-bye to Christine. I remember knowing I was losing my best friend.
The years passed but I never forgot her. Many years later my brother ran into her brother and discovered that both Christine and I were living in California, approx. 30 miles apart.
I gave Christine a call and we met at her home in San Francisco. Both of us were newly married. I was in the midst of preparing to move out of the area. It was our opportunity to catch up on the years. Christine had made copies of a few photos from our childhood. One of which is pictured below.
Since then we’ve stayed in touch. Facebook in particular has allowed us to share photos of our families and reflect on issues both mundane and cosmic.
Christine continues to live in California. I recently moved closer to the old neighborhood. What remains constant is the memory of playing in backyards and in the woods…Of being each others first best friend. Of sharing that first kiss.
Thanks Christine. I’ll always be grateful.