First Kiss

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.

Christine and Kent

 

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.

 

 

Friends for Life

I’m still recovering from a four-day adventure known as ‘Loonapalooza’.  This annual trip to Loon Mountain brings together a core group of childhood friends. We gather to ski, tell stories and share belly laughs.

All of us recently turned 60.  We’ve lived long enough to know that friendship is a precious gift.  We recount exploits of our wayward youth, while being grateful that we continue to add new adventures to our memory bank.

Left to right: Rob, Clyde, Kent, Frank, Dave, Tom

Together we’ve raised children, built careers, dealt with health concerns and lost loved ones.  When we get together we don’t take it for granted.  We can still revert to Junior High bathroom humor.  Yet, we also easily move into the deep water to talk about what’s really going on in life.  The older we get the deeper and more honest our friendship becomes.

I was thinking about this when I came across an article in the Globe Magazine entitled: ‘Where Have All The Guys Gone?’ by Billy Baker.   The article points to studies that many middle-aged men face a loneliness crisis.  https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2017/03/09/the-biggest-threat-facing-middle-age-men-isn-smoking-obesity-loneliness/k6saC9FnnHQCUbf5mJ8okL/story.html

The article points out what we men know.  We become busy building a career,  raising a family and oftentimes find that our connection to friends and the emotional comfort provided, falls by the wayside.  As a result we feel isolated.

A recent study by Britain’s University of Oxford presented results that most guys understand intuitively:  Men need an activity to make and keep a bond.  At the risk of over generalizing, women are generally better at making a social connection by talking and sharing, while men need a task around which to gather.

Richard Schwartz co-author of ‘The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century’, offered this interesting comment: ‘Researchers have noticed a trend in photographs taken of people interacting.  When female friends are talking to each other, they do it face to face. But guys stand side by side, looking out at the world together.’ http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/The-Lonely-American-Book-Review

When I look at photos of our ski trips going back over thirty years, we are indeed ‘looking out’ at the world together.

The task of planning for a trip and skiing a mountain is the setting within which we renew our ties.  This past Saturday we skied with a temperature of 5 degrees below zero with wind gusts of 3o miles per hour.  Later that afternoon we savored our survival over beers.  More stories to tell.

The magazine article points to statistics that those who nurture friendships live longer, happier lives.  The answer to finding and keeping friends is making time to get together a priority.

My friend Clyde’s dad meets each week with friends well past 70 and 80 years old.  They meet early in the morning over coffee and donuts to argue politics, tell jokes, share the challenge of growing old and show pictures of grandkids.   Each time they strengthen the ties that bind.

Living well is not for the faint of heart.  Heart break and sorrow come to us all.  Laughter, joy and wonder are waiting to be claimed too.

In the beautiful film, ‘Waking Ned Divine’, a friend eulogizes a dear old  friend: ‘When we laughed we grew younger’. So it was this past weekend with ‘the boys’.  Together we grew younger and our shared memories will carry us till we meet again.