Monday, June 13, 2011

When Memory Shapes Priority

There were many moves in my childhood, but one constant friend remained in my life through high school. He lived across the street and was a year younger. I can remember having my birthday party in our new house (I think I was 3 maybe 4) at the picnic table that was our dining table for several years- there were hats and streamers; he was there. In the following years, we played in the rain and in the woods, we rode big wheels and the green machine up and down his long drive way, we laughed ourselves silly from time to time, we swung on a tire in his yard with his older brother, we tried growing watermelon, we melted gallon milk containers and tended burning leaf piles, we burnt the field behind my house down and put the entire neighborhood in jeopardy, we went skating with his older sister, we played games with the neighbors, we swam in his pool, and we went to the beach from time to time with my mom. Our friendship covered the years of our beginnings with a few moves away and back on my end.

His mom has passed away, unleashing many memories for me as I have not seen any of them in a long time. Though I still go back to the same town, my parents now live in another house, he has his own family, and some how, on our short visits home, we don't run into each other or make an effort to keep up. This reminder of life's fragility and shortness hits surprisingly deep. Those memories and moments haven't been visited or rekindled for a while. I am sad to realize it as I am sad to think of my old friend missing his mother and especially of his father missing his wife. Death takes much from each of us when our loved ones depart and it sharpens us to the need to reach out to each other while we can.

I don't regret all of the moving I did, but I certainly feel pain at the loss of those and other ties that came undone as a result of moving and of not knowing how to maintain them. Perhaps in some ways the internet relieves some of that as we are able to reconnect and know something of each other- there is something to that. I have no hometown in which to visit and to run into all of my old classmates or even their parents. But really it is the camaraderie that I miss- the spontaneous happening of life in the neighborhood, the pick up game of tag, marco polo in the pool, the general hanging out and knowing you had someone with which to hang out all afternoon in the long stretches of summer. You can't fit that into a visit or a Facebook status update. All that moving made me appreciate these kinds of moments that perhaps if you have never lost them, you don't value in the same way. Friends are harder to make as you get older and busier so those that began in the ease of childhood and form the foundation of your base in which to explore the world bear great value.

I regret I did not visit my friend's mother in spring when we were back in Florida. I always ask after them and usually my parents or my aunt have some remembrance to share which suffices. It seems too clumsy or awkward to drop over just to see if someone is home for a visit and yet I sit here now wondering at that thought. Too awkward to stop by and say, "I miss seeing you. How are you?" I wonder if I am the only one who feels this way when death takes away an opportunity- suddenly it all seems pointless and ridiculous. But at the time it was too much to overcome- the obstacles of time and place, the feeling of not being sure of welcome or convenience, and letting activities take over. My heart today reveals otherwise, I wish I had stopped over even if they were out or busy. I am sad to lose this thread in my life. His mom once squirted us down with the water hose when we came home from playing in the red clay that was once our road- who will ever do that again! His mom drove my mom to the emergency room when I was five and stuck my finger in the neighbor's door- I remember watching the blood soak into my mom's pink shirt more than any thing. His mom gave me my first dose of coke syrup when I was sick to my stomach and awaiting my mom to return from school or work. His mom made us play in the closet under the stairs to contain the toys and mess- which I more thoroughly understand now as a mom myself. The last time I saw her with her then young grandson, toys were spread throughout her house. I heard the words I would not have imagined as a child when our eyes nearly popped out within view of all of the toys and she said, "Oh, I just don't care about it anymore." In that sense she had learned about her priorities, and we were all glad to see it. I plan to make a visit this summer to at least stop over and say hello to my old friend and his dad, whether they are there or not to at least know I have honored my priority- of remembering my old friends and those good memories.