One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1986 Rob Reiner classic, “Stand by Me”. It’s a story about four boyhood friends who go on a journey to find a missing body. The movie starts with a voice-over of a writer, reading the first several sentences of the story he is writing.
“It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of our lives like busboys in a restaurant.
I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
Hopefully we all have friends like that. I’ve been blessed with several friends that I’ve known since childhood.
I was recently celebrating yet another birthday. It seems like I just had a birthday party and yet here I was again, blowing out the candles on another birthday cake. They seem to be coming along too darn fast. If only they’d slow down just a little. I remember as a child wishing for my birthdays to come by faster. When I was 12, I wanted to be thirteen so I could finally be a teenager. When I was 15, I couldn’t wait until I was 16 so I could get my learners permit. When I was 17, I wanted to be 18 so I could vote. They start out coming along slowly, but over time the birthdays seem to come faster and faster. It’s like the rock of ages is gaining momentum.
My birthday fell on a week day this year. It wasn’t a significant number, so my wife threw me an intimate little birthday celebration. It was nothing extravagant, two families that we’ve been friends with for years came over. We were sitting around the kitchen table eating cake and having a glass of wine when the phone rang. My wife answered and called to me through the room filled with people, “Ralph is on the phone”. Ralph who? I wondered. It didn’t click at first. As soon as I heard the voice I immediately knew who it was. It was my childhood friend, Ralph.
I couldn’t even remember the last time I had talked to Ralph. It was a long time ago, but only if you measure it in terms of years. We started having a conversation as if we had just spoken yesterday. That’s how it is with old friends. You recognize them instantly. All the old memories come back, the good times and the bad. There were four of us who used to hang together, Ralph and his twin brother Jessie and our friend Kevin and myself. Jessie and I first met in summer band camp between sixth and seventh grade. I met his brother Ralph and our friend Kevin in seventh grade when we were 12 years old. We stayed best friends all through high school and are close to this day. Not close in distance and not close as measured in the number of times we see each. We share the bond of childhood friendship.
We know each other from having grown up together. We shared the experiences and lived through all the typical adventures that children have. We walked home from school together. We rode our bicycles on the weekends, exploring our world. Sometimes we’d ride to Teddy Roosevelt’s summer house in Cold Spring Harbor, sometimes to the beach in Oyster Bay. We played basket ball at the park. On some Friday or Saturday nights we babysat Kevin’s baby brother David. As we got older we would walk through the neighborhood and talk. Back in those days on Long Island it was acceptable and not dangerous to walk at night. We knew every street of our town from Old Country Road to South Oyster Bay Road and every street in-between. Sometimes we would walk up to Friendly’s and get ice cream. But mostly we’d walk to no where in particular and talk. We played in the school band and went on a band trip to Niagara Falls. We learned to drive and went to Jones beach and hung out with our friends. We went on first dates together. We all sat at the same table at the senior prom. From childhood to young adults, we experienced it all together.
These are the types of friends that you are always close to and you never forget. We will never have any friends like the ones we had when we were 12.