Snow Forts, Heineken, and Growing Up – Memories of the Childhood Friend

I am on my way to drinks with a childhood friend down in the big city. Now, besides the fact that I am “escaping” from Gwinnett – yes, indeed, I do cross the County Line on occasion.  But I’m revisiting some childhood…

Damon and I grew up catty-corner to one another in Tulsa. If I leaned out far enough from my front porch and looked across the street at a diagonal, I could see his front porch.  Our mothers were happy to have two children same age and his younger brother and sister were often a part of our daily fun.  We rode our bikes, played in the street (it was just safer in the early 80s to be a wanderlust kid apparently), were in the same homeroom several years and he was my best “guy” friend. I know this NOW, but when you are an 9-year-old, you just assume your friends are always around and always ready for fun.  Our group of neighborhood kids kind of just grew up together.  And despite those depicted TV/movie interpretations,  drama for us was who didn’t invite the other to a birthday party, or who didn’t talk to the other on the playground.  We were pretty high-tech in those days. (and no, we didn’t have cell phones – but we did have some very low-tech walkie-talkies – with baby monitor interference built-in)

Later, a job transfer moved my family “north” to Pittsburgh, PA and life changed. I remember saying good-bye and everyone standing on their front porches or in our driveway – a feat in the middle of August in Oklahoma, but they wished us well.  It kind of was disappointing – thought in my young mind I would lose touch or they would forget me.  A few years into high school, however, both of our orchestras were at competition together in Virginia Beach. Damon & I were able to get together and spent a fun day being “kids” again at Busch Gardens. But we also dealt with some big changes, he was grappling at that time with a life decision and I remember that was the year I started becoming more of the swan and less the ugly duckling.  I look back now and realize both of us were at stages of bullying by other stupid young children because we were different – a little geeky, maybe even classified nerds.  But we survived it – and knew from the other that we were still cool in our small world, and that was what mattered.  Now before you start conjuring up star-crossed romance, let me share and confirm – we were always just friends. But I do know he was a Prince Charming of the FRIEND Kingdom, the one who went to bat for me when I kissed Greg S. in 4th grade and then promptly after when Greg broke my heart the next week, Damon stuck it out with me and patted my arm and told me that there would be other better guys.   He was right.

He was the one who built snow forts, ran through water sprinklers, and explored the wooded lots with me behind our street. We survived elementary school redistricting, Girl/Boy Scouts – he all the way to Eagle Scout, middle school and our first school dance. (Still remember that 7th grade dance more than Senior Prom – irony that we did more group dancing than couple dancing and had FUN). We lost touch every couple of years, but thanks to technology, email, and other techie inventions – we always reconnected. I listened to his adventures & challenges with college, and his decision to face a tech wave early with a computer company – which excelled.  Who knew?  (I was so proud!) He in turn heard about my adventures going into higher education and making a move away from my home in the ‘Burgh, to the City of Brotherly Love. He has heard my stories of heartache, job achievement and growing up & trying to become wiser. I have done the same for him. Always a phone call, email, and now Facebook or Twitter update away.

Here is what I notice – we’re still as real today as we were yesterday.  THAT is FRIENDSHIP.  No amount of required check-ins, status updates, or logging hours of dedicated time set the tone for our friendship.  It’s been about 20 plus years since we saw each other.  We rarely talk on the phone – ironic that we have highly involved “people jobs” but respect we kind of need down time after the workday.  We didn’t graduate together; in fact,  we are more different as individuals than when we met as kids.  But what I love,  it never seems to matter.

In adulthood, I have watched him find his true love & watch with fondness and admiration the two twin boys they now raise grow up. Tonight, he will hear stories about how I have finally found my niche in Georgia, and my own true love and a Cowboy Corgi I adore to bits. And I bet we’ll talk about work, and politics, and life decisions, our families -good and bad, and love…but guaranteed we’ll still just be those two cute kids racing each other down the block into the hot, orangello Oklahoma sunset.


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