When I was around 5 years old, my mother, father, sister and I moved out of my grandparents’ home into our own. As I understand it, my Dad purchased a 2-family house on a one-way street full of (mostly) working parents and their children. We lived towards the beginning of the block and on the top floor of our house. Up and down both sides of our street, there were many kids whose parents allowed them to play outside, under the supervision of a few neighborhood parents, older relatives or siblings. I don’t remember how I first met the people who would become my playmates. I just remember how much fun we used to have.
For the most part, all the kids on the block got along well with each other. Of course, there were the occasional fights, name calling and bickering but nothing that was outside the norm of growing up. There were certain people who got along particularly well with other individuals and there were certain people who didn’t seem to get along well with anyone, for too long. There was a diverse group of families who inhabited our street: there were church-going folk, club-going folk, straight people, gay people, fat people, skinny people….there was a family full of adopted kids and families with special needs kids, there were the I-think-I’m-better-than-you families and the I-wish-I-could-be-you families. There were all different kinds of people who managed to live pretty harmoniously together on the block. This provided an atmosphere where healthy friendships, between the kids and adults, could develop and grow.
I lived on the block for 7 or 8 years and in that time, I saw some families go and new families arrive. However, the mainstays of the block became families that I permanently connected with. Sandra, Twiggy, Kim and Camille were four girls with whom my sister and I regularly played. From morning til the street lights went off (which was basically the curfew for me and my sister), you could find all of us together, playing jump rope, hopscotch, Mother, May I?, jacks, pick-up sticks or a host of other games & activities. We played together, stayed together, ate together, and yes, sometimes got into trouble together. I don’t think we knew it back then but we were building a strong foundation upon which our friendships could….and would…..grow. We forged bonds with each other that would strengthen over time…..bonds that would extend into adulthood and, undoubtedly, for life.
Thirty plus years after first meeting, my sister and I are still friends with Sandra, Twiggy, Kim and Camille. Some of us have had ‘ups and downs,’ our priorities have changed, we’ve built strong friendships with other people, our schedules are filled to the brim with obligations to family, work and personal endeavors. But, we still keep in touch with each other and we do manage to spend time together. Whenever I’m around these women, I feel like a kid again. We update each other on what’s happening in our lives and we often reminisce on the experiences we had as children. We laugh, we cry, we argue, we debate, we agree, we disagree, we encourage and inspire each other, we support and respect one another and most importantly we truly do love each other. I feel blessed to have them in my life. They are like ‘home’ to me and I can’t imagine how my life would be without them in it. No matter how much time or distance comes between us, there’s an unspoken rule that we all follow: No matter what, you can always reach out to your childhood friend. Whether you need support, comfort, assistance, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a movie, dinner or happy hour date. Whenever you need a friend, a real friend, a true friend, a no-holds-barred-til-the-end friend, come back to your foundation…..come back home.