Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Friends: Vancouver 1963-1968

We were a family of five kids. We traveled--moved--long distances three times in our collective childhoods, leaving homes and others behind. So, in many ways, we kids were best friends and also worst enemies. But I always had good friends outside the family unit and I'm trying to remember them, those fellow little kids, when I lived in Vancouver, Washington.
My first pal was Jeff. I'd met him in the first grade. He had a twin sister, but I can't recall her name. he lived a little ways from the school, yet would walk to and home each day. One day, I went home with him. We were, what?, five or six. I went to his house which had some land next to it and we walked through fields full of odd weeds and plants to get there. I met his mother and she was nice and she asked if I wanted to call my house to let my mother know where I was. I said no. I realized that I should call my mother, but I didn't know my phone number and I was embarrassed that I didn't know it. So, I didn't call. (And I don't think I ever got in trouble for it or that my mother was overtly concerned when I didn't come home from school--maybe I told one of my brothers where I was going, but I don't thin so.) But Jeff and I were good friends for about the length of that school year, then I didn't see him much anymore.
Next door to us lived a family who we played with the most. They had a daughter a year or so older than me--Kathy--and a son my age--Bobby--and a younger son named Mark. I hung out a lot with Bobby. His father was in the Navy and was often gone (Sea Duty, you know). Bobby had found his father's huge stack of Playboys and we often spent time looking at those, developing an unhealthy objectification of women at an early age. (He also found a photo of his mom naked, hmmm.) But Bobby was okay. Sort of a little sailor himself, in many ways. But we all goffed around together quite a bit and then another family moved in on the other side of us, kind of an odd group, but we got along and they had a boy and girl and the girl was a bit younger and cute and so there was always an undercurrent of infatuation, romance and--yes--sexual attraction between us. I suppose the Playboys didn't help. 
Then a year later, by second grade or before, a kid moved in down the street. he may have been an only child (or had a much younger sister) and they were from Albuquerque, New Mexico and his name was Joey and Joey became my best friend. Joey wasn't the brightest boy in the world, but he had s sensitive soul (unlike Bobby) and we enjoyed each other's company and he'd sleep at my house and I went and slept at his. I remember the first time I did so, he told me a story about a guy who would creep around his windows when he lived in Albuquerque. And that night, as I tried to sleep, I could see a man--the shadow of a man--standing along the wall as I curled up scared as hell in my sleeping bag on the floor of the bedroom. The shadowy man had white shoes and a hat and he swayed from side to side. Finally, I worked up the courage and reached out to touch his shoe and came away with a wad of paper. Then the man disappeared as I held the balled up aper in my hand . . . Joey had two pet rabbits and he was very concerned when one of them hopped on the other's back and began to bite it. yes . . . Joey told me his dad promised to get him a pet weasel. That's right, a weasel. Their yard was fenced and the weasel would have the run of it. I asked, "How could you keep a weasel in the yard? Weasels like to dig." And he said his dad would put plates of metal under the fence. Yes. he never got a weasel . . . But by third grade our friendship was really tested when we found out we both liked the same girl in class: Kathy McKay. Oh, we loved Kathy McKay. And as time progressed, it turned out that she liked me.
Kathy had a friend named Barbara. And at recess at school, Kathy and Barbara and I would go hang out by a tree and they'd wrestle with me and talk and I was quite infatuated. I didn't know exactly why it made me so happy, why it felt so good to have these two girls fawn over me, tease me, tell me they'd put me in a magazine for girls (I don't think I told them about the Playboys--I guess pornography, the concept of it, is omnipresent in people). But i remember I'd go home and at night, as I lay in the top bunk trying to sleep, I'd think of Kathy and Barbara and I couldn't sleep because it made me quite happy and giddy thinking of them both. Yes.
I had other friends in Vancouver (there was Mike Gust, Second Oldest Brother's friend who was kind of a wild, scheming fellow that Mother didn't care for too much--we all hung out with him quite a bit) and Joey remained my friend until we moved away to Tennessee (and we drove through Albuquerque--maybe spent the night there and I wrote him a postcard saying so) but even to this day I can sometimes conjure up Kathy McKay and Barbara. Recapture that warm, anxious, tingling egotistical, innocent and sexually prophetic feeling inside my gut that came with being loved by two girls.

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