According to an article in USA Today – The average American now has just two close friends. One in four people say they have no close friends.
Sociologists say we are becoming more isolated because of suburban migration, long work hours, and the growing amount of time spent on electronic devices.
I invite you to join me in reflecting on your very first best friend. Can you recall the memories, the times, the trust, the joy, the disagreements, the relationship speed bumps, the laughter?
My first best friend was my cousin Jimmy. While that relationship occurred many decades ago, I can vividly recall elements of it. Jimmy, myself, and a few other four and five-year-olds, freely wandered about our South Paulina Street, Chicago, IL, neighborhood. I also recall that it was common to enter friends houses, without benefit of knocking, as a matter of practice. As I recall, we could just come and go as we pleased. Good times. Times were different then, no TV, just kids outside playing, pretty much on their own. Jimmy and I used to fight a lot. Not sure what that was about, because I really liked Jimmy.
As I said, I was four and five at the time, and then we moved away to the burbs
After moving to the burbs, I gained new friends. Lester, another Jimmy, and Bob. It was so long ago, and yet the memories are clear. I fondly recall playing hide-and-seek, using the light post at the end of our driveway being home base. We’d play until the light came on, then it was time to go in (home). “Olly-olly oxen free!” That’s the phrase we would use when the one who was “it” (doing the seeking) was tired of seeking. It meant “I give up. You guys are hiding way too well.”
Lester, Bob and myself got along rather well. Jimmy and I were constantly fighting; but when we weren’t, we got along really well. Go figure. Boys will be boys, I guess. We grew up together into our teens, which means as young boys, we got into our share of mischief.
One dark day in my life occurred when Bob and I were caught by Lieutenant Conlan, of the Berkeley, IL, police department, stealing valve caps off of cars. They’re the little caps that screw onto the air valve on tires. I can’t say why we were stealing them, but we were. Hundreds of them. We thought we were really cool. That resulted in my first ride in the back seat of a police car, at about 10 years of age.
Bob and I both caught hell when we got home – today they’d call it abuse. After which, we were both grounded for a week. To my surprise, I saw Bob playing outside after just a few days. No matter how hard I pressed my nose against the window pane, and no matter how much I griped about how unfair it was, I remained grounded, my sentence was not commuted. One week!
I think the four of us were all together when we were caught in the traditional, mischievous Halloween activity of smashing pumpkins. That is, taking them off porches and smashing them on the street, then laughing and running like crazy so we “won’t get caught.” In spite of our crafty avoidance of “the law,” the end result was another ride in the back of a police car. And, another stinging application of my dad’s hand on my meaty bottom, and another grounding too.
We played baseball on our street, angering some of the residents, as we had little respect for landscaping, flowers and the like. We’d just run after the ball, and throw it back to the pitcher. We couldn’t help it if their silly flowers were in the way. A few times the police were called on us. No ride in the back seat this time, just warnings. Whew!
Some of our best times consisted of just sitting around and talking or playing mumbly-peg. Watch the video if you’ve never heard of the game. Most kids don’t play it now days – I mean it involves a pocket knife. No way today. Playing catch or running bases were also two of our favorites.
Winter brought a new slant to our fun. Snow forts! We’d break up into teams, build ourselves a snow fort, and then pommel each other with snow balls. Pity the poor girl who happened along.
One rather questionable winter time activity was “skitching.” That’s when you grab onto the rear bumper of a car (you only did this when the streets were snow or ice-packed) and let the car pull you along while in a crouched position. I never engaged in this one, seemed to me a bit too risky.
Throwing snowballs at moving cars was another of our favorites. If you hit one, you really did have to run. If a driver would have caught us, who knows what would have happened. I recall one glorious throw when my snowball hit directly on the windshield of a car doing about 40 miles an hour. The driver, probably startled out of his wits, slammed on his brakes and skidded. I ran as fast as I could. I recall that being the final snowball throw of my career. I realized what a stupid thing I had just done.
Sledding was one of our most cherished and least destructive winter activities. Find a big hill and go for broke!
So many memories. I had a grand time sharing these with my wife as I took a break from writing this blog.
I invite you to reflect on your best friends early in your life. Really get into it, and then share those memories with another friend. See if you don’t feel uplifted. Don’t forget to include fond memories of pets you may have had while in your youth. What did they mean to you?
So this will be a light-hearted time of recalling heartfelt memories. Be sure to share them with another. After doing so, perhaps you’ll be less inclined to spend time on those isolating social media apps, and more time cultivating friendships. I mean face to face friendships.