First Friends

by Mark on August 3, 2010

While driving back from my high school reunion through the soybean and cornfields along Lake Erie, I was filled with the joy of being around my first friends. Past reunions were tense as you studied a moldy yearbook to remember names or sucked in your gut after procrastinating on the diet. Time is like a sweet breeze where pressures scatter, and are replaced by anticipation and smiles.

My oldest friend and I once shared a playpen as our parents played cards and partied. One buddy remained a classmate between kindergarten and our junior year in college. My ‘St Mary’s Gang’ spent eight years battling nuns at a parochial school and, together, faced the fears of entering a public high school. Rather than being chewed-up by Protestants, we made new friends in clubs, sports, musicals, dances, or simply cruising around town. Along the way we: fought; drank a few beers, fell in love; risked our lives doing stupid stuff; but mostly laughed. At the reunion it was the funny stories, highly exaggeratedly re-told, that were most remembered.

Some of my class looked almost exactly as they did decades ago, aging like fine wines. Many of us morphed in different ways. Several of my friends valiantly struggle against health issues. A list on the reception table included twenty-three names that no longer walk this earth. All of us prayed our names won’t be added by 2015. By the end of the weekend it was clear many of my buddies were most comfortable talking about the past. There are a special few that seamlessly blend yesterday’s stories, with today’s challenges, and tomorrow’s hopes. I will likely stay in touch with them.

After high school most of us met new and wonderful friends. Those, who seem more like family, where we’ve raised each other’s arms in triumph or held each other in tragedy. First friends are unique. They were the first to accept us, even before we accepted ourselves. We jointly remember the same neighborhoods and waterways. They helped build a highway of dreams and hope that brought us to today. First friends are forever.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky Bauer Carpenter August 3, 2010 at 9:24 pm

the reunion was great I was very happy to see you, alot of my childhood memories revolve around the summers of our youth and you peddling all over Defiance to make sure we could have popsickles daily. Life is good!

Jo Ann Nolan August 4, 2010 at 9:40 am

HI MARK!- enjoyed again your special talent of making people feel so special— lucky we are in the picture together– I feel so privileged!! I will probably read this a dozen more times. Our class is STILL a blessing to have-dont you think? The personalities are so much fun to think about and to connect with people like Mary Erman and Becky and Candi and Holly and Julie and Pat Myra and Fred Gina Karen and all the guys and I still missed Berne and Al and Karen and Ron C- I did not even know him- thats terrible! Do not mean to go on and on –I just think you are such an amazing writer. Hearts! Jo Ann

Gina August 4, 2010 at 8:52 pm

love your entry! What a fun time we had. Let’s celebrate our 60th birthdays together. Can you imagine all the candles on that cake??

JL August 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm

60? Gina you must be older than us cause we are a long way from 60!! Actually it was Mark Weber who reminded me years ago at a reunion “Our lives are more than half over” and I never looked at life that way til he mentioned it – thanks PORK!!

Each time I get back to Defiance I always feel the same way, I don’t live in the past but I never forget it. Ohio people are just great folks and I really mean that! Easy to see when living in So-Cal!

Whitey sent me amessage this morning and said why do we have to wait another 5 years but we probably will cause that’s what makes it special. This trip and the one in 2005 were some of my best vacation weeks ever and the people made it. Jeff

Lynn Maxim August 6, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Now I know why you are so good on that bike!!! You had all those years of practice lugging those popsicles up hills in Defiance!!!!! You snowed us Mark.

Pat McBroom Newcomb August 18, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Hi Mark:

It was so good to see you again! You are right, first friends are forever! It was difficult leaving the reunion knowing that it will be five more years before this great group gets together again.

You are such a gifted story teller and I look forward to keeping up with your site. I miss your Christmas Short Stories and hope you add them to your site in December. How’s that for pressure?

We really enjoyed seeing your Mom while we were home. Please give her hugs from us.

Thanks for a walk down Memory Lane! You are the best!

Candi Blake August 18, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Mark…what a wonderful, thoughtful read. First friends is the perfect way to describe what we all are to each other. I have such fond memories of my childhood and being with everyone brings it all back. I talked for 3days and still did not get to everyone. We are so fortunate to have had such a group of classmates. So many people I share my reunion escapades with are mystified. They feel no reason to return and no one they want to see. See you in a couple of years…read your thoughts when ever I can. Keep writing.

Fred Schultz September 6, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Thanks Pork. These are the people I grew up with. Being an only child- You, Jeff and Steve were like great (Catholic) brothers to this Methodist. The pic of the three of us would only be better if Steve (Nick) Siler was in the middle.

I’m so proud that so many of of our classmates turned out to be such decent, wonderful people. Gina suggested a combined 60th birthday. Perfect.

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