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.