MY FIRST FRIEND By Beth Fryer

Don’t know what brought him to mind. I was doing the laundry and he just flew into my mind. I thoughtAgain about sending him a note or giving him a call. But that would beGoofy, I suppose. Guess he’d think I was pretty crazy. I’d thought aboutDoing that before, but always figured it was a goofy idea. He was my first friend. He lived next door to me back in the fifties when life was new andFresh and summer mornings woke up slowly, with my mom and his mom chattingAcross the fence below my bedroom window. He had a family that spannedGenerations — his oldest sister was only a year or two younger than myParents, he was a year and a half younger than I was. And he had a brotherAnd four other sisters in between, and many of those sisters played with usAnd took us for popsicles. Life was simple and grand. We spent lots of time on the swings in my yard. Eating purple grapesOn our vine and the green ones on his. Visiting his grandmother who livedOn the other side of the double home that was his. She always had HersheyBars for us and they were always in the refrigerator! And that’s the bestWay. Even now. You remember the things you did with first friends. Like openingUmbrellas in his living room and pretending we were camping. That was ourTent, and we always figured our parakeet was camping with us in that littleCage the umbrella has at the top! And the fish worm farms. What fun it was to dig deep holes andCollect the fish worms. I can only imagine how his mom felt about the factThat we then housed them in her basement. Needless to say, they neverLasted long there! But bless her heart, it wasn’t because SHE said get ridOf them… It was because fish worms don’t live very long in basements! I had a little blue car with pedals. He had a little red fire engine.We’d ride all the way to the other end of the street, over and over.Years later, a woman who lived at that end of the street reminisced aboutHearing us, parked in our little cars, discussing getting married some day. But that didn’t happen, of course. I went to school two years beforeHe did. We made friends of our own gender and our own grades. But I’dFollow the changing music choices coming from his bedroom across theSidewalks from mine, and sometimes we’d talk across those windows from eachOther. And summer nights every now and again, we’d sit in our back yardsAnd remember. I suppose we were young adults the last time that happened. And hisParents died, and mine moved away, and then so did he. And I moved 35Miles and a lifetime away from that town, and we lost touch. He neverMarried, and I don’t know what he did with his life. I married, divorced,Doted on my daughter and her family, and taught in an elementary school. And every now and then, I thought about contacting him. On Thursday, my dad told me. Paulie died. I thought of him last Tuesday. He was my first friend.

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