(Written February 12, 2005) Over a year ago I got a Christmas card from a guy I’ve known for an awful long time, with a simple “give me a call sometime” message scribbled in it. I kept intending to do so all year, and this year I got another card from him with a similar message. I had never gotten around to sending him a card either year, so it was definitely on me.
“Tom” is one of only two people alive today who I can claim to have known for over 50 years (the other is my mother). I grew up in rural Maryland in an old house surrounded by fields, a stream, woods on all sides, and many animals. My father disappeared before I was born, and my early years were spent with my mother and her parents. I was a wild little nature kid, digging in the stream, building “forts” in the woods and harassing the ducks/chickens/dogs/cats/etc. I think there were only a very few times I even met another kid my own age until First Grade - up till then I played by myself and knew mostly only my immediate family.
First Grade was both a scary and exciting adventure, and “Tom” lived close enough that we were at the same school bus stop. Somehow, from his infinitely lofty and cool Third Grade pinnacle he deigned to show my beneath-contempt First Grade self the ropes of riding the bus, finding my Home Room, and so on - and become my first “friend”.
Being one of the few kids who was within walking distance, we hung out a lot together. My mother married again when I was 12 and we moved to the City (Arlington), but I still spent many weekends with my grandmother at the old Home Place, and with Tom. Although that was not the name I usually called him by.