We used to peak into the windows of that cabin in the park, sure that someone must have been living there. Why else would there be folding chairs and leaves on the floor left behind from when someone must have walked in? But where did the owners go all day, and did they have kids our same age? We’d huddle around the empty building, looking for clues as to it’s owners identity, finding nothing, but later, being told it was one of the scouts cabins.
I was tomboy back then, digging out worms from the dirt, playing guns, collecting tadpoles, and avoiding pink at any cost. It’s no wonder the boys were the ones I spent the most time with.
Our families were close, three couples who seemingly got along well and their kids, who would never leave each others side on those summer days of 1990-something. My sister had a friend in the oldest of the bunch, the only other girl besides us. She possessed sandy blonde hair, quite like her brother, but on her, I thought of it more as grey, asking her why she had hair that color, and her telling me it was because she was old. I used to run my mouth without thinking about the words first, telling her brother I would marry him when we grew up, much like my mom told my dad at that age, to which he bit back, “no you won’t.” Funny thing is, I don’t recall even liking him that way.
They had horses in their back yard, much to my sisters enjoyment. But I only liked them on the days we’d get to go on short rides around the perimeter. I recall having bonfires back there sometimes, roasting marshmallows and talking away. These nights came close to the feeling of the camping trips we’d take together, hearing the crackle of the sparks, and breathing in the smell of camp fire. We took a few of these trips together, always finding ourselves exploring the wooded area around our site while the adults would set up camp. Those were the nights we’d collect the tadpoles, run through the empty field, and stuff ourselves with camp food. It was on one of these trips that we decorated those glow-in-the-dark shirts, proudly wearing them after they were set.
My mom used to babysit for these families as well: the two brunette boys more then the blonde siblings. We’d play outside for what felt like hours, only breaking for lunches of pb&j or mac&cheese. I found myself grounded on one of these occasions, stuck in my room while everyone else got to goof off outside. We’d spend time at their house as well, a creek within walking distance from their back porch. The thistle got the best of my finger on one of our trips down to the creek, somehow making it harder for me the make my way back to the house, despite the lack of impact on my feet. The boys helped me back to our parents that day, playing in the front yard as I had my finger tended to.
Besides Chynna, the oldest of the two was my best friend back then. Jessica and I were looking at old photos a few years back when we came across a picture of the four of us. We were on the couch, me holding puff, and the youngest boy staring at a balloon in his possession. She pointed out the older boy, who was staring at the camera with a grin showing off his missing tooth. “I always thought you two were going to get married someday,” she laughed as she handed me the photo, mentioning the nickname he’d had for me: meli or missilissi or something along those lines before flipping to the next photo. I laughed at the memory of that friendship, and the observation of Jessica’s ideas from when we were young. I guess marriage was on our minds alot as kids, it was a subject that made us feel very adult.
I used to get mad at my mom from time to time, blaming her for taking away my friends. The trouble is, kids don’t know the issues between adults, and therefore don’t expect the end of a friendship to happen so quickly and so out of the blue. But people disagree, and families grow apart. People lose people for reasons some may not understand. But to a 7 year old girl, it can be devastating to go from seeing your friends a few times a week, to only encountering them during church hours, when you’d never play together anyway. Like most childhood friendships, ours ended. But it took me years to understand, and accept the situation for what it was.
Days, months, years have passed since those simple summers. 6 kids who used to be friends, are now 6 adults. I think the other 4 are still close, but now when I see these 4 faces, I see them as acquaintances. That’s who these people are to me now… acquaintances who used to be friends. And that’s fine, I’ve been ok with seeing them this way for so long, that it’s only natural to know them this way. I’ve spent more years without them than with them. But as the last of the 6 is now married, it brings back those memories from so long ago. Of tadpoles, and bonfires, and water gun fights, and those t-shirts that we decorated. And these memories make me laugh as I recall them, looking back with a smile, and remembering the little kids that used to be so important to me. The ones who used to be called friends.
Thanks for those memories,