I recently visited a friend, and we started chatting about our old childhood friendships. Growing up, I had few friends; those I did have were not the greatest . . .
I brought up one boy, Jack, who I’d considered my best friend from first through third grade. I hadn’t talked to him since high school. “I’m not sure what’s happened to him,” I said to my friend. “He could be dead for all I know.”
On a whim I looked up my old best friend on Facebook, and . . . yep, sure enough, he was dead.
I could tell Jack had passed from all the memorials and “miss you sooo much” posts on his Facebook wall. His mother had posted old photos of them together.
While sad, it was honestly not a huge surprise.
I first met Jack in first grade during the Boy Scouts’ yearly canned foods drive. We started talking because we happened to be wearing the same type of shoes that day. We began “play-bumping” into each other like some weird roughhousing. And just like that we were friends.
I distinctly remember my euphoric feelings back then: I have a best friend . . . a brother.
Things started out great with Jack. I walked with him to his house after school where my parents picked me up later. His little sister was a bit of a tagalong and cried like crazy when we didn’t include her in our bro time. Things were great between him and me — until his parents divorced.
It was a pretty nasty divorce, and Jack’s demeanor changed completely. He got more temperamental, mainly towards his sister. They got into huge screaming arguments in front of me, and even at 7 or 8 I felt so embarrassed to bear witness.
He behaved more poorly in school, including one incident with the teacher dragging him into the hallway and his screaming, “NO! NO! NOOOOOOO!”
Yeah . . . my best friend, I guess.
One time Jack beat his cat angrily with his fist. His mom (a rather cigarettey woman) acted super nice to me but berated Jack in front of me, always calling him by his first and middle name rather than his father’s last name. I guess I wanted to help comfort him, but the divorce was such a grown-up, “hush-hush” thing that his parents tried to keep from me as I just kept playing quietly with Jack.
I didn’t know what to do at that age. On top of that, Jack’s newly explosive behavior alienated me quite a bit.
We drifted apart, and by high school he had become a more deviant character with these crazy spider hair styles, and he’d also picked up his mother’s habit of smoking. Another friend told me he knew from mutual friends that Jack had died from a drug overdose last year. As I scrolled through his old Facebook he looked stereotypically druggie-like in all his photos, complete with tattoos and flipping off the camera.
Jack’s life had been a sad story, and I wonder how different our relationship would’ve been had his parents not divorced.
Another boy named Wes shared a third grade class with me. He was my “first crush,” of sorts — a “bro crush” might be more accurate.
We looked similar with the same dark hair, eye colors, and height. Teachers kept mixing us up all the time. Lindsay Lohan’s Parent Trap had released around this time, and I entertained the idea that Wes and I were long lost twin brothers.
I loved the idea of him and me as family to escape my lonely only child existence. We never did connect as friends for some reason.
Like Jack, Wes also grew into a stereotypically deviant “druggie” with long hair, covered head-to-toe in tattoos and piercings. Ironically, he ended up working as the janitor at my church, though I never did talk to him.
Last year, Wes also died of a drug overdose.
Geez, I guess they need to fire the police officer who led the D.A.R.E. lessons at our school.
I often think of one other boy from my childhood, and thankfully he’s not dead and seems to be doing alright for himself. I met Danny in fourth grade, and things started off great and fun to hang out with him. On the other hand, he was rather obese and had an obnoxious obsession with farting (I mean, even more than the average 10-year-old boy).
Danny’s idea of a good time mostly revolved around computer games, computer games, and — oh yeah — computer games. He wasn’t exactly one to go on adventures with me. While he seemed to like having me around, he often belittled my interests like drawing, or my favorite shows, always saying, “Those things are way too immature. I’m into far more important things.”
It’s weird now imagining a 10-to-12-year-old boy saying that. We also drifted apart after a while, especially when he moved to a different high school. I wasn’t exactly torn up, as I’d grown disillusioned with Danny as I had with Jack, though maybe to a lesser degree.
I reconnected with Danny a couple times in my twenties. His attitude hadn’t changed much. All my interests and life updates were met with dull “…okay…” responses while he prattled on about all the jobs and promotions he’d attained.
Any further attempt to hang out again later was met with the “I’ll let you know” of doom.
I recently watched the Pixar movie, Luca. The friendship depicted between the two boys was based on the director’s own childhood friendship with a guy he still calls his best friend to this day.
I loved the movie, but it made my heart ache for a childhood friendship like that. None of my childhood friendships remotely resembled the one in the movie (and we didn’t exist as sea monsters either).
I don’t look back on my childhood friendships with nostalgia like the director of Luca looks back on his. My moments of childhood brotherhood were spoiled by harsh realities. These ghosts of friendships past cannot be changed, though I do try to make up for it today with my current friendships.
Even though I don’t particularly miss those old childhood friends, I do think of the ghosts that could’ve been as they haunt me still.
Did you have any close childhood friendships? Do those childhood friendships continue to this day, or did those childhood bonds drift away into adulthood?