Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tag, you're it

As I look at the big red brick building, my mom says "This is where you are going to kindergarten in September." I am terrified. I have always been home with my mother so going someplace without her seems scary. I was always very quiet around other people, especially kids. I did not have a friend to share this new experience with me. I have an older sister who will be going into second grade and my younger sister and brother were babies. We are standing in the school playground, a mass of concrete and wire fences. This was an inner city playground, no reason to have any trees or grass. The large open asphalt field held one large baseball field and two smaller ones. There was a row of basketball courts behind the block cement stands, and enclosed in 20 foot tall wire fences were a series of handball courts. The very model of a city school park. I am riding my bicycle around the big field like I am in the Indy 500 when I stop at the far baseball field. I am watching a group of kids about my size playing tag. They were running around, laughing and screaming "you're it!" One is running in my direction and I quickly peddle out of the way. He stops in front of me and yells "Do you want to play?" I am silent, I do not answer. He asks me again to play and I look back at my mother who is about fifty yards away from me chasing my little sister, who got out of her grasp. He then tags me on the shoulder and says "you're it!" and runs away. I have no choice now but to get off the bike and remove the stigma of being "it". I spend the next half hour having a blast with these kids, when my mother calls for me. I tell this new kid I have to go and he says "What's your name?" I say Stevie. I did not even think of asking for his name in return, but it did not matter because he was not going to wait for the invitation. "My name is Seth, see you around." and he runs off.

The first day of kindergarten is here and I am hesitant. I am online under the sign designating  my class number. I scan the other kids and let out a sigh of relief. I spot my new friend walking up. Seth and I became instant friends.

Over the next four decades we have shared great times and rough times. He exposed me to The Beach Boys and "Alice's Restaurant." We played pranks on each other and listened to old Richard Pryor records. Our play fight sessions were stuff of legends (and some Mommy scoldings). Today is my friend's Seth's birthday and I am happy to say while everyday responsibilities always get in the way I know I can count on him for a game of tag and a laugh or two. Forty years of friendship and still going.

My son is ten and has a lot of friends in school. He has made good friends that have since moved away and start to fade from memory. When we moved out of the city we were worried about him losing those friendships and make it a point to stay in touch. What I do realize on this day is a friendship can survive anything if the bond is there. No matter how far away you live from one another, no matter if you speak once a day, once a month or once a year, you both know you will be there for each other. I hope my son experiences that and thirty years from now he is wishing his oldest friend birthday wishes.

I dedicate this day to my friend Seth and say to him "you're it."


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