I was six.
Her name was Janice Ford.
She wasn't six yet. Her birthday was in the summer. Mine's in April.
She lived two doors down from us on Newman Street.
Carol Holman lived in the three story at the end of our street.
I liked her too.
Carol came to our backdoor one day to complain to my mother that I liked Janice too much. Carol was already six.
We really were girlfriends and boyfriend, the three of us walked to school together for six years. We did our homework on each other's porches.
When Janice had her birthday parties at Andover Lake in the summer, I was the only boy invited, supposedly because I was to keep her younger brother, Tommy, company.
I got in trouble because I leaned out the second story window of my room and wrote :
on the wall of our house.
Mrs. Ford thought it was funny, Mr. Ford, a very serious man, told me I was lucky I hadn't fallen out on my head. Janice seemed to like it.
Carol moved away across town when I was in the fifth grade and I used to ride my big Columbia bicycle all the way to Lookout Mountain just to see her for a few minutes then I'd ride back. It was about five miles round trip. If anybody asked, I told them I had gone to see her brother, Richie.
And all this time, I was playing baseball and football and shooting the eyes out of all comers at horseshoes. I hung around with the Dion boys and Buddy and Dennis and Richie/Tommy, along with a bunch of other guys, but if Janice cruised by and said she wanted to talk to me, even in the middle of a game, I was gone, man, gone.
We just walked around and talked.
I know we talked and talked and talked through all those years, but I can't remember the subject of any conversation except one which was about whether you would die if you ate the red berries on the Ford's pricker bushes.
I ate three.
I didn't die.
That was when we were about seven, I guess.
The rest seemed to be mostly me trying to make her laugh by being crazy or funny or both.
I changed schools in seventh grade, suddenly I had no contact with either Carol or Janice and that ....was..... that.
poof.........end of friendships.
I never heard a thing about Carol again but years and years (and years) later, I had come home from somewhere to be at a function honoring my brother the priest and I saw Mr. Ford amongst the guests. I said hello and shook his hand. I asked about Janice.
"Oh, you don't know do you?" he said, "She did well. Graduated UCONN and got her MBA, took a job in London for a few years but got sick and came home."
He looked at me.
"It was a kind of cancer of the blood and she didn't last long. It will be nine years in a couple of weeks."
"I am so sorry." I said, "She was one of the best friends I ever had."
"Well, she always thought you were something special, but I knew you were too crazy for her to end up with."
Yeah, I thought, that would have been crazy.
Crazy as walking away from your buddies in the middle of a ballgame or eating berries off your pricker bushes, old man.
Joe(Love is supposed to be a little crazy)Nation