It finally happened. I got an email from a childhood friend that it was time to get together one evening and reminisce. Our families had shared a two flat in Austin on Chicago’s far west side He also said that he would invite another friend over whom I also had not seen in more than forty years. Can you imagine that- freezing the clock and then being able to roll back time as if several decades had not passed?
The summit took place at his sisters’ house. The two sisters now lived together along with the young son of one of them. It was the house their mother left them when she died much too young back in the early 1970’s. The older sister proudly showed me the furniture that had once decorated the apartment they lived in on top of us. The furnishings were still in tip top shape but I confess I would not have known that they were of such a vintage unless she had told me.
My upstairs buddy from so long ago had weathered all of his physical problems to an extent that he was able to live pretty much a normal life. He also proudly declared that he had been gainfully employed since 1978 without ever having to go on unemployment.
The other fellow lived across the street from us, you know- the guy who won the parrot in the Mr. Softee ice cream contest. The one where I gave him the winning name that they pulled out of a barrel.
And I never got a thank you, not even forty plus years later.
He still had a full head of hair so he shouldn’t complain even if he also had health problems that have been controlled by taking medicine four times a day. He surprised us by mentioning that the fellow who owned the corner grocery store was still alive at age 99 living in Orlando Florida with his wife but sadly blind. He kept in touch because he had worked at the store as a teen as he was somehow distantly related to the shopkeeper.
The older sister brought out a picture album and showed us pictures taken from as early as 1960. There I stood thin as a rail next to my sister who was only fifteen months older than me but at least four inches taller. That got straightened out by the time I reached fourteen. From then on, she looked up to me whether she liked it or not.
There were pictures of kids from the block, some I remembered, some I didn’t. My upstairs neighbor and the guy across the street were closer to each other- best friends as they were only a year apart. My best friend was four houses down from me on the same side of the street as we were the same age. As a kid, even a year or so difference could make a dent in a friendship. No one wanted to be thought of as a baby because they hung out with kids younger than them.
When I went to see Koufax and Holtzman pitch in September 1966 at Wrigley Field with a buddy who was my age I didn’t know that my upstairs neighbor went with his best friend, the guy across the street, to the game as well. They spotted me or so they said but I didn’t remember seeing them.
The sisters listened to us go back and forth mentioning names and incidents and were in awe at how all three of us could remember so much about our childhood from more than forty years earlier. The guy across the street put it best when he said that we were all like family- everyone on the block looked out for each other regardless of ethnic and religious background. When we fought, it was like family fighting. But, if an outsider started up, we all circled the wagons and defended each other.
After two and a half hours of freezing time on a night when the clocks would be jumped an hour to start daylight savings time, we agreed to put the memories on hold and get together again. We all wrote down the year 2051 in our calendars.