On my way to the Midwest recently, I took a book with me to read on the plane. I have always been a fan of Bill Bryson; his style and humor, so when I saw the book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I knew it was a must-read. I was pleased that Bill Bryson was born in the same year – 1951. This wonderful book brought back memories of my childhood that I had forgotten. If you were born in the 50′s or thereabout, you need to read this book; or, buy it for someone for Christmas. Mr. Bryson, this is a winner.
It has said that everyone has a novel in their mind. I have been working on mine for nearly two decades; jotting down random thoughts and ideas in preparation for writing it as soon as I retire. Over the years, I have written six books; two for consumers (First and second editions of Ears: An Owner’s Manual), two editions of a textbook (Primary Care for Physician Assistants), and two editions of Primary Care for Physician Assistants: Recertification and Review. After editing my last textbook, I vowed never to do it again; a textbook, that is. I definitely am going to write my novel.
Actually, it is already completed, I just haven’t written it down. I lived it.
As I read Thunderbolt Kid I had to carefully think about my childhood friends. Maybe Bill Bryson was one of them and writing under a pseudonym. How else could he have possibly known what we were doing?
Before I was an old man, I was a boy. Boys are very unique, and often, strange creatures; especially to their mothers, who incidentally, were never boys. Boys fight, wrestle, take unbelievable risks, are highly-competitive, enjoy gross things, tell lies, think about sex, have questionable hygiene, love to laugh and make others laugh, are loud, belch, fart, pee on the seat, and, of course, play with their penises.
Boys break arms, sprain ankles, get cuts, but otherwise ignore most other bodily discomforts. Although we don’t like to talk about it, boys are also deeply sensitive, secretly cry, have very fragile egos, and hate to dance (at least, I hate to dance). Boys do not like to hold hands and are not good huggers; but they often need more hugs and cuddles than girls. For a mother, raising boys is a never-ending challenge. Fathers, although they may deny it, are hardly ever surprised by the bizarre behaviors of boys.
I have one biological brother who is eight years older than me. Growing up, he was my reluctant mentor. Not because he was bigger than me, but because he was the closest thing I had to a father. My older brother is now my best friend. Our father died when I was six. A year later, my mother married again. A year after that, I had a stepbrother; eight years younger. Sadly, my stepbrother and I have never been close.
So, my mother had three boys to rear. Growing up, my mother had 7 brothers and 5 sisters. I don’t think she was every particularly fond of boys. My stepfather was definitely not fond of my biological brother or me. Actually, I think he hated both of us; equally, of course.
When I was born, my mother told me that she cried for weeks because she wrongly anticipated that I would be a girl. Of the few surviving baby pictures that I have, I am wearing a frilly dress in some of them; a disturbing fact I try not to think about. Dresses aside, I was a typical boy growing up in our small Appalachian, coal-mining town filled with yes, more boys. Our town seemed to have an overabundance of boys, perhaps Nature’s Way of assuring that there would be future coal miners.
Terry was my best friend. We went to kindergarten together; graduated high school together. We were Best Men in each other’s weddings. We are still good friends, even though we now live 2500 miles apart. I had many other intermittent friends in my early childhood, but Terry was my BEST friend. Keith moved away. Denny was weird. Tom was REALLY weird.
Since my mother fought with all of the neighbors, it was not permitted for me to play with boys that lived next door. I was expected to hate them, too. Fortunately, Terry lived across town where my mother’s reputation was not well-known. Although cautious, Terry was not intimidated by my mother, so we have remained lifelong friends. When I get down to write that novel, Terry will be my main memory-jogger.
I fondly remember when my youngest son, Ryan, got his first BEST FRIEND in Montessori School. His name was Skip. Their eyes would literally light up when they spied each other. Skip was Ryan’s Terry, but unfortunately, Skip’s family moved away and Ryan was devastated. A few years ago, he reconnected with Skip. It was a good reunion. All of our boys had best friends: Josh had Tommy. Alex had Adam. Benjamin had Timmy. My daughter had hundreds of best friends, but girls are not the subject of this particular Blog.
To boys, friends (good and bad) are perhaps the most important and influential people in their lives; more so in some cases than their parents. Looking back, I can’t say that I had any friends that really led me astray. Well, actually, there was Gregory, but he led everyone astray for he seemed to have an endless supply of penny candy. Even in first grade, Greg was a shoplifter savant. I think he could easily be in prison now. Hopefully he does not have Internet access… or friends on the outside.
If you are a parent of boys, allow them to nurture healthy friendships. If this Blog has jogged a childhood memory of a childhood best friend, why not look them up on the Internet and give them a call?