Stevie was my first “normal” friendship. I put normal in quotes because it’s no longer considered appropriate. Personally, I’ve never been normal in any rational sense of the word, but Stevie was. I mean, heck, he had red hair and freckles, which I thought were da bomb and were for some reason considered “All-American” in those days (even though these Irish>Scottish>Viking features are actually pretty rare). And Stevie’s family? Right out of an Ovaltine ad. (I also thought Ovaltine was da bomb.)
Unlike my mom, Stevie’s mom stayed at home all day, gleefully mopping, dusting, making fudge and greeting her husband at the door with fresh-made martinis. Or maybe it was Ovaltine. After all, he was a Cub Scout leader. Honestly? I have no idea what she did, except that she was nice. When Stevie and I got bored, we’d circle the block looking for adventure. But adventure was in short supply in our neighborhood. Until one day we discovered a mysterious change…
Something had happened to the little house on the corner. There were no cars, and the weeds had staged a major coup. There was a half-open window, so we peered inside. On the one remaining piece of furniture, a broken-down dinette table with a few rickety chairs, was a huge pile of wallets!
This demanded investigation! So we climbed in through the window. Who would need a hundred wallets? And then dump out all of their contents? There were cards with the names of stores on them, and thousands of wallet photos. Mostly boring stuff. But the wallets were neato! Suddenly, we heard a car pulling up outside. So we grabbed as many wallets as we could, climbed out the window, and skedaddled! (Does anyone actually “skedaddle” anymore?)
We made up a cool game with the wallets. Until Stevie’s mom found them. And then, just like that, we were in “so much trouble!” Why? Nobody wanted them! Mommandad told me later that a group of “dangerous” crooks (as opposed to the friendly type) had been meeting at that house.
Stevie and I never told our parents about the car we’d heard pulling up.
After The Infamous Empty House Incident we were grounded. So we made up new games, including one that Stevie invented involving Stevie’s German Shepherd “Rinty” running full speed at me over-and-over again. Which was neato! Until the completely out-of-control Rinty collided with my face at 100 miles an hour, resulting in my first of several trips to the hospital. You can read the gory details of the Infamous Dog-Kid Collision Incident here.
We started First Grade that fall, so Stevie and I did recess together for awhile. But wandering the neighborhood was verboten. And Mommandad refused to let me visit Stevie’s house again. So our best buddy status began to fade. Still, I’ll never forget…
My All-American friend.