In the Half-Light of the Goodbye

This post from The Carter Library – Finding Marnell « Carter Library. – has brought back to mind the friend I lost along the way; and with him, a different life, perhaps.

It is embedded into my mind, forever, the last day we left Maryland. Everything in boxes, the house torn apart, people from the neighborhood helping load the trucks, my dangerous and dramatic Uncle Ralph who worked in television came from the West Coast to help with the cross-country movement. The day was warm and golden with light filtering through the old trees, shadows played over the yard one last time for me. The dampness in the air I would leave behind, made things grow effortlessly. Things like bamboo and oak trees, things foreign to my new home which classmates would scoff and ridicule because they were preposterous in their minds. I could have more easily claimed Jupiter’s red dot as a family member then ask them to imagine bamboo in the wooded backyard of my distant home. There was a castle behind our house. Yea, get kids to buy that one.

Chevy Chase Castle

This house/castle was one street behind our house in Maryland. We fished the pond as kids.

But it was at the curb to our home that I left my heart when my friend, David Massoni, son of an Italian architect and well-to-do resident of Bethesda, came to say goodbye. He had been my best friend. Period. There were no other, “best friends” plural like we have nowadays, ridiculously tossing out the term ‘BFF’ as if that explained everything.

No, we were friends who had been tried and true at that tender age. From the time we made it to his house for a sleepover and found the home broken into with valuables stolen. The time we spent at his family’s country retreat and I woke his mother in the night because I thought he was choking to death but found out he  was merely grinding his teeth. I had never heard a sound so horrible. When I confessed to him that my brothers taunted me with the voice of The Exorcist demon and how it frightened me and birthed new terrors nightly in my sleep. The day at school when we swore to enter the military together, someday. The girl I swooned for in our class who came between us for a while, then she moved, our friendship stronger than ever. I’ll never forget, Show and Tell in 2nd grade Spanish Immersion class with Senora Senger when I shared our vinyl LP of the Star Wars Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, slipping out of the cover, onto the floor with a huge chunk broken out. My heart and soul crushed. David felt bad, too.

All of these moments were held between two kids in the half-light of a goodbye, too young to say proper farewells. We just looked sad, hugged and promised to call. He got in his mother’s car, drove away and I never saw him again. We talked on the phone once, maybe a year later, an effort that required permission from parents on the level of passing a bill into the law of Congress.

I found him on Facebook, his life utterly different. A whole youth-life apart, we were acquaintances. He remembered me, but not longingly. Maybe he meant more to me than I did him.

More than just my friend stayed behind. There was more mystery, with more possibilities in the East coast of my youth than the distant wilds of Montana. The raw beauty that was forced upon our family in transition, which shattered but a few years later, could hardly be enjoyed for its potency. Hell, we had had a pro football team that just won the Super Bowl! I felt the shared glory of a professional sports team bringing it all home for the fans. I would never know that again. The Smithsonian! That rock and gem collection glittered in my dreams.

There really is no going home again. The house my parents sold in 1983 now goes for around $900,000. The old Rolling Road neighborhood is now filled with diplomats, senators, cultural attaches and other worldly people. The Rock Creek Forest Elementary School (was there ever a better name for a primary school?) was torn down, rebuilt in modern fashion and choked with students from another closed school. The Smithsonian now includes one of Tony Hawk’s skateboards as vital American history. So there’s that.

I promised myself that I would not pull my kids away from their friends, their neighbors, the town they’d grown to love for my own desires of some far off will ‘o the wisp. Strangely though, their friends moved, our part of town has closed up shop; dwindled despite our commitment to stay.

Who knows what might have been had we stayed? Maybe I’d be blogging about how awful growing up on the East coast is and was and oh if only we had moved!? Looking back can be a dodgy ordeal. You think you learned something but then time reveals instead that it affected your behavior, choices, your thoughts. Other times there was a friend, like too many, who moved beautifully, briefly in, then out, of your life.

Here’s to good friends we had and good friends we lost. May we be worthy of their gift.