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Column 8 – Part 1

Dear Barney,

It has been awhile. Actually, not that long. We just spoke on the phone a couple of days ago, albeit very briefly. But in general it has been over ten years off and on. Earlier this year I believe was the last time we saw you when you and Donna visited and met Sarah for the first time. It was good since you guys weren’t available in May for the wedding and is turning out to me more important than we would have known.

I have been mulling over this letter for just short of a month now. That time period seems eons longer than it probably is.

When I called the other day, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I found that things were not at all different from what I had remembered. I also had a second purpose in my contact. I was hoping my conversation with the two of you sparked something in me to write. I wanted to write you a personal letter because one phone call hardly justifies the end to something of this magnitude.

You know Barney, when I look back at the time in my life I spent in St. Johns Michigan, I remember one thing in particular. The two of you were two of the most influential figures in my upbringing outside of my parents.

Many of my childhood memories were spent at your house. When we had major events, birthdays, school functions, church activities, we did them all together.

I remember watching the second Ninja Turtles movie at your house on my birthday with some of my closest friends and eating pizza. I remember how cool it was that Donna had that waterbed, and how I had never looked forward to going to bed early ever before in my life. I remember the back of the garage and how for the longest time Mark had some skating ramps back there. Donna told us not to play on them, but we were kids, and that is exactly what we did. My reward for my disobedience was a healthy thick splinter or two in my hands when I tried to get down from the top. I also remember that there was a wall of tall spruces that had a small passageway for a child to take a shortcut through to the church a block away.

I remember the neighbor. Their driveway was separated by a foot and a half of mangled grass, and that was weird because our house had what seemed like 40 acres of land to play on. I knew they seemed to have different priorities because their whole yard seemed to be run down. But that didn’t bug Donna. It seemed like she knew everyone, when in fact, she was just friendly to anyone she met. One time she took me over there to borrow books and I remember the strange foreign unwelcome smell of a strangers house. I didn’t really borrow any “books”. I borrowed collections of Charles Schultz’ Peanuts and Jim Davis’ Garfield. I used to take tracing paper and redraw my favorite Garfield strips on your puffy carpet.

When I look back, one of the more predominant memories was how I was your “Best Buddy”. But I can’t remember how you got that title. Maybe it was because I didn’t have many friends. It always seemed like when my parents met a new acquaintance, there would always be a girl Jessica’s age, but never a boy that I could play with. Maybe it was because you felt sorry for me because I was a selfish brat that said things that I shouldn’t have, distancing myself from other children my age. But Donna jogged my memory with the true story.

She reminded me of how disappointed I was that Jessica had the both of you as Godparents and you were so active in her life. I hardly ever saw mine, and you guys just seemed like a natural fit for not just her but me as well. As it was, you were always giving us stuff. Why not give you a more formal title.

I started to pity myself. “Nobody loves me” was my weak defeated response. But Barney, you humored me. “Well, I love you, and that makes one.” It was soon after, that Donna, in a ceremony as formal as a knighting I am sure, anointed us “Best Buddies”.

I remember how cool that was. Here was this outlandishly tall guy, with cool whip white colored hair (thick and plentiful might I add), and funny colored big toe nails, and he wanted to be my best buddy. You always had this big cuddly bear aura and were larger than life with your slow motions and comical laugh when we would try to tickle you.

Since our families did everything together, I got to be around my buddy a lot. Every Halloween our family’s final stop would be your house. There would always be a full sized candy bar waiting for us there, not those stupid little miniatures that everyone else handed out.

My sister and I would sit and sort through our candy as my parents and you conversed. I would always take that time to eat the best stuff right away, and a lot of it. I thought that if you weren’t sick on Halloween, then you were probably doing something wrong. You guys certainly didn’t stop me, and that is why it always seemed like your house was beyond any strict rules my parents set. Donna even relayed to me that one Halloween, you guys ran out of candy. We got to sort through our own and the stuff we didn’t want was what you guys handed out the rest of the night. My parents never would have encouraged that, seriously. My dad got pissed off when I brought a quacking duck to decorating the tree at church.

Then there was the camping. How many times did we go camping together? I know we went to Old School Lake, I believe was the name, a number of times. There really wasn’t much to do there in particular, but it was always a ton of fun with you guys. We would sing silly songs and roast marshmallows and do bananaboats. (For those of you who don’t know what Bananaboats are, they’re a wonderful conglomeration of marshmallows chocolate and banana wrapped up in the peel and some tinfoil and chucked into the fire to procure.)

Continue to Part 2…..

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