This weekend I’m getting together with my life-long childhood friends, known as The Golden Boys. I made them into fictional characters for my two novels, in which not all of the stories are fictional. They’re those old friends who always fit like your favorite old pair of jeans. Even though we live in different cities, when we get together, it’s as if a day hasn’t passed. Whenever we’re together it usually results in a good story or two that we will laugh about for the rest of our lives. This picture of us may be a couple years old.
Our most sacred and enduring ritual is The Walk. We grew up in suburbia. Everytown, USA. Identical houses and identical yards as far as the eye could see. A corner store we could walk to. Four guys in four consecutive houses. All about the same age from average, middle-class families. Our ritual, when the weather was willing, and sometimes when it wasn’t, was The Walk. The “walk around the block.” In the beginning it was rarely spoken or suggested, it just sort of happened. Any time of day or night it could happen. After we finished swimming or building a fort, or when we got older, after a night out on the town. We would just walk and talk. Some days we would try to fathom the mysteries of our world and some days we just laughed at each other for reasons we wouldn’t remember the next day. We knew every foot of that walk like the back of our hands. We knew who lived in every house, all 56 of them. 58 after they added the two down at the end. It was the best neighborhood in the world as far as we knew, and we felt like we were the kings of it.
The Walk is still our ritual, but it’s changed. None of us lives in the old neighborhood anymore and our reasons for visiting it are almost gone. In our eyes though, the old neighborhood is unchanged. A time capsule of our childhood. As adult men now, we still go back to the neighborhood and take The Walk. We walk down the middle of the street at night and we point to every house and talk about the memory of a childhood friend, or the time it caught fire, or what tragedy befell the old folks, who weren’t so old when we rang their doorbell and ran. For three of the four of us, the neighborhood doesn’t belong to us anymore. Our parents have passed away or divorced and sold our childhood homes. But still we walk. This year when one of our parents passed away, three of us returned to the neighborhood after calling hours and took The Walk. We still try to get together once a year. Again this year, we still drove to the old neighborhood, parked the car at the corner store and walked by our childhood, wondering where it went. Someday when the first of us passes away, I imagine the others will take The Walk, carrying our friend’s casket around the block, for one last walk.