There's a line in the 1986 movie Stand By Me about "never having friends like the ones you have when you're young."
This came to mind recently while I was going through old photos and found the one above from 1972. My first best friend was Robbie Johnson. He lived across the street from me when I was six, and we were best buds until my family moved to another town when I was eight. Through the years I'd see him every now and then. The last time was when he was pitching a baseball game for UC Irvine, where he'd procured an athletic scholarship.
Seeing this photo made me remember the simplicity of those times, at least to an eight-year-old. It was the late 60's, we didn't know there was a war, and protesters, and hippies. Our lives revolved around kickball, Big Wheels, and "Winky Dink and You." We built forts, climbed trees, and roamed the neighborhood safe in the knowledge that in almost every home was a mother who could keep an eye on us from her kitchen window. Life was pretty good back then.
My favorite memory is of Robbie's garage. His father worked for an ice cream company and he made sure that the fridge in their garage was packed full of push-ups, ice cream cups, fudgesicles, and rainbow popsicles. That's probably where I developed my love of ice cream which, unfortunately, plagues me to this day.
This photo is the only one I have of Robbie. I'm in the middle. Another friend, Bret Plumlee, is on his Big Wheel. This picture is bittersweet. It's a souvenir of a simpler time, of friendship, and of childhood fun. But the picture was taken on the very day of my family's move from the neighborhood, so it represents the end of that friendship. And an end to those simple times, which are now gone forever. My own kids don't have the freedom to roam like I did. Their playtime is organized and supervised. The backyard is their domain, while the frontyard is off limits. We're suspicious of our neighbors because the media has filled our heads with images of unlocked guns, child molesters, meth labs, and irresponsible parents.
My kids may not have the freedom I once did, but I hope they can find at least one or two "friends like the ones you have when you're young."
If you're out there somewhere, Robbie, thanks for the memories!