On Bees and Efs, Part 1: Childhood Schemes
This is a good one. Especially as a follow up to my previous post. I didn’t mean for this to get so long but it did so I’m breaking it up into three parts, each about a very important person in my life. Some stories will be good, some bad. Everyone’s names have been changed because defamation is, you know, not cool but I’m sure most people who know me who read this will know who I’m talking about.
I was lucky enough to have a good number of close friends when I was young. But there was one that I always made time for. He lived about 30 houses down the street from me. Esquire, I will call him, was a scrawny little runt of a kid. He was picked on an awful lot because of it which made him tough but brittle. He could take jokes here and there and roll with the punches but when enough was enough, you’d better clear the area for the a-bomb strike. I could relate to him, I was a fat kid and had similar outbursts. I don’t remember meeting him but my first memory would be from Tiger Cubs (the youngest iteration of Boy Scouts, 1st grade.) His mom hosted one of our first meetings where we made first aid kids (that’s a lot of firsts.) His mother was a nurse so we had tons of supplies to create a well stocked kit. Esquire and I connected instantly. There was hardly a weekend or summer day we didn’t spend together.
Esquire was always scheming, always planning. I’m positive if he had not become a lawyer, he would be currently running a very successful Ponzi scheme and the king of an island in the Caribbean. Who knows, that might not be off the table yet (cue creepy, dramatic tones with a shot of shifty eyes.) Anyway, he would plan large-scale events with all the kids we knew, like games of manhunt or capture the flag, that would span our entire neighborhood. He loved it. He loved to be the ring leader and I was his sidekick. I was his lackey. I went along with all of his plans. I was happy just to be involved because Esquire was always good to me. He even taught me how to ride a bike in 3rd grade just like Arnold taught Gerald. Now, I’m not saying it was all daisies and rainbows. Being best friends, we really knew how to get under each others skin. We would get into fights like you wouldn’t believe! But we always managed to make up and he would start work on our next plan… For World Domination!! Maniacal laaaauuughh…
Then that thing happened that happens to a lot of childhood friends that changes the relationship forever: Middle School. I went to our local public school, Christa McCauliffe Middle School (Yes, *that* Christa McCauliffe) and he went to Roosevelt Middle School, some private or honors or gifted school, I don’t know which. From then on our friendship dwindled. We would still hang out on the weekends but not as often. I grew closer to another friend in our neighborhood who went to school with me but he ended up moving to a different county. Then we moved and I had to change schools. I didn’t move far away from Esquire but it was far enough to be inconvenienced by bike. Another thing happened at the time. We crossed over from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts and even though we were still pretty good friends, things were changing. I’m not going to go into details here because I don’t know all of the facts but Esquire’s father was suffering diabetes and, from what I understand, taking care of him was putting a strain on everyone in his family. Esquire’s toughness waned and his fragility began to show more.
It was at Summer Camp one year that made me start to really feel differently about him. We had a tradition that if it was a scout’s birthday at Summer Camp, he would be brought up in front of the camp at a meal and staff members would give him a throttle on the bum with an oar for each year the scout was celebrating. The Order of the Oar, it was called. Usually the scout’s Scoutmaster or parent, if they were there, would be called up to hold the oar while the staff (not always so) gently laid the scout down and lifted him up to the paddle for a tap. It was always meant in good fun. Esquire’s birthday happened to fall on a day at Summer Camp and he hated the fact. When the Order of the Oar came to get him, he ran because he was convinced a senior staff member was going to put a nail in the oar. Another overzealous staff member ran him down, had him in a headlock with multiple others and Esquire was lead kicking and screaming to face the oar. I don’t remember if he ever made it to the stage that day but it sent a weird rift through my troop. Now, that overzealous staff member was called out for how he handled the situation, but Esquire was also labeled as a weirdo from then on and, in the time of middle school, to be seen hanging out with the weirdo was a social death sentence. The next Summer Esquire and I were hired for staff. He was in the kitchen and I was out at Shooting Sports. Esquire was still picked on and he didn’t handle it well. He didn’t make it through the whole Summer and complained about how the Camp and Council screwed him for years after.
We kept in touch through high school, seeing each other at troop meetings and such but we were never good friends again. People talked about him. He was the punchline of my friends jokes. Even I talked about him, just to fit in. In the fragile social structure of teenagers, I was too scared to stand up for my friend. Which is something I regret to this day. So, if you read this, Esquire, I’m sorry. I should have been a better friend to you and not let my concern for the crowd get in the way of a truly good friendship. But in spite of everything, he’s doing very well for himself: he’s a lawyer, he’s engaged, and he has super hero-themed sock days at work and for that I raise my glass to you, old friend!