Thursday, December 10, 2015
I have been reading Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, basically a series of short stories concerning the residents of a small Illinois town in 1928, largely as experienced by a dreamy and introspective twelve-year-old boy. One episode focused on his reaction to a friend moving away suddenly. It brought to mind my own, somewhat similar though different, experience of the loss of friends. When I was about ten I had practically free reign on a small island near Charleston, off the Inter-coastal Waterway. I roamed patches of woods, explored marshes, and biked on the few streets with two brothers, Keith and Mack. We climbed scuppernong-covered oaks, pulled crabs attached to chicken necks from marshy waters, and patrolled the various paths of our little kingdom (including a boundary of tree trimmings and yard refuse that stretched out into the marsh that we were able and light enough to scamper upon) We dug caves and threw up breastworks to repel enemy attacks. We exploded firecrackers (once setting a copse of woods alight) and picked field peas (which their father helped us shell and cook---wonderfully delicious). The boys lived but a couple hundred yards from me. One morning, it must have been on a weekend, I awoke, mounted my English racer, and headed over to their house, but found it silent and empty. They must have cleared out overnight. They hadn't said goodbye or even indicated they were contemplating a move. Perhaps it came as much as a surprise to them as it did to me. I stood rooted to the spot in their front yard, and stayed there for at least an hour, sobbing. I went home stunned and asked my parents if they knew anything, but they didn't. I never found out what happened to them; I couldn't even tell you what their last name was. But then and since it left a saddened place within that I never really recovered from. For a while I was the only one my age around, other than my siblings, but soon playmates came along. I still see that little boy, distraught, standing by his bicycle, bemoaning a loss that deeply affected him and left a melancholy streak in his soul.