Years ago, the empty lot next to us was sold and construction began on a new house. I wondered just who our new neighbors might be. And then one day we saw a family pull into the driveway and begin unloading things into the house. I was pleased to see a girl who looked to be about Lexie’s age along with an impossibly cute little boy of about 4. I was really excited that Lexie and Katie might have fun with that little girl. Imagine my surprise as over the course of a few weeks it became apparent that that cute little pre-school-aged boy was the one becoming a favorite playmate of both my school-aged girls.
As time passed, little Michael became practically a member of the family. The girls played with Michael some days from sun-up to sundown, buzzing between our two houses, spending hours playing outside, making things, building things, inventing things, and just plain goofing around. With Michael around, hurricanes became events to look forward to. The three of them would stay up all night cooking and eating whatever they wanted from the freezer before the power went out. I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood will soon forget the “car” that Katie and Michael built, fashioned from a hand truck, a razor scooter, and a plywood passenger cabin fastened together with around a million nails. Oh, the fun they had racing that car up and down the road.
Katie and Michael were particularly close. They were pretty close to the same size since Katie was so small for her age, but the similarities ended there. Michael had dark, dark hair and a beautiful year-round tan. Katie had platinum blonde hair and fair skin. The two of them together were about the cutest pair around. Despite the three year age difference they found endless activities to entertain themselves.
But about the time Katie hit middle school, their time together started to decline. I think it was natural. Michael was spending increasing amounts of time on the soccer field and Katie was becoming interested in dance and cheer leading and other things that interest middle school girls. For the last few years we just caught the passing glimpse of the increasingly tall Michael as he came and went.
And then, as Michael entered high school, Katie helped guide his group for freshman orientation and they discovered they had a class together. Last week Katie told me a few friends, including Michael, were coming over to work on a project. I was practically giddy. I figured his mom, Michele, was feeling the same way, so I shot her a text message. I was right. After a few messages, the doorbell rang. I didn’t even have to look to know who it was. I am pretty sure those teens thought Michele and I had lost our minds when we were so excited to see them sitting at the kitchen table working on a project again.
On Friday Michael went out with Katie and her friends after the football game to grab a bite to eat. It seems that as much as things have changed, some things have stayed the same. The bond that was formed over sand-boxes and sprinklers and crayons has been rekindled over poster board and text messages and restaurant food. And I still think they’re about the cutest pair of friends around.