A friend is a present you give yourself.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Friendship is a recurring theme in my memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe, and a topic I’ve been fascinated by, professionally, for over thirty years. And there is that personal interest too, of course. 🙂
Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll look at friendship, that particular relationship generally understood as being spontaneous, informal, and voluntary, and seemingly without any rules.
Or is it?
First, let’s look at those first friends we all have had. Take a few minutes and think back to that first friend in your life. Who was she/he? How old were you? What was her (or his) name? Where did you live? What did you do together? How do you know you were friends?
My first friend was Betsy Polakowski. Our houses were separated at the rear by a great grassy Massachusetts field. At least to my three-year-old eyes it was a great field. Betsy and I were friends for two and a half years, until I moved back to New Jersey.
How do I know we were friends? That’s easy. I remember wanting to be with her. My memory is I trekked across that field nearly every day. We built forts from overturned patio furniture; we rummaged around in her bedroom, for what I now have no idea. We teased her older brother. We ate meals together.
There were other children I might have taken up with, ones who lived closer even. Under the same roof, I had my two older cousins, aged five and seven to my three (the age difference of two and four years was more significant at three than at, say, 67). And, there were other children my age on our own street.
But I remember playing only with Betsy. She was my closest friend, my first friend, and I felt completely at ease and free in her home.
Carefree, that’s how I would characterize those early years and my friendship with Betsy. Would there ever again be a phase of my life that could be so labeled?
How about you? Who was your first friend?