I just got off the phone with my childhood best friend, Ted. I suppose that term is unfair in many ways, “best friend.” But children of a certain age think about who is their best friend in the way they later think about who is their girlfriend or boyfriend.
In my case, Ted held a special position because he played an essential role in helping me learn what was important to me. When we were in 7th grade, we used to have to walk past the 9th graders to get to our first period English class. Each morning, we passed two 9th grade boys, Richard and Tom, who bullied us and whom we liked to provoke. Or rather, Ted liked to provoke them and enjoyed it more when I was there to share the beating.
One morning in particular, I remember Ted’s telling me what we were going to say to taunt them. “Do we have to do it today?” I asked. “I really don’t want the beating.” “Yes,” Ted said. “But we do it every day.” “Is it funny every day?” he asked me. “Yes,” I said. “Then we’re doing it again today.”
For Ted, the price of a good laugh could be pretty high, and he taught me to be willing to pay. I was never as funny as Ted, but I could take a beating. I’m glad I don’t get hit any more, but I miss running that gauntlet to start the day.
It was good to hear Ted’s voice. It always is.