Friendship Files: My First Best Friend

Remember the fellow from my previous post, the classmate who asked me on our first day of Kindergarten if I wanted to be his best friend? Today is about my first best friend, Ferrol.

CLASSMATES IN THE CURRICULUM OF OOPSIE DAISY

Growing up in rural North Idaho, every boy learns at an early age that it isn’t always necessary to go inside to go pee. We’re taught the revolutionary skill of going outside, saving an incalculable amount of time and energy.

The fateful day arrived. Recess was nearly over, and we were WAY at the far corner of the playground. Not wanting to waste the precious remaining moments of our free time, we (along with a third boy) made the expedient choice to “go” behind a tree. The problem was, one of us didn’t have the best aim, resulting in some urine landing on the pant leg of the third boy. Before long, the bell rang for us to return to class, and we all decided not to say anything to anyone. Unfortunately Mrs. Graham had an acute sense of smell and noticed a certain aroma hanging in the air of her meticulously kept classroom. Putting her skills of observation to use, it didn’t take long before the truth came out and we found ourselves in the principal’s office. 

If your friendship is genuine, you’ll be there for the moments that are not their proudest. Sometimes, you’ll even make mistakes or poor decisions together. True friends endure the consequences together, learn together, and laugh at their own stupidity together once the dust has settled (or in this case, once the pee is washed out of the pants).

LEARNING AT THE CENTER OF FRIENDSHIP

“Walrus, big as a bus! One of them makes ten of us!” 

We stood at the front of our 2nd grade classroom, belting out these profound lyrics with every fiber of our being. Blessed with a passionate and creative teacher, we were given several opportunities throughout that year to present what we had learned in fun demonstrations of art, music, and skits. Mrs. Reifsnyder approached Ferrol and I about teaming up to lead the demonstration for the section on Arctic and Antarctic animals, and we eagerly accepted.

Sharing the same class nearly every year through 6th grade, we ended up as partners on countless projects. We learned to write the alphabet together. We learned our multiplication tables together. We learned cursive (that cursed torture) together. We went on Mr. Guthrie’s infamous field trips together. We read Where the Red Fern Grows together, and learned the difference between “read” and “red.” We built bottle rockets together. We learned about the Oregon Trail (and mostly just played the computer game of the same name) together. As I mentioned earlier, we sang silly songs in public about walruses – together. Almost by accident, by virtue of wanting to always have the same teacher, the entirety of our educational foundation was a joint exercise in learning.

SHARED INTERESTS AREN’T AS IMPORTANT AS WE THINK THEY ARE

Ferrol and I came from pretty different backgrounds. His father’s passion in life was hunting; my dad didn’t own a single gun. My parents tried to spend as much of the summer at the lake as possible; his parents didn’t know how to swim. If we took a survey of interests, beliefs, and priorities, the results would almost certainly suggest that we each find different (more compatible) friends. But it didn’t matter. True friendship transcends superficial markers of rapport. True friendship forges new interests based on mutual respect and shared experience.

I am not particularly interested in hunting or science fiction (or science of any kind, for that matter). But as a result of my friendship with Ferrol, I came to understand and appreciate the role of hunting dogs, the glory of Star Wars (ONLY 183 DAYS UNTIL THE LAST JEDI COMES OUT!!!), and the intrigue of chemistry. I found a friend who wasn’t compatible with me, and naturally cared about his interests because I cared about him. As a result, my life is richer and more vibrant. I enjoy a broader range of life’s blessings for having known Ferrol. I hope the same is true for him.

THE TAKEAWAY

Ferrol and I are no longer best friends. By the end of elementary school we started to drift apart a bit. When all the schools combined into the brave new world of Sandpoint Middle School, we pretty quickly lost touch. Some friendships are like that – permanently meaningful and influential, but temporary in duration.

But what cannot be overstated was that, during years I’ve largely forgotten, I had a friend who was 100% my advocate and confidant. The blessedness of such a bond cannot be overstated. And from that time until now, I’ve been fortunate to find friends in all sorts of places with all kinds of beliefs. All because on the first day of Kindergarten, an incompatible and incomparable wide-eyed kid named Ferrol asked, “Hey, do you wanna be my best friend?”

Next time: Forever Friends

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