I ever tell you about my friend Abbie?
I met Abbey when I was about three years-old. This was when my family lived in Forest Hills, New York. We lived in a duplex apartment at 66th Road behind the Hollywood Bowl on Queens Boulevard. I was too young to remember much about the apartment. I remember brown, shag carpeting, which was in the upstairs corridor. I remember the blue walls in my bedroom, which was marked with crayons near my crib.
I know the downstairs bathroom was at the bottom of the steps and to the left of the apartment door. I know this because while pushing myself around on a red and white tricycle in my bedroom, I ventured out of my bedroom door and began to push myself around the upstairs hallway while dressed in my cowboy outfit. Eventually, I found my way to the top of the staircase, and in a moment of three year-old bravery, I decided to ride my tricycle down the steps.
This did not work well . . .
I do not know where my mother was when this all began. I only what she told me. I only know she was she ran downstairs for a minute, and next, she watched me ride down the steps on a tricycle, nearly with a heart attack as I proceeded to bounce down the stairway, through the opened bathroom door, crashing the front wheel into the bathtub, and ending over into the tub itself.
I was an interesting kid, my mother would tell me. I had one hell of an imagination, she said. I had an answer for everything, which is how I met my oldest friend, Abbie.
While under watch in a family friend’s apartment, my Mother and The Old Man were out enjoying a date night. Susan and my mother were close friends and she knew me very well.
Susan agreed to watch me in her apartment, which was on another floor in the building. I cannot recall what I did, but I know I did something wrong, and Susan confronted me.
“Benjy,” she asked.
“Why did you do that?”
“I didn’t do anything,” I answered.
“Yes you did,” Susan said.
“No I didn’t!” I answered.
I suppose this was somewhat cute, but yet, somewhat frustrating to argue with a three year-old boy about what he did or did not do.
“But Benjy,” she said.
“I saw you do it.”
I answered back, “Nope. It wasn’t me.”
“Then who did this,” asked Susan.
“Abbie did it.”
Susan laughed. In my older years, Susan explained, “It wasn’t what you did so much, it was that you were caught and how you tried to defend yourself that was funny to me.”
“You were like a little man in a little boy’s body,” she told me.
“And you were so cute too.”
As a result of this, Abbie was my new friend. And though imaginary, Abbie was always there for me. I played with Abbie. I spoke with him too. I cannot remember where I came up with the name or what we talked about. I only remember there was once an imaginary friend named Abbie. I am not sure what Abbie looked like, or if he looked like an ordinary boy. I am not sure if Abbie had a voice or if he spoke a different language—one that only I could understand, or if Abbie ever spoke at all and just listened. I only know he was my friend and that was more important than the what he looked like or how he spoke.
Susan was married to Harvey, and Harvey loved to ask me about Abbie.
One day while under their watch, Harvey asked, “Hey Benjy, where’s Abbie?”
“I killed him,” I said.
“You killed him,” asked Harvey with a surprised smile.
“Yep, I killed him. I threw him down the steps. Then I kicked him and I beat him, and then I killed him.”
Still semi-laughing with a surprised laugh, Harvey asked, “But Benj, why did you do that?”
In my older years, Harvey explained the way I looked up, curiously lifting my left eyebrow while crunching down on my right with an unsure expression, and answered, “I don’t know.” before asking myself aloud, “Yeah, why did I do that?”
I am not sure whatever happened to Abbie. I am not sure when we stopped speaking. After moving from the apartment building in Forest Hills and into our suburban home at 277 Merrick Avenue, I suppose Abbie stayed behind or went wherever it is imaginary friends go.
I still smile whenever I think of Abbie. I suppose Abbie has new friends now, and like me, many of Abbie’s friends have grown older and moved on. But not Abbie; he is still as I remember him. Abbie is still around in the boyhood imagination of another three year-old, perhaps taking the blame for them the same as he did for me.
I have been thinking about my old friend Abbie. I was thinking about something I say often, which is, “There are no friends like old friends.”
There are friends in our life; friends that we can go years without seeing or hearing from. But whenever we see each other, it feels as if not one day has passed since we saw each other last. I say this is because rue friends understand that what it means to grow and move on. Real friends encourage this. However, selfish friends do not.
Same as it was necessary for my family to move from Forest Hills; it was necessary for me to grow and experience life.
And this is how life goes.
People move. They better themselves. They buy new homes or find themselves in different parts of the country, like say, in Phoenix Arizona, in Florida, South Carolina, or in my case, a town called Wesley Hills.
I have friends in Georgia, Texas, California, and North Carolina. We may not speak or keep in touch, but if I saw any of them, we could speak as if we saw each other yesterday.
This is why I say there are no friends like old friends.
Outside my front door and across the street stands an old tree. This tree is very special to me. He is my friend, which I call The Old Tree. He has stood in his spot for decades and endured the years, the storms, and the moves of other friends like myself. The Old Tree has seen the neighborhood change. The Old Tree has seen the unfortunate arrival of an ambulance, which took away an old woman that never returned home.
The Old Tree has seen little boys grow into young men, and for me, The Old tree has seen me through some rough times. I went through financial downfalls, heartbreaks, and the loss of my Mother. The Old Tree has seen me through happy times as well. The Old Tree was there when I lost my cars, and I nearly lost my property as well. But The Old Tree was also there to see me win these things back.
There is an old tree across from my home. It has lost limbs throughout the years. The Old Tree has lost the ability to grow leaves on several of its branches, and The Old Tree has been the topic of conversation amongst some of my neighbors. They want to cut The Old Tree down. They say he is no good anymore. He’s too old, they say; an eyesore, they call him. But I say they are wrong.
My friend The Old Tree has taught me the importance about the depth of my roots. And like The Old Tree, so long as my roots run deep, no matter what happens, no matter how the rain pours, the snow piles, or how the wind blows, nothing will ever knock me over. My friend The Old Tree is a symbol of endurance. The Old Tree has survived storms and hurricanes that toppled other trees its size, but The Old Tree refused to fall or submit.
I have seen The Old tree each day for the last eight, to almost nine years. He has seen me grow. The Old Tree has watched over my house; he has seen my daughter grow from the age of diapers to an almost teenage girl. The Old Tree has watched over my wife throughout the nights when I could not be home. I love The Old Tree. It has withstood time and maintained its ground. If you ask me, I say this is inspiring.
I am facing a new move in my life. And same as Abbie had to stay wherever it was Abbie stayed, my friend The Old Tree will have to stay where he is. But wherever I go, the fact remains that Abbie will always be my first friend and The Old Tree will always mean what it does to me.
Eventually, a new homeowner will move into this place I’ve called home. Perhaps this room I call the writing room will belong to a little boy or girl. I suppose my bedroom will belong to a husband and wife. As for The Old Tree, he will always be where he has been, standing tall, enduring the years, and watching over the neighborhood; watching it change as old life moves on and new life replenishes.
I will be moving soon. Maybe I will find a new tree to relate with, but being that my new home is at the side of a tree-covered mountain, I am not sure I will be able to find a friend as unique as my friend The Old Tree.
I will have to look for new landmarks and look for new sights to enjoy. There will be no East Meadow Water Tower in the middle of my new town. There is no Hempstead Turnpike where I am going, or Merrick Avenue, which I pass by often, specifically to see the house I grew up in. There is no Front Street or Prospect Avenue where I am going. No Prospect pool, Fig’s Deli, or the pizza places which have been so kind to me.
I suppose I will make new memories when I move. I will make new friends and find new things to associate myself with. But like I always say, “There are no friends like old friends.”
My roots here run deep. This house I live in, the street I live on, some of my neighbors, friends, and of course, my friend The Old Tree will always be a part of me. They are part of my roots, which run deep. And so long as this fact remains, so long as my friends though near or far remain in my heart, so long as I remember who I am and where I come from, my roots will always remain strong, and like my friend The Old Tree, nothing will ever knock me down.