In my youth, going out after school down the block or to the park was where we met up with our friends. Even kids we just met, after a spirited game of war, or tag or anything else, those new acquaintances became friends.
Through my childhood years, I migrated back and forth between the Bronx and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Each of these moves usually had us staying a year or two in a city before packing up and moving back.
This happened a few times during my school years. So I would harvest a circle of friends and then leave them to start anew.
My earliest friends I have pretty much forgotten by name. I remember some activities and a few kids from the block, but nobody that I would contact today.
But in one of my returns to the Bronx, I met a group of guys that I would never forget.
Our moves were always disruptive of the school year.
With the switch from southern to northern hemispheres and of seasons, a migration to the United States usually meant coming in the middle of a grade and being that kid that was introduced to the class as “… joining us from Argentina.”
In sixth grade at PS 36, I did not make any enduring school friends.
Instead I met a kid from around the block who happened to go to the same school but we never interacted there much.
Anyway, Rich and I hit it off pretty well, sharing a love for comic books, Legos, science fiction and classic horror. These similarities bonded us as friends despite being polar opposites in our baseball love. (He is a rabid Mets fan and I am a diehard Yankees fan.)
Regardless, our friendship grew.
We played pickup softball at the schoolyard, sometimes just him and me hitting and catching for what seemed like glorious hours days on end.
When we weren’t outside, it was games, comics and pool — he had a great pool table in his family room. We battled constantly at 8-ball, with him besting me probably 85 percent of the time.
When the next school year started, I went to a Catholic school that was two parishes away from home.
On Day One, the kids in the yard lining up by grade all knew each other.
This was seventh grade and many of these kids knew each other from kindergarten at St. Raymond’s. I had left all of those early friends behind after several relocations, and my friend Rich was at a different public school.
So I scanned the faces for another guy who also looked new. I found him: Pedro. We chatted briefly and said maybe we would get lucky enough to end up in the same class. We did.
Once we were in our class and lined up again, I was standing behind a flattop-haired kid, taller than me and with a jacket with Boy Scout patches. Having enjoyed my Cub Scout years, I tapped his shoulder and asked him about his troop and patches.
We hit it off and Chris and I became friends. He later introduced me to his longtime friend John and a new kid he met that also lived nearby in his neighborhood: Pedro!
We became close friends and I was fortunate to spend some after-school days with them, but my neighborhood was about 14 blocks away, so my after-school days were spent more with Rich.
Through birthday parties and other gatherings at home I introduced both groups and we became five best friends.
After two full school years I once again whisked off down south, starting high school in Argentina.
Two years later we once again returned.
This time though I had kept in touch with my “bros.” The long-distance friendship back then was through letters, cards and packages. Phone calls were prohibitively expensive and, of course, no one knew what an Internet was yet.
We traded letters, books, photos and cassette tapes. I wish I kept one of those. I still remember the one where Chris recorded latest hits off the radio and had everyone, including his sister and mom, talk up a song. I know I played that tape incessantly
When I returned, and with heavy long-distance help from Chris, I was able to attend the same Catholic high school as John, Pedro and Chris. Rich was at the Bronx High School of Science.
We all again went our separate ways to college, but we were all still in New York City, so again we did everything together, until again I departed.
This time it was of my own accord, testing out my future plans in my native Argentina. Since conscription was still a thing then, I had to complete a year in the Army there.
But the country was still in disarray after regaining democracy, and it stood on the verge of a takeover at any time (two failed coups did occur), so once again I returned to the United States.
Together with my new wife, we moved south again, but this time staying in the northern hemisphere and landing in Orlando, Fla. It would be 16 years before I got back together with the gang.
I located each of my AMR pals and connected through Facebook.
This led to a reintegration with a group of guys with whom I shared so many experiences and an online gathering space allowed us to catch up.
After a while, it’s as if we never went our separate ways.
Although it’s been harder for me to meet up, I have taken full advantage of trips made to reconnect with one friend at a time or the group as we did for an elementary school reunion.
Now we share our anecdotes in our writings and podcasts. I look forward to those like a kid waiting for Santa.
And this week there will be a full reunion of the original AMR boys in a visit to sunny Florida.
I am so thankful for my friends, the real ones with whom I have shared a childhood and early adulthood.
I now look forward to those middle-age memories still to come. I don’t want to call it a bucket list, but when we get to those formative years, I hope I will still have these AMR brothers to share them with.
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