Doomsday came to visit this week, and I have the scars to prove it. The appearance of the gash on the right side of my head might have been connected to a recreation of a capture the flag game where she pulled one of the neighborhood boys back through a hedge by his ankles. It might have been a grazing from a dart thrown in the same fashion that left another lad with the tip of one of those babies sticking straight out of his own noggin. It could have been reminiscent of any of a dozen near-misses that we all experienced as kids growing up on a suburban cul de sac. But it wasn't. It was simply my own near-sighted brush with a tree limb that gouged my skull as we were making our to dinner. Be that as it may: Doomsday left her mark.
Actually, it would be unfair to suggest that she was the one-girl wrecking crew described above. As we piled up recollections of our youth, it became obvious that the survival rate of the kids on our block was kind of astounding, considering the way we went after each other. With sticks and BB guns. With boxing gloves and wiffle ball bats. With hands and feet. And always in good fun. The fact that only one garage was burned down and that no one was inside is a great example of the charmed way that we all made it through our pre-teen years. Did Doomsday flip one of the matches that landed in the fertilizer? No one will ever know for sure, but the bigger story is that we were able to gather together after a quarter of a century and talk about the old times with nothing but fond memories.
It is one of my favorite things about my life: my childhood. I know that I approached life then much as I do now, with a sense of foreboding that often kept me from experiencing the joy that could have been mine. I can look back now and see how much fun I had, and savor the way our neighborhood hung together for all those years. It was a merry band of children who never got into any serious trouble and escaped with just a few broken bones and the occasional bruised ego. I sat there at my kitchen table with my younger brother and this friend from childhood, thirty-five years removed from those halcyon days, and reveled in every sordid tale and wisp of memory. We are grown-ups now, with grown-up jobs and responsibilities. We couldn't stay up talking into the wee hours of the morning, partly because my son kept hollering at us from his bedroom to be quiet. But when she left, there were still years left undiscussed.
In between, we talked a little about all those years between the old neighborhood and our dinner that night. There was college and weddings and the birth of our respective children. There were a thousand things that we might have caught up on, but we kept going back to that same street, those same houses, that same crew of kids. It was a magical time. It is a treasure.