As I was walking with the kid down the sidewalk yesterday, something odd struck me. When I was little, I don't remember ever having any friends on the other side of the street. Despite the abundance of kids across the street, I never befriended a single one. I remember one house in particular where there would often be three "children of the corn" looking kids intermittently pressed up against the windows or circling their tricycles on their driveway.
But the road was a divider. It created an invisible barrier of inconvenience. Robby and Sandy, two doors down, only required a hasty scramble across two driveways. (One gravel, one asphalt. Both painful on barefeet on a hot summer day.) The albinos across the street would involve asking parents, holding hands, looking both ways, etc. etc. Too much.
It's funny to think that as adults we can have all kind of criteria for friendships: honesty, loyalty, humor, kindness. We look for people with similar interests, similar tastes, similar beliefs. And we have certain minimal standards in hygiene and manners.
But as kids, it was as simple as geographic proximity. Across the street or around the corner became major obstacles to friendship. Later, when we became school-aged, arbitrary class lists determined our friendships. God forbid your "best friend" be in another class. Who would you look to when the teacher said "partners"? And would you be expected to do wheelbarrow races with a stranger? The horror.
It's scary how simple the selection process is for who will surround us during the most formative years of our lives.
It feels almost like trusting your destiny to a game of "One Potato".