Friends who disappear

by Wolf Pascoe on July 8, 2013

I’m still thrashing about doing things right.

The second year Nick was at Fern Hill he made his first friend—call him Zoe. Nick was four, Zoe half a year younger. One afternoon I arrived at the school day’s end to take Nick home and found things in an uproar.

A teacher sat me down.

Zoe had bitten Nick. For no reason, apparently, and a particularly vicious attack. Nick had been lying face-down on a swing and Zoe bit him from behind in the back, several times. Nick couldn’t get up and couldn’t push Zoe off.

When a teacher finally intervened, Nick ran away crying, then rubbed dirt in his face to hide the tears.

One ramification of the episode was this: Nick stopped playing with Zoe. From then on whenever Zoe approached Nick and asked him to play Nick would say, “No.” Zoe would hang around awhile, Nick ignoring him.

“Maybe check back later,” a teacher would say to Zoe.

Half a year passed this way before Nick would play with Zoe again.




As a result of the incident, we met with the school director, as did Zoe’s parents. Changes were made in the yard to keep things safer, but no angry words were exchanged, and no injunctions voiced to either child beyond making it clear to Zoe that what he did wasn’t all right with Nick. Of course, Nick’s refusal to have anything to do with Zoe spoke more eloquently of that.

Eventually the two boys became friends again, and a year or two after that Zoe’s family moved to another neighborhood.

In that way of children, Zoe and Nick let each other go. In the years since then they’ve seen each other only once or twice. Nick remembers the incident, and his bond with Zoe, but he’s moved on. Nowadays he has many friends, and the relationships center around the role-playing games that Nick loves.




I know Nick’s relationships are important to him. I try to trust his obvious resiliency and not lecture or give advice. I see a lot of competition and cutting down between boys his age. It’s hard to listen to it without wanting to say, “Nick, how do you suppose Brad feels when people tell him he’s dumb.” Sometimes I do say such things, but to no effect so far as I can tell.

We don’t want them to be themselves, a wise woman once said of children. We want them to be us doing it right. 




I have one friend whom I call every five years. He lives fifteen minutes from me. He never calls me; I call him. We talk a long time, then another five years goes by. I tell myself that if he called me once in a while we’d be better friends. But he doesn’t call, and it takes me five years to get over it. Then I call again.

Nora and I know a couple like that. We were very fond of them, but the terms of the relationship seemed to be, “We see you when we see you.” Nick used to play with their son so we saw them a lot, but those occasions always centered around the kids. Now they’ve moved to another state and we haven’t heard from them. I called once or twice, but didn’t hear back. I really liked these people.

“You can’t get blood from a turnip,” Nora says.




I think back on Nick and Zoe occasionally: How the two boys pretty much worked things out themselves. How Nick handled the awful part in his own way. How he moved on.

Where does he get that wisdom?




Of best friends and playovers




Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

The Exception July 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm

My daughter commented that people seem to have friends from when they are older, not from their younger years. I have thought about that a lot. My closest friends are not those I have made since college but those I made during or before hand. My friends now are friends, but there is a basic understanding that life, work, family, household o all come first. Friendship is vastly important but i am not sure that it is something that I make the time or investment for as I once did when life was more about friends than everything or anything else.


Wolf Pascoe July 8, 2013 at 9:41 pm

True friendships are fairly rare, and must be nurtured I’ve found.


Barbara July 10, 2013 at 11:13 am

There’s a pithy quote I love comparing friendship to a garden that must be tended. You have to water it, and of course, enjoy the flowers, or what’s the use of it? But the other thing about friendship is that it has to work both ways. If you’re the only one putting effort into it, there’s comes a point when you have to realize that flower is dead and you need to put your time and effort into the others that respond to your love. However…I do have friendships that will seemingly rise from the dead and feel as if no time had passed at all. What’s the point? I’m not sure, except I’m very grateful for my friends, especially the ones who will continue watering when I appear to be dead.


Wolf Pascoe July 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm

We should all have friends who keep watering when we appear to be pushing up daisies.


D. A. Wolf July 27, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I’ve watched my boys and their friendships with great interest, impressed at the handful of key individuals in their lives, both male and female, friends from age 3 or 6 or 8 – and still friends, despite the years and distance. My sons are. 20 and 21 now – everyone has spread across country for college.

I have seen some friendships I thought would endure deteriorate. Others are as strong as ever, the kids staying in touch thru smartphones and online. I compare to my own friendships, so difficult to maintain or explain, largely because too much “life” keeps happening and at times, its all I can do to manage through another day.

That doesn’t mean the caring is gone, though both obligation and the immediacy of survival needs take precedence. But I doubt most people fully understand, and I only hope that if I seem to ‘disappear’ they will sense it is not indifference or disrespect.


Wolf Pascoe July 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm

“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?” — Lawrence Durrell


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