I had a best friend as a child. His name was Bo. This was his nickname which I loved and frankly, I still do. What a wonderful southern nickname with such character. Bo was an adorable and clever boy whose impish mischievousness identically matched mine and whose mother beat him so badly with a belt that his legs would be covered with black and blue. We did all those things you read about in the cute little clips about, “I grew up in the age of no helmets, drinking water out of the hose”, etc. We also played really fun games like pretending my baby doll was dead and we were having a funeral. We especially loved humming a funeral dirge as loudly as we could while running up and down the street with my doll which really did look dead after having been dragged around the neighborhood for god knows how long. We had her on a makeshift stretcher. It seemed like a perfectly good game to play and we loved it.
In our time adult neighbors were allowed to interact with kids, including to tell them they would “jerk a knot” in them if they did such and such again, our parents did the same so we did not question authority. We had a neighbor who lived a couple of streets over and we would go knock on her door periodically to ask if she might just have any candy. I remember feeling like we hit the mother lode when she gave us each a tootsie pop. What could have been better. Even though she had been kind and given us the candy and we smiled and thanked her grandly we hunkered together to whisper and giggle that her last name sounded like witch.
Peanut butter and jelly was a fine lunch to be made by us and dragged into the woods WITHOUT washing our hands or using hand sanitizer which hadn’t even been invented. I don’t think we got any sicker than kids today, in fact if I hadn’t grown up with two smoking parents which caused me endless allergies and ear aches, I don’t think I would have gotten sick at all. Picnics were adventures in the woods where our imaginations truly ran wild. We ran around like feral children with no adults to supervise us other than to call us in for dinner at night. We got filthy on a regular basis and when we skinned our knees we would just stay out if it wasn’t too bad. Going home might mean being asked to fold laundry or for Bo much worse.
We grew up just after Beatlemania but we were crazy about The Monkees and Herman’s Hermits, of “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughtah” fame. Bo and I would regularly do fake British accents which must have sounded pretty bad combined with the intense Tennessee twang we had mixed in but we would giggle and I am still surprised to this day that there were some folks, adults included, who actually believed we were British. Pretend was our best playtime and Bo would don his cub scout uniform and I would come up with some get up and Bo’s older sister would play the wedding march on the little plastic organ they got for Christmas one year. We felt rather solemn about this and I was afraid that maybe this was a little too serious, in the end it only added to the excitement of the event.
Bo had a G.I. Joe and I had a Barbie. Needless to say we joined the two and what fun we would have. I loved all the cool accessories G.I. Joe had as much as the Barbie stuff and anyway I really only had a Barbie with NO accessories. Let’s face it, G.I. Joe was a real man compared to Ken so off Barbie would happily go in the US Army Jeep. I was occasionally jealous of my other friends who had all the extras, like the houses, pink cars, clothes and the Kens but none of them had a friend like Bo with all the cool boy stuff so I was content.
When I was eleven Bo’s family moved away and I was heartbroken. There was no Internet then, no Facebook, long distance phone calls were expensive and I wasn’t much of a letter writer, though we did try really hard to stay in touch. I finally lost contact with him by about age 13. I did have the chance to reconnect finally after after almost 40 years and have had the opportunity to hear how lonely and difficult his life has been. Bo’s mother drank herself to death when he was a young teenager and his father put him out for things many parents of teens routinely deal with. Being the gifted young man he was he did get to college to study Spanish and Art but his life has been a lonely one, disconnected to his family who I don’t think really ever could connect with his free and yes unusual spirit. Fortunately he has a better memory than I do and any story I can recall he can add to with colorful details. It is wonderful to have a best friend as a child.
In the photo I am the one with the cool sailor hat with inset sunglasses, I did love that hat, and Bo is the boy in the middle next to me with his lovely impish grin, and yes we were probably drinking out of the hose!