My mother used to remind me of something I purportedly said when I was just old enough to get up every morning on my own, open up a can of Spaghetti-O’s, dump its gloppy contents into a bowl from the cabinet, and settle down to eat in front of the TV for Sesame Street or whatever else was on PBS. She told me I’d said I wanted to “beat up Peter McKay.” Apparently, I was quite angry with this Peter McKay kid, but from what I remember of him, I thought we were friends. Well, five year-old friends at any rate. That sort of superficial, close-knit friendship consisting of exchanging Star Wars one-liners and hanging upside down together like bats on the jungle gym. And yet I really wanted to beat this kid up for some inexplicable, five year-old reason.
Friendships from then on were often rocky for me. I was a military brat though, and that certainly didn’t help matters whatsoever. If a friend betrayed me, it would devastate me. I’d spend months trying to determine what I did, what went wrong. By the time the friendship had been either renewed or erased, my family would move. All of the adults in my life would tell me the usual mantra-lie adults were conditioned to repeat, that “things” would “get better.”
I couldn’t wait for Things To Get Better. I pictured adult friendships as being solid, loyal, fun-loving, and lasting. In truth, as an adult, I’ve kept good people in my life and ditched the ones who’ve behaved as if they were children. I still feel that hot, burbly pang of confusion and anger whenever someone I’d considered a “friend” betrays me, but it hasn’t happened in a long time. Hopefully, it stays that way.
If I could go back as I am and have a talk with my five to eighteen year-old selves, I’d tell all of them that people are truly flaky, no matter the age, and friendships only last over time IF they allow it to grow. That is, if they all stop wanting to Beat Up Peter McKay.