I was a middle child - born to a mother who suffered bouts of depression. Even as a preschooler I found my way to a loving grandmother who lived across a field from us. During my early school years, I hung out with a neighbor boy who came calling on me early in the morning and we would spend the day roaming the back woods, a kind of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn relationship. We didn't have the Mississippi River but we did have a network of ditches and streams that could swell to resemble rivers after a rain fall. We built rafts. We fished for minnows, collected polywog eggs, and built forts to ward off the invisible enemies that threatened to attack us. In many ways it was idyllic.
One day my Tom Sawyer friend announced that he had a new neighbor, on the other side, who had invited us to play in his barn - the grandest barn in the community. I was awestruck when we entered. It was the perfect playground with a ravine of hay bales on the edges, a Tarzan rope hanging from the rafters and a soft pile of straw at the bottom in case we let go of the rope and fell. We chased each other, fell and scrambled up the cliff of bales, swinging on the rope, over and over again.
When we were too exhausted to climb, this new neighbor, Aaron, took us to a private room hidden inside a giant weeping willow tree with branches that touched the ground forming a room curtained off by green leaves. It was all magical. There we lay on the ground and got to know each other. Aaron wasn't Mennonite like my Tom Sawyer friend and me, but from a similar background, Dutch Reform, who were apparently a distant cultural cousins of ours.
We formed a threesome. Because Aaron was the oldest in his family, he had responsibilities and didn't have as much time to play but when he joined us even for a few hours, it was always memorable.
"True happiness arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one's self, and in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions." Joseph Addison