FROM THE My best friend I’ve known my best friend Derek since we were in kindergarten. We met at the naughty table in the basement of the First Congregational Church, where our kindergarten class …
My best friend
I’ve known my best friend Derek since we were in kindergarten. We met at the naughty table in the basement of the First Congregational Church, where our kindergarten class met because Greenwood Elementary School in River Falls didn’t have enough classrooms. I can’t quite remember what exactly we were squabbling over, but I think it was time in the coveted playhouse. Anyway, a fast and loyal friendship was formed over coloring pictures at the naughty table.
Imagine our delight when we discovered that we only lived about a mile from each other. There is scarcely a childhood memory worth anything that doesn’t have Derek in it. He is a huge part of many of my most cherished adult memories as well. He is the brother that I always wanted and that I found in a friend.
As I’ve gotten older, I lament how I used to tease and torture poor Derek (all in fun of course). He was always the more cautious of us, and I dragged him into many adventures he probably preferred not to have. He was always such a good sport though (usually). From slogging through the muddy creek to chase crawfish, to riding a scooter at full speed down Saddle Club Road across Highway 29 (I did that while he yelled at me), to getting busted making prank calls to my former neighbors (not a shining moment), we have thousands of memories. When I reflect on some of the stupid things we did (or that I did while he scolded me), I’m surprised we’re alive.
I’m not sure about teenagers now, but it was our mission in life to embarrass the other in public. My poor mother had to put up with shenanigans from us and our sidekick, Meghan (aka That Weinberg Girl, according to my grandmother). A favorite was pushing the other out of the booth at a restaurant onto the floor, to the delight of the pusher and the horror of the pushee. If my kids pulled that now, they’d wished they hadn’t. Sometimes I think I’m so strict with them because I don’t want them to act like an idiot like I did.
Another favorite was forcing the other to eat the most disgusting food combinations possible, to see who could stand it the longest. I usually resorted to something with mustard and bananas, because Derek hates bananas. Now my motherly self thinks “What a waste of good food!” But back then, it was a challenge to make the other sick!
When Derek visits us from his home in St. Paul, the kids beg us to tell them “Funny Tales” of our growing up years. They can’t get enough stories. Part of me, always the storyteller, loves to spill the details. The other part chastises myself and wonders how I can expect them to behave if I let them know I acted like such a fool. The storyteller usually wins, with warnings of “Don’t try this ever or you’ll live to regret it.”
Derek was over at our house this past weekend to celebrate his birthday. The kids planned a full party, complete with party hats, decorations, games, Derek’s favorite foods (tacos and Wisconsin sushi, which is ham, pickle and cream cheese roll-ups), and of course, “Funny Tales.” They absolutely adore their Uncle Derek, and while he loves them dearly, I know he’s somewhat grateful to escape the chaos at visits’ end. By the party’s end, the kids were frenzied on candy, cake and pop and the volume was ear-shattering.
I grew up an only child, but I was never lonely because I had a special brother of my very own. I am so grateful for his 37 years of loyalty and friendship. I’m even more grateful my kids get to have a fun uncle who enjoys watching them grow up. We only hope they are wiser than we were.
BY SARAH NIGBOR