P is for Privet
The first friend I ever had was also my strangest friend. And, believe me there's lots of competition.
Walking round the condos tonight with my daughter, playing our favorite game of counting frogs, I realized that America doesn't have many privet hedges.
While England's suburbia comprises swathes of green and iron gates set in hedges, America has white picket fences.
Back where I grew up in suburban Birmingham we didn't have much. Our flying saucers were old tires and my play car was an old iron bath my grandfather had put wheels on, much to the consternation of an elderly neighbor who had the bruises to testify to the weight of the thing.
But heck - we were rich in privet hedges back then.
That's how I met Gregory Spencer; I came out of my house one day and saw his torso sticking out of the hedge, his face buried among the tiny leaves.
At first I was annoyed. Brits are taught to be territorial about their privet hedges from an early age.
He withdrew his head, looking rather startled and told me he was eating the hedge. Would I like to do lunch?
I tried a few of the bitter leaves but they weren't entirely to my taste.
"Tell you what," I told him. "There's a big old Mountain Ash tree in the garden. Maybe you'd like to partake.'
I don't think I actually said partake. I didn't know that word then. Still the tree was my absolute favorite. We'd climb it and jump into the neighbor's garden, ostensibly to piss her off.
The boy, who identified himself as Gregory Spencer started to salivate as soon as he saw the tree. In no time at all we were stripping bark off it with our teeth and devouring the trunk.
In hindsight I wondered why my parents didn't stop us. But come to think of it my parents didn't stop us doing much. For instance all of our holiday pictures from Spain feature me wearing a bucket on my head. I was convinced it was as cool as hell and I looked like a Knight of the Round Table, whereas in fact I looked like a dorky kid with a bucket on his head.
Any rate Gregory became my first firm friend and we'd hang out in the woods and do the sort of things kids do, mainly eating tree bark and hedges.
Eventally as all great childhood friendships do, ours soured. Those leaves ceased to be so succulent. It may have been the time Gregory got his hand caught in the chain of my bicycle.
Or perhaps it was the time my mother disparaged Greg's chain smoking, hard nosed mother and I told him: "My Mum says your Mum's a cow."
Unfortunately Greg relayed this information to his mother and I was called into a Spanish inquisition like forum in his living room, complete with comfy cushions, to be asked: "Did your mum call me a cow?"
Strangely enough my memory of these distant days behind the hedges of suburbia are fleeting like the sun slipping in and out clouds. Some are vivid and others are obscured. I can't even remember the answer I gave to Gregory's mother, although our friendship didn't last.
Still it's funny to recall those days and good to invite my blog friends into my privet world.