Twenty-one years ago, I met a kid in the neighborhood my mom, my sister, and I had moved into. It was a Friday afternoon, and we hung out on our front porch, looking at and trading collectible comic book cards, a hobby I had recently taken up and which he was leaps and bounds ahead of me in.
We were well underway with our card trades when my dad arrived to pick my sister and me up for the weekend, at which point my friend and I realized we didn’t even know each other’s names!
As we got to know each other, I’d learn that Chris — his name is Chris, by the way — very much enjoyed comic books; if memory serves me, the walls of his room were lined with comics displayed in plastic sleeves. I’d also come to find out that the guy had a passion for pranks. I remember he tried to convince me that he had a twin, and that I could tell them apart by the direction the hair swirled on the crown of their head. Chris also had a few of the younger kids in the neighborhood convinced that behind the shrubs by his house was a portal which led to a realm of dragons, so that was fun.
As we grew up, I moved to a neighborhood a few streets over and made friends with a new group of kids. Of course, I had to bring Chris into that group! He fit right in, and the pranks naturally continued, though usually at my expense, such as when he and our friend Michael tried to convince me that they had become vampires. That was a weird couple of weeks.
Vampires. A monster in the woods near the house. Our own pet cemetery. Believing one of us to be demon-possessed. An exorcism on a household. Fun times! Innocent, naïve times.
I loved my town growing up, and I certainly never understood the hate shown to it by so many of my peers. I still love my community, but it’s far less rosy than it was back in those days of childhood.