Tommy was my brother’s friend from baseball. He lived a few blocks away from us with his parents and his sister Kaley. Both kids had golden skin and white teeth. I always thought their mother Cathy was beautiful. She had brown hair and drove a white Isuzu Trooper. Once we went to the beach and I saw the seven-inch scar from a c-section on her stomach, which didn’t stop her from wearing a blue and white striped bikini. Her husband was kind of an idiot and I never understood them together. His way of asking us if we wanted a Pop Tart was, “Would you like a Poop-a-de-tart with butt hair on top?” It always illicited groans and giggles, but I was secretly glad my dad never said anything like that to my friends. Nothing quite turned me off of a fake strawberry pastry like that tag line.
They lived on a corner lot with a big circular driveway, something I found to be most luxurious in those days. Having a driveway that you never had to back out of seemed like a dream scenario for when I got that Volkswagen Rabbit I planned on buying for myself when I turned sixteen. “You’re not driving that tin can,” my mom would say, “You’ll kill yourself.” By the time I actually came of driving age my tastes had changed, and lucky enough for my mother I was into Chevy Silverados and other vehicles suited for softball lesbians.
In between the street and their property was a line of pine trees with branches easy enough to climb. We’d jump up two feet, five feet, teen feet. Legs dangling and with views of nothing except the grass front yard. I’d usually sing songs. One I was particularly fond of for those moments was “The Sign” by Ace of Base. It was the first CD I ever owned: I went to Target with my dad, bought it, came back home and put it immediately into my 3 Disc CD Changer with two tape decks and a radio tuner. My brother’s fondest memory of the tree was the time he fell off from the third branch up and landed on his back right on a basketball. Knocked the wind clean out of him, lucky bastard.
Tommy was the class trouble maker but he was cute so he got away with a lot. His grandma lived down the street in a big country house with a swimming pool and tennis court. During the summer we’d swim there because it was too hot to be indoors or outdoors. The only solution was full submersion in cold, blue water. Tommy told us dirty jokes and if I hadn’t know already, he would surely have been the one to ruin what’s special about Christmas. That honor was left to my friend Julie, whose house was later burned down (ironically) when Christmas lights set fire to her family’s tree. My mom was convinced it was insurance fraud.