A Neighbor Again

April 2, 2009

Growing up on a lake in Florida in the 1960s, I got to know the family next door. It took awhile, maybe because a vacant lot studded with orange trees separated our houses. Three generations under the same roof, they mainly spoke Italian, making them exotic curiosities.

Not long after I started high school, I became casual friends with their son, who was one grade ahead of me. He had a car and often gave me lifts to school. In the mornings I walked to his house through dew-covered weeds and waited in the kitchen. His grandfather would shuffle in wearing a wife-beater t-shirt, greet me in Italian, pause at a small wooden cask on the counter, and spike his coffee with a pick-me-up.

For reasons I can’t recall, my neighbor friend and I decided to buy a horse. We bought a mare for $100 and pastured her in the country (hardly the country now). The mare kept gaining weight, turned out to be pregnant, and gave birth to a colt. Two horses for the price of one.

Before school, we’d drive to the little barn outside Maitland and tend to the horses. But we started bickering — who knows why after all these years. He bought my half interest, and we drifted apart.

Now, some 43 years later, comes a message from him via Classmates.com. He’s living about 10 miles from me, just outside Portland. We plan to meet. It’s sure to be a strange and long trip back in time over coffee. Does he remember the magic of that strip of land and warm water we occupied? If I use the word “magic,” will he understand?

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