Not down the street, although we always stayed in San Diego, but usually across town. For me, this meant leaving old friends behind and finding new ones. Generally, I never saw the old ones again. (I say generally because San Diego is a small town for a big city and I ended up running into old classmates over the years. But not until I was an adult)
The summer after 6th grade my parents did the unthinkable. They moved us to the boonies. The concept was cool. 5 1/4 acres of oak trees and rocks to climb. A playhouse for me (the inside was insulated but not finished so it turned out that I wasn't allowed to play in there because of the fiberglass. Sometimes, my friend from down the street and I played in the chicken coop instead. We didn't have chickens, just a coop) I started 7th grade in a school where almost everyone had been together since kindergarden. My sister had it worse. She was in 11th grade and had to leave a boyfriend behind.
I like to joke that I only had one friend. The truth is that I had two. I had trouble making friends for the first time in my life because I was new. The cliques were formed. I had all the wrong (hand me down) clothes and lived on the wrong side of town. The wilderness my parents moved us to had colonies of crack houses. People disappeared down there. We didn't know that then. I knew that the houses where the school bus picked us up were run down. I knew that the kids who lived there were a little dirty. That became prime real estate when the drug dens were cleared out by the fires of 2003.
My sister and cousin though, thankfully, made some friends. One of them had a car. Much of my 7th grade year was spent in the back of that car. A Camero. It made me want a Camero. Robbie would come pick us up before and take us home after school. I felt like hot shit riding around in the trunk. (I did say the back of the car, right?). The car was soooo cooool. I was hanging out with older kids even though I knew it was only because I was the little sister. Rob would make the rounds dropping us all off. Sometimes he would hang out at our house. There would be rubber band fights and all around silliness before he went home. It was fun. It was good times. There weren't a lot of good times in that house.
I didn't see him anymore after he and my sister graduated. The last time I saw him he was the best man at a wedding and he had a black eye. And a story to go with it.
I think you know where this is headed.
Seester sent me his obituary tonight. 35 is too young. Somehow, I think someday 85 will be too young too. I know from talking to my Nana that I will never get used to this. It's one thing to say goodbye and never see someone again. It's something else to know you can't ever see them again. I don't know what happened. That town is still a small town and I'm sure we will find out. Seester keeps better in touch than I do.
I'll never forget though, how Rob treated me like an equal instead of his friend's little sister. How he'd carefully close the glass lid over my head each morning. And drive me home each day after school.