"How do you know him?" My daughter asks as we exit the aisle and move towards the checkout lanes. I'm balancing a box of canned iced-tea, a bag of salad and frozen wings in my hands. We shuffle awkwardly towards the cashier. She glances back to see him still smiling towards her, giving her a look of familiarity, even though he's never met her. He'd spotted her alone a few aisles over, one glance and he knew she was mine. "Looks just like you!" He'd said. But what he meant was, she looks like you used to when we were that age.
I point at the young boy collecting carts in the parking lot. The boy she's gone to school with since junior kindergarten. "He's like him." I explain, and begin unloading my pile onto the little conveyor belt. The groceries slide slowly towards the elderly cashier as my daughter tries to comprehend my words. How one day long into the future, she may come across the cart boy and exchange such breezy, witty banter with him. It baffles her.
How can I explain the local boys to her? The ones we spent our bar nights with in our twenties, and seated with at weddings and funerals into our thirties and forties. The ones we bump into while running errands with our kids. Just one look at them and a vision of my youth comes back to me. How can I explain to my daughter when she asks how I know him, when the images come so quickly at me it's like my own life flashing before my eyes? I know him the way I know all of them. I know him because he let me sit on his handle bars on his bicycle while he pedalled me home safe in eighth grade. I know him because we all went to prom together, clanking beer bottles and rapping terribly to Dr Dre in the limo until it broke down on the side of the road. I know him because we used to sit in his room and listen to music on his cassette player that he claimed was his Moms when the songs were too girly. I know him because he played hockey with my brother, and because he dated a few of my friends. I just know him.
The local boys. The ones who will have your back no matter what. You don't have to put on heirs when you see them. You don't have to make small talk. They don't really give a shit what you do for a living, but they'll support you one thousand percent if they see it's something that makes you happy.
I know this because in 2015 I published a book on birth stories, and my first two sales were to two local boys. Neither had wives or children at the time.
I know this because when I decided to run for local municipal office, they all proudly put my sign on their lawns for months leading up to the election. I would see them carefully move the sign to cut their lawns each week, and place it right back at the edge of the property, close to the road for high visibility.
I know this because when my Dad died they all attended his funeral. One day shortly after his death, I got a card in the mail from another local boy who'd moved away a long time ago. It had been decades since we'd spoken. His Mom informed him of my Dad's death, and so he bought a card, and stuck it in the mail. I know this because it was his writing on the card, not his mother's.
The local boys. They've helped us move, lay sod on our property, cut down trees for us, donated to every charitable event I'm part of. They clear my driveway after a snowfall. They line up at the bar and come back with a drink for me without me even asking. They make sure I have a ride home at the end of the night. In a room full of people they will take the time to stand with me, catch up with me, and joke around with me. And I know that my husband is a local boy for all my girlfriends, and would do anything for them too. To have one or two close friends from childhood is a blessing, but to have a band of brothers that have your back no matter what? That's priceless.
So, when we run into one of the local boys and my daughter asks "how do you know him?" I answer, "I just do." Because to say "I went to high school with him," doesn't feel connected enough. To say "he's friends with your Dad and I," doesn't give enough weight to the history of the friendship, and to say "we grew up together," freezes it in the past.
So instead I say, "I just do."
One day she'll find herself in a grocery store aisle with her own child in tow, and she'll lock eyes with one of her own local boys and they'll both smile as if they've just run into a family member.
He'll say something to her child like, "isn't it a little cold for shorts?"
And she'll retort, "aren't you a little old to wear your hat backwards?" They'll share a chuckle and continue in their own directions, their smiles lingering long after the brief interaction.
Her child will ask, "how do you know him?" And she'll finally understand.
"I just do." She'll say, smiling. "I just do."
About the Creator
Author, Mother, Wife. Recipient of the Paul Harris Fellowship award and 2017 nominee for the Women of Distinction award through the YWCA. Climate Reality Leader, Zero-Waste promoter, beekeeper and lover of all things natural.