As I’ve said before, I was the tag-a-long child in the 20 Prospect clan. A full 7-10 years younger than my siblings, I inhabited a different world than the one they knew growing up. While they were going through High School I was sitting on the floor of the living room playing with my Evel Knievel stunt cycle. By the time I hit my teen years they were out of the house and I had become an only child. Needless to say, being the baby in the family I was spoiled rotten, getting to experience a family where Mom & Dad both worked and only had one kid to support. Our vacations became more frequent, and to more exciting places.
The response from my siblings to my golden child status varied. Big Bruddah couldn’t have cared less, and bequeathed to me his stereo and collection of 70’s LP’s while he was out hitchhiking his way around the country. My Bratty Big Sis still hasn’t forgiven me for stealing her status as the baby of the family 43 years ago, and has spent most of her life either tormenting me, or pointing out repeatedly what a spoiled brat I was. But the Middle Child had a completely different approach. She indulged me. It was always the Middle Child that bought me Pepsi and Funyuns when she babysat me. She was the one that took me to see the latest Disney movie at Mancuso’s Theater.
By the time I hit High School, the Middle Child was the only one of my siblings living in Batavia. So it was she who was tasked with looking out for me when my parents were off visiting one of the other siblings. That is when I discovered that one of the great benefits of older siblings is the access to illicit substance that they can provide during your formative years. The Middle Child was always willing to buy me a case of beer, or a bottle of booze if I was planning a party. I doubt anything I do can ever repay her that favor.
When she started asking Bella to babysit my 2 year old nephew things got even better. Now I have told the story of my adoration of the blessed Bella during my first few years at ND, and how over time we became the best of friends. So it wasn’t unusual for us to spend 5 nights a week talking on the phone together, and plotting and planning our next party in the woods behind the Blind School. But having her at my house when my parents and siblings were away was something new entirely.
The first few times that she babysat, I hurried home from practice to spend the evening sitting on the couch with her watching MTV, or old movies, after she had put my nephew to bed. In retrospect, it’s funny that it took us so long to give in to our hormones, and switch to making out. All it really took was a bottle of Amaretto, and a long winter evening while my parents were out of town, and the Middle Child was out with friends.
Now before anyone accuses either one of us of getting the other one drunk, and taking advantage of them, I must say it was completely innocent, and sweet, in a John Hughes coming of age story kind of way. I don’t think either one of us had planned for it to happen, it just did. My Nephew was asleep, and I had just hit up the Middle Child to pick me up some booze with the $10 I had available. The result was a bottle of cheap Amaretto, which must have been on sale. Neither one of us had had Amaretto before, so we decided to open it up and have a taste. That taste soon turned into a game of quarters at the kitchen table where we both ended up winning. Half way through the bottle we emptied our glasses, and decided to move into the other room.
I must say, sticky Amaretto kisses are like almond flavored pastry, and kissing my best friend in the world was a very different sort of thing than kissing my girlfriend. I think that was the night that I discovered that love has more flavors than Baskin and Robbins. When we heard the car in the driveway, we straightened ourselves up, and looked at each other wondering what it was that had just happened. Saying goodnight to her as my sister took her home I wasn’t sure what it would mean for our friendship. Would it be over now? Would it turn into something else?
The next night we spent decorating the ND Gymnasium with our dates for the Christmas Dance. It was a little awkward at first, to be so close together, and pretend that nothing happened. If it had been anyone else, I would not have known what was going to happen, but looking into her eyes, I knew that she felt the same way that I did. Things were new, and different. We had a secret now. A secret we would never tell anyone about, but one that we somehow both decided we didn’t want to spoil by feeling guilt or regret.
In the end our friendship survived, and we both went about our way exploring the pleasures, and pitfalls of High School relationships. We returned to our platonic state and became even stronger friends. Maybe that night of silly exploration had something to do with that. I don’t think that either one of us would have survived it if we didn’t have the other one to lean on through the hard times that were to come. Even now, 20+ years later, she would be the first person I would call if the world started falling down around me.
Still, I must confess, whenever I eat almond pastry I think of Bella.