Molly was my best friend, hands down. We met at Mrs. Krumick’s desk in third grade, as I watched her staple her thumb, then stare at it in disbelief while I waited for her to scream, but she didn’t. Molly was blond. Her mother was the only single parent I knew back then; a widow from Virginia with a funny accent like my mother’s, who worked as a nurse back when nurses wore hats and white everything. She married her husband’s brother, who we knew as Uncle John, but I always knew Molly’s mom didn’t love him, she just wanted him around, like a friend.
To me, friendship was essential, like owning a bike. Every time we moved, I canvassed the new neighborhood, knocking on doors and asking for friends. It seemed simple enough. You played; sometimes my house, sometimes theirs, or the wide-open world in between filled with playgrounds and bike rides and climbing trees. Then you went home to eat dinner. I loved Molly’s house because her mother always had Velveeta cheese in the fridge and came home late so we could blast the Hi-Fi and sing Please Please Me and jump on the couch, while Uncle John read the paper in the dining room.