When I was 7, living in Naples, Florida most of my after school playmates were retired wives over the age of 50. We did our nails and planted flowers, rode our bicycles and played tennis. Remembering how old I thought they were, it is hard to believe that my grandmother was only 5 years older than I am today. She would take me to the beach club, leave me there to the lifeguards and tennis coaches and go golfing for the afternoon. I spent a lot of time at that beach club and I loved it there.
The only friend I remember having my own age was a girl named Alexis. I remember a residential construction site close to my grandmother’s house and we would play in those piles of dirt until it the sun was going down. Seems like there was a little boy too but I can’t remember his name. We got so dirty digging holes and making dirt pile furniture so we could play house.
I adored Alexis. Her name sounded like royalty to me and she had, what appeared to me, a fairy tale existence. She actually lived in Port Royal, she wasn’t a visitor like me. She didn’t go to public school and she was, in my little mind, perfect. I didn’t just adore her as my friend but wished I could be like her. It was my first real case of envy.As much as a 7 year old can envy another, I envied Alexis.
All of a sudden one day she wouldn’t play with me. I even looked her up in the Port Royal black and white directory and called her one day. I don’t know who I spoke to but they told me that she was busy or not home … and they told me not to call back. My feelings were hurt and I didn’t understand. For all I know it was a housekeeper that I talked to, not a parent. Either way, it was the first time that I can remember feeling inferior. I took it very personally that she couldn’t be my friend. And the sad part is 40 years later I still remember that feeling so vividly.
Quite honestly it may have had nothing at all to do with me. My grandmother was knee deep to a grasshoppers ass in Port Royal Club politics. At one time she was president and ruled the kingdom for a year. This is Martha we are talking about and she could be quite the bitch when she wanted to be. For all I know she pissed off this girls parents and that was the end of my being friends with her. But the 7 year old in me just knew it was because I wasn’t worthy. The first shot to my self esteem and I didn’t even know what that was. I was not from Naples, I went to public school and rode the bus, I didn’t actually live in Port Royal, at the time my mother was a single parent, I spent my time with my grandparents or aimlessly wandering around the beach club or biking around the neighborhood. I had a southern accent and, at the time, spoke fluent Arabic. I was a hodge- podge of a child and really didn’t fit in anywhere.
My brief friendship with her crosses my mind from time to time. She probably doesn’t remember me at all. When I think of her I wonder about her life and how everything turned out for her. So as I was sitting on my deck this past weekend, I don’t know what made me think of her, but I picked up the iPad and googled her name… And there she was. Beautiful Alexis. Her parents moved from Naples and bought a vineyard in Napa, California. There she runs the marketing and advertising – and she is a genius. She has a blog on the website too, which really warmed my heart…kindred spirits we are… and she is living the fairy tale life. God Bless her.
After reading some about her parents and how they met (they were on a blind date arranged by friend Lilly Pulitzer!!!) and their successful winery, I realize now, as I did then, we are from different worlds. I probably couldn’t run in her world and she probably wouldn’t want to run in mine. But the older we get the less that matters. Childhood friends are the exception to the social boundary rules. I think it is because children don’t see those boundaries until they are shown by adults.
I guess the moral of the story is we never forget childhood friends, no matter how brief the contact. Each person impacts your life in ways you don’t realize and everything you do, everyone you have been in contact with over the course of your life has made you who you are today.
I am going to order some wine from their Vineyard. Just for shits and giggles. I am going to take it to the beach with me… and sit in my chair, toast my friend and reminisce about my cherished time in Naples.
I raise my glass to you - Alexis …You go girl!