When I was six years old, my best friend who lived next door moved away. I don't remember much about being six, but I sure remember that. I was so very sad. I can still see them driving away down our street, waving to my parents and me until they were out of sight. I cried. I remember going inside and feeling empty and lonely.
Colleen was a few months older than I was and she was beautiful. She had long, straight brown hair that she wore in two braids and the prettiest skin - pale and smooth and without a blemish - that I thought was so lovely compared to my freckles. We played many games together, from the standard hide-and-seek, hopscotch and skipping to elaborate pretend games involving princesses and princes and horses that we staged with the other neighbourhood girls. We would traipse around our yards draped in our blanket gowns. I thought we would grow up together.
Her dad was a police officer and they were transferred so far away that we couldn't even visit. They left a few weeks before my birthday, and Mom let me open my present from Colleen early to try to cheer me up. She was my first pen pal and we wrote letters for years.
My parents are still in that house, and I lived there from the time I was three until university (and then for a couple of years after I graduated). In all of that time, there was never another family in the house next door that had kids. It changed hands a few times, and when I was growing up I always hoped for another Colleen, but it was not to be.
Why am I rambling on about this melancholy childhood memory? It's because I just found out our neighbours are moving; the lovely family next door. They have two little boys: the oldest is a year and a half younger than Boychild, who is six, and the youngest is six months younger than Girlchild, who is two. Boychild and Neighbourboy have spent hours and hours and hours playing together in our adjacent backyards and in each other's playrooms. We all kinda thought they'd be growing up together.
Our neighbours moved in about six years ago and we have watched as they toiled relentlessly on their older home to improve it and make it just the way they wanted it to be. They have done a lovely job and their pride in the house is evident. Nevertheless, plans change.
It makes us sad to lose such nice neighbours. They won't be going far, not like Colleen and her family; just a few kilometres away. Still, it's not quite walking distance. We won't be able to chat over the back fence or just wander into each other's yards for a lemonade. Perhaps I should just tell them I've been thinking it over and have decided that, sorry, they can't move. Do you think that would work?
We haven't told Boychild yet. When we do, I'm pretty sure I'll know just exactly how he feels.