I had messaged my friend Tracy and let her know I’d be arriving at her abode around 2 p.m. The plan was to find some breakfast and get a bit of writing done before I started catching up with Tracy.
Tracy Holtz Rock has been my friend since she was just Tracy Holtz and going to Northwood Elementary School in Ames, Iowa. Tracy and her twin sister Teri moved to our school in fifth grade.
I had never known twins before and the Holtz twins were not only REALY cute, they liked to skateboard, too. All my friends had a crush on one or the other at some point. I mean, to a 5th grader, a skateboarding girl is the holy grail of awesome.
What I remember of Tracy and her sister was the light in their eyes. Sure, that sounds like I’m taking literary license, but it was absolutely true. They were fearless. Going down the hill between the school and the street they lived on, which had a tough turn (that usually ended up resulting in a crash), was not for the faint of fifth-grade heart. They were just as good as the boys.
The thing about grade school friends is that junior high school tests those bonds. The summer ends after elementary school and a new world opens up with lots of other kids to meet and hang out with.
The friendship circles we found didn’t really overlap. It made me sad at the time but that’s part of growing up. I had new friends and so did they. It would happen again in high school. I traded my crush on Teri for a crush on Karen Hunter.
I never stopped missing Tracy and Teri, though.
About two years ago, around the time of the NBA playoffs, Tracy and I reconnected on FB. Shortly thereafter she got me hooked on Candy Crush and the San Antonio Spurs. (I don’t hold this against her and I eventually quit Candy Crush cold turkey.) The best part about playing Candy Crush and watching the Spurs was that I was chatting with my friend again. It was really nice. She watched from Texas and I from Iowa, but we chatted over FB and it was really fun. I now love the Spurs.
Tracy and I have tried to get together in the past but timing and logistics failed us. Today was going to be different! A vagabond can make time for his friends.
I pulled up to Tracy’s house and there she was on the curb waiting for me with her daughter, Jessi. We hugged and that friendship gap of three decades vanished. Then I got a hug from Jessi. She’s seven and possibly the best kid in the entire world!
I’ve gone on record as not being a fan of children under the age of 29, and I’m considering upping that to 40.
Jessi, however, is a force of nature. She’s smart. I mean seriously off-the-charts smart. When I asked her what her favorite subject in school was, with no hesitation or shyness, Jessi said emphatically, “Math!”
As I said, BEST Seven Year Old in the World! I love math.
Jessi has an older brother, Tommy, but I only got to meet him briefly, as he was off to play basketball. I respect that. I love hoops, too. I wouldn’t fully understand his level of awesomeness until much later that evening.
We went to dinner and had fajitas. I had a margarita that was purple and blue. I don’t remember the name exactly but I think it was a salty pear or something.
When we got back from the restaurant, Jessi had my itinerary planned. It was time for us to play Minecraft.
Jessi is a Minecraft machine. I like the game and have played it for years, but I don’t have her skills. You should see her fingers flying across the iPad screen — but of course you can’t, because they’re moving beyond the speed of light.
I created a new game and she logged into my world. It was fun. The plan had been to watch Spurs vs. Warriors with the rest of The Rock Family downstairs, but Jessi and I were building a cave home.
Sometime during the third quarter, Tracy came up to check on us. I took a little break (unapproved by management) and talked with management’s mom. I was curious if either of the kids had played chess.
A few minutes later we had the chessboard out. Jessi had never played so I got to teach her something new. Tracy, Jessi, and I set the board up on the floor and I began a lecture on proper opening theory.
Jessi was into it.
There was a moment, as I sat across from my lifelong friend and her daughter, watching them both staring at the board with a level of intensity usually reserved for Grandmaster play, that I saw that flash in both of their eyes.
Time screamed back to the seventies, did a loop, and rushed back to 2016 almost as fast as Jessi’s hands on an iPad screen.
In our lives we only get a handful of friendships that rise to the level of profound. My college roommate from 1985, my co-author buddy, and my fifth and sixth grade friend, Tracy Holtz Rock, are mine.
Having them in my life means that loneliness isn’t even a possibility. Profound friendships aren’t constrained by distance or time.