We've known him for ten years now, more than half his life, and he's so much part of our family that he is even on the extended family email list. Late last night, we gathered in front of the fire to hold a candle ceremony for FirstExtra, who turned nineteen years old yesterday.
As the beeswax candle went around the circle, each person told a story about FirstExtra, and then we all kept jumping in with other remembrances. Like most of Boy in Black's friends, FirstExtra is funny and smart. At least one person in the family declared him "the funniest person I've ever met."
First Extra and Boy in Black met in elementary school, but then his parents sent him to the Catholic junior high, while Boy in Black went to the big public school. Even though they haven't been in the same school in seven years, they've stayed close friends. He's here every weekend. He's been with us for many of the major events over the last years. He helped us move into this house: he was here the day I came running down the stairs and broke my leg, and he was part of the gang of children who took care of me while I was bedridden with a long leg cast for four weeks.
During fifth and sixth grade, FirstExtra used to come to our house every day after school. He and Boy in Black would sit right down on the living room floor to do their homework, but then within minutes, he would be on his feet, entertaining me with imitations of Sister Mary Old School. Once he was old enough for instant messenger, he became famous for his highly entertaining away messages. The first time I ever used instant messenger, I sent messages to FirstExtra and tried to make him guess who I was. I kept giving him hints, by saying things like, "I like the shamrocks you have on the front windows of your house," but these helpful hints just made him think I was some kind of creepy stalker. "Did you know that my mother was looking over my shoulder that night?" he said, "She was just one step away from putting me into some kind of Witness Protection program."
We all reminisced about the time we brought FirstExtra and FilmGuy with us on a camping trip to the mountains. With eight of us crammed into the car, we had no room to bring much bedding, but we figured on a hot August weekend, we could make do with very little. We were wrong. Temperatures plunged that night, and we had about three blankets for the eight of us huddled on the floor of the tent.
All of us remember the time that Boy in Black and FirstExtra were hitting golf balls in the backyard, and FirstExtra hit a ball right through the sliding glass door. We'll be still talking about that someday when we have the candle ceremony for his fortieth birthday. That, and the time he got food poisoning the night before we all went to a concert together and spent the concert vomiting in a hotel room. Of course, we cannot forget perhaps the most exciting thing First Extra is known for: he took not one, but two girls to his senior prom. No, he's not a player, but a nice guy who was helping out a friend who broke up with her boyfriend just before the prom.
In the dim light, the kids all joked and teased as they talked about First Extra; teenage boys are not much for sappy statements or big hugs. But I think Boy in Black and First Extra are both fully aware of the kind of rare friendship they have. As First Extra's grandfather said to me once, "These two will be in each other's weddings, they will be godfathers for each other's kids – they are friends for life. Anyone can see that."