Kindergarten opened up a whole new world for me. I remember standing in front of an easel, wearing a white smock and looking at a piece of flip-chart paper on which I was painting blue and green streaks. Beside me stood John Fleming, who would one day represent our school in Ottawa at a national event honouring Canada’s student street-crossing patrols. By grade 7, John was considered the best among us at standing on the corner of King Edward Boulevard and holding up the red stop sign so the primary kids could safely cross the road. However, all of that was years away from kindergarten, where we were still learning to navigate this strange new world called “school”.
It was mid-September and I had already spoken with John several times since the start of kindergarten two weeks earlier. He was the tallest boy in the class, brimming with self-confidence, and I felt this time together at the painting easels was the perfect moment to establish my first real friendship.
“Hi John. How’s your painting going?”
“Good. Ah… what’s your name again?”
“Oh. . . I’m going to be a patrol when I’m older.”
“Cool,” I replied. “I’m going to be a patrol too.” I wasn’t sure what a patrol was, but if John was going to be one that was good enough for me.
“Cool,” said John.
Sensing how wonderfully our conversation was going, I decided to boldly state my purpose. “Do you want to be my best friend?” I hadn’t meant to add “best”; it just kind of came out that way.
“No,” answered John, and I felt a lump of humiliation forming in my throat. Then he added, “I already have a best friend. His name is Jeff. He lives on the same street as me.” I was somewhat comforted to know that his rejection of me was nothing personal, but I still felt bitterly disappointed.
Silently, I added a dark brown streak to my painting.
“I know,” John suddenly announced, his face beaming with the expression of a kindergarten epiphany. “Follow me.”
Still wearing our smocks, I followed him across the room from the art station to the blocks station. A kid whose name I didn’t yet know was kneeling on the carpet. John made the formal introductions.
“Jeff, this is Ken.”
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” Jeff replied, looking up at us with a red block in his right hand.
“Ken wants to be my best friend,” John explained, “but you’re already my best friend. So I was wondering if maybe all three of us could be best friends.”
“Can three people be best friends?” asked Jeff.
“I don’t see why not,” John answered. “I don’t think there’s a rule or anything saying only two people can be best friends.”
“Oh,” said Jeff, considering the situation. “Are you going to be a patrol?” he asked me.
“Definitely,” I answered, nodding vigorously.
“Well… okay then. Let’s all be best friends,” declared Jeff. Putting down the red block, he stood up. “I think we should shake on it.”
Jeff and John shook hands with each other. Then, one after the other, they turned to me and shook my hand too. The deal was made. We were now all officially best friends. I could hardly believe my good fortune. I had come to kindergarten that day seeking to establish my first real friendship, and now I had two best friends! I was elated. John and I returned to our easels, and I added a streak of yellow to my masterpiece.
In reference to previous story, “Joe”. . .
With both John and Jeff as my best friends, my imaginary friend no longer stood a chance. Like Puff slipping into his cave, Joe sadly returned to his home in the tree on our boulevard, never to be heard from again. Yet I must admit that many years later, every now and then, I would catch myself staring out my bedroom window at that tree and thinking about Joe, wondering how he was doing and whether he had made any new friends in the world of make-believe.
by Ken Andrews, 2003