I was in 2nd grade when I had my first real fight. My opponent, Mark, was a year older. He was also my best friend.
The whole problem started with one of Mark’s toys. A quick internet search tells me that the toy in question was the Motorcycle Driver from the Fisher Price Adventure People Series. The Motorcycle Driver was remarkable because, unlike the other action figures of the 1970s, its legs bent at the knee to allow it to straddle the motorcycle. The Motorcycle Driver was simply the coolest thing ever – much better than my Fisher Price Adventure People Skydiver – and Mark graciously allowed me to borrow it.
When the agreed upon borrowing period had passed, Mark very reasonably asked me to return his Motorcycle Driver. I conducted a frantic search, but could not find it. That result was not uncommon for me – I still remember a number of my favorite toys from that time mysteriously vanishing. It’s possible that the missing toys were victims of my older brother – legend had it that there was a notch in the handle of the lawn mower for every toy he managed to kill. I tried putting Mark off when he would ask, in hopes that it would show up, but it didn’t. When he eventually pressed the issue, I had to admit that I had failed my best friend.
Mark was understandably upset, but he was willing to discuss a reasonable solution. The most logical option, “Get your parents to buy a new one,” was apparently rejected right away. Telling my parents would probably have gotten me in trouble – there was a general rule against me borrowing toys (for this exact reason), so the whole thing had been done on the QT. Even though he had been clearly wronged, Mark didn’t want that kind of trouble for me.
Looking back, it wouldn’t have been REAL trouble – but getting yelled at or grounded were situations to be avoided.
After some discussion, Mark and I agreed that the only way to settle the situation was to fight. A fight, much like the duels of old, would fulfill the solemn obligations of honor. Mark and I didn’t have the kind of relationship where we wrestled each other, so this was new ground for us. Being a year older, he was certainly the favorite to win, and I probably deserved the beating. We shook hands and agreed to meet the next day after school, on The Hill.
It was understood that when kids from our neighborhood had a score to settle, they worked it out on The Hill. It was really just a small hill in front of a house near the school, but it was around a corner and far enough away to avoid the prying eyes of school officials. I have often wondered if the family who lived there ever knew that their front yard was the setting for some of the most epic battles in the history of Proctor School.
The funny thing is, I don’t remember being nervous about the fight at all. It might have had something to do with the fact that kids of that age seem to be made of rubber bands. I used to jump off of swing sets at the highest point – something that would send me to the hospital today. Or maybe, I just didn’t believe that my best friend would really hurt me.
News about fights traveled fast. When Mark and I arrived at The Hill the next day, we had to wade through a crowd of excited children. They immediately formed a ring around us and began to chant, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”
We circled each other and each got a few shots in before we started grappling. Somehow, I managed to get Mark on the ground. I was sitting on his chest and started choking him. He yelled “Uncle” and just like that, the fight was over. I asked Mark if he was ok, and he told me he was, so we got up, dusted ourselves off, and walked home together as the crowd drifted away.
As we walked, I remember him looking over at me and saying, “I thought we said no choking.” I hadn’t remembered any rule like that. Oops.
Following our fight, Mark and I remained close and hung out almost every day. I clearly remember sitting in his bedroom, giggling while we listened to the swear words on the Grease soundtrack over and over.
But, as the years went by, we started hanging out in different social circles. By the time I finished 4th grade, we barely spoke to each other. Eventually, Mark’s family moved away and we lost touch. We have since reconnected on Facebook, and I am happy to report that he is doing well and that he is a wonderfully talented photographer. Whatever issues drove us apart back then have been long forgotten and he hasn’t mentioned the choking thing once.