What Might Have Been

What Might Have Been

A boy toy-strewn living room floor was the setting for that final play session between my five year old son and his same age playmate.

The two boys had recently met, but already had numerous play dates within a short period. After the play session, I met the boy’s father for the first and only time, when he came to pick up his son. Tomorrow, he was moving his family to another state. Today, his son and mine were having their last playtime together.

The two little boys were steadfast friends since meeting in pre-school, played regularly since then, enjoyed good chemistry, but had no idea what was at hand: only a few final minutes left together. As the youngster gathered his belongings, amid small talk with his father, I knew this man also felt the pain of two friends parting.

Both boys didn’t have many available friends in their respective neighborhoods, so the father and I acknowledged the coming loss for each boy. We were sorry this short-lived friendship had to end, and felt it best not to inform them of the permanent separation that tomorrow would bring. Time and future new friends would help fade their minimal and fleeting memories of each other. The father and I shook hands and the boys said goodbye, no doubt thinking they’d be playing with each other again soon.

For me, this now long-ago event, simply, was one of those compelling, thought-provoking “life moments” we all experience. What might have been? What could have been?

There’s a constant array of people, drifting in and out of our lives, with or without our control of it, even for kids as young as five. Would these two boys have remained friends for 70 years? In that time, would that friendship create and culture, new, separate, friendships? Would these additional friendships, two and three times removed, be relevant to changing other lives? How many? In what way?

Or, if the two boys weren’t separated that day, would their relationship have fizzled out, quickly afterward?

Though I’m a bit bothered never knowing what might have been, I’m bewildered not.

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