The teams were always the same: Sean and Chris versus Dusty and me.
I don’t remember meeting the Wells brothers, they just were.
My family moved from Indianapolis, Indiana, to Oak Park, Illionois, in the summer before first grade. Our mint green stucco house on Forest Avenue was just one block from architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio, two blocks from Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary (where I would go on to perform “The Theme From ‘The Greatest American Hero'” at the 1981 Talent Show), three blocks from Peterson’s Ice Cream and Zender’s Pharmacy (location of my first and only petty theft), and about eight and a half miles west of Chicago’s famed Loop.
It was Heaven for a six-year-old.
Sean and Dusty Wells, two toe-headed brothers roughly the same age as Chris and me, lived just across the street. We shared every interest, from roller skating to baseball cards to lip synching to Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses” to the cast of “The Facts of Life.”
In the early weeks of June, as the air turned hot and thick, as Little League wrapped up another losing season, we raced around the yard capturing fireflies in Mason Jars.
We formed football teams to scrimmage adjoining neighborhoods, sold lemonade on the corner of Chicago Avenue (until the rope we used to haul the wagon tripped a septegenarian tourist), and spied on the David Wright’s older sister.
We skitched in the winter, played Wiffle Ball in the spring, kicked the can in the summer, hid and sought in the summer, and dragged our backpacks through the backyards come fall.
Through it all, Sean and Dusty were our constant companions. They were roughly the same age as Chris and me, lived just across the street.
When’s the last time your best friends lived just across the street?
The Wells moved to Nashville, Tennessee, a few years later. The neighborhood grew empty. The spring before my parent’s announced their impending divorce, The Wells’ home went up in flames.
My father still keeps up with Sean and Dusty’s parents, Ron and Judy. In fact, they’re invited to Abbi and my wedding. A few years ago, when I travelled to Nashville to meet Cameron Crowe, I had breakfast with Sean and his dad. Sean was huge: six two, at least. Ron told me he ate oatmeal religiously. Their smiles were identical, and infectious.
A few weeks ago, Sean sent me a photo from his cell phone.
“Stood at home plate this morning,” he wrote. “First base was blocked by a huge tree. And the home run fence looked awefully close. My kids could have cared less, but I knew you’d want to know.”