This is my team. Before the concept of a Followers Friend Request, and now — a  “Close Friend” on Instagram, these are my first true friends.

From left to right, that’s Thomas, Karen, Richie, and finally me.

Thomas and Richie were those friends— you know, the ones who were down the block who I’d swing by to see if they were free to hang out. We went to the same elementary school, PS20, in … shoot, I don’t even remember— 4th grade?

Thomas and Richie were those friends— the ones who crushed on the same girl (not Karen, more on her later) you liked because she was cool and hung out with us after school.

We did everything together. We would go to the corner deli after school, walk home together as a group, watch The Simpsons relentlessly, and team up for battle on snow days.

Books and Quiet Time

I don’t know why and how this happened, but another important place Thomas, Richie and I would go to together was the Flushing Library. Yes, I say libary with emphasis because, in retrospect, Flushing is not the best town to raise your kid.

Before the superstore gentrification of Flushing, my home streets were pretty dangerous to walk around at night, ridden with gang violence, theft, and just a lot of poverty I never stopped to notice.

But this grand libary opened in 1998, right before I met my friends. By the time we were in 5th and 6th grade, this libary offered after school tutoring and help for kids free of charge. This is where we met Karen.

Karen

Karen, the girl in the photo above, was a student teacher for that afterschool program in Flushing Library. Karen’s seven years older than we are— so back in 2001 she was padding her volunteer credits for her high school honors diploma at Townsend Harris High School.

Karen was the best, but she was mean, partly because I was the biggest brat, full of energy (from that candy), and had a terrible mouth (think the Asian Cartman).

I don’t think any of us realized this back then, but Karen acted as an incredibly powerful role model for us at an important stage of our childhood. It’s honestly very easy to screw up and get caught up with the ‘wrong’ crowd after school. For whatever good reason I can’t figure to remember, Thomas, Richie and I would attend after school tutoring frequently to do work, but mainly just hang out in a safe haven within Flushing Library.’

Glue

It’s been  around 14 years since I first met the crew, and with all friends, not just your first ones, it takes massive effort to keep the friendship and memories going. I’ll admit I am the worst of the crew with keeping tabs on our group and actively going out of my way to make plans. Karen is the glue to our group, she’s always the person wrangling us together for dinner and meetups, and I’m thankful for that. I go through highs and lows with grasping the importance of upholding friendships; not later, now. I’m going to try and do a better job moving forward, but even to this day, Karen is still serving as an amazing role model for me.


Parsing old memories is a strange thing— I can barely remember the unforgettable moments with my friends in elementary school. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I remember what I felt more than what I actually did.

Moments from 2011 feel so long ago, but not 8 years long. Jeez.

And pictures from today look like they should be swapped with ones from past because I appear even younger now. As distorted as my timeline feels to me, I’ll never forget my childhood friends.

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