Out in the countryside of New Hampshire, on a cool fall Friday night many years ago, a group of early 20-somethings met for the first time as adults. They were all starting their lives as grown-ups, but they weren't quite ready, not just yet.
It was the eve of a huge Halloween party on a family farm. Hundreds of people were expected to roll in on Saturday for a bonfire costume bash.
But this was the night before. The people who were there that night were the core friends. And at the core of the core were young women who had known each other since their lower school days. They all brought the men in their lives, men they deemed worthy of a weekend trip in the wilderness.
On that night before the party, there would be perhaps 20 people, the girls who had known each other forever, and the boys who might be in their lives forever.
Two by two, the couples arrived, threw on their fleece jackets and grabbed spots around the fire.
The women picked up where they’d left off years before.
The men cautiously made friends with the other men. They drank beer, talked about their jobs, how they met their girlfriends, how they were selected to make the journey.
When the breeze would pick up, the women would snuggle up next to the men, together they would get warm in the glow of the fire, under their blankets.
The hostess gathered up the crowd after a bit and took everyone on a tour of the farm and into the newly built barn.
Someone found a soccer ball and then the children came out to play.
Teams were formed, positions taken, and a newly invented game of barn-broomball began. Some people used brooms like hockey sticks, some people actually found hockey sticks, one person used an old gardening tool, and some just used their feet.
It seemed like the game lasted forever. The music of the Samples played in the background, barely audible over the sounds of grown-ups yelling like kids on the playground.
No one hit their heads on the low hanging beams, no one was hurt when they ran into each other, or barn equipment.
They kind of kept score, but didn’t really.
And then, after a while, in the wee hours of that perfect fall night, the final buzzer rang. It may have been when the CD player stopped playing, it may have been that the players just knew it was time to call it a night.
The game was not one that could ever be replayed, its joy came from its sudden creation and its sudden end. For the core group, as much fun as the costume party would be the next night, Friday night would be the part of the weekend they would remember forever.
In the years since, time and distance have taken their tolls on the friendships, but those friendships remained. There were other great gatherings, although the same men weren’t always there. Still, on that night the men who met for the first time knew they would always remember each other, call each other friends.
That game, the cool New England breeze, the sounds of the Samples echoing through a big wooden barn left them all with a special bond, one of childlike fun, deep love and affection and the memory of the party before the party, the gathering of the core.
One last night when the kids could leave their newly found adulthood behind and play in the barn.