A Story: A First Winter Getaway With The Hofers

“Dave and I were a perfectly odd couple. I was short, overweight, and obsessed with football, and he was tall, lanky, and obsessed with building computers. I was outgoing, he was introverted. I started to grow facial hair very early on, while Dave was lucky if he could get 3 hairs on his chin.

Sharing mutual interests proved impossible. I retained 0% of the information he shared about computers and gaming, and playing sports was a reach for David. I remember one year even trying to teach him how to play football. At 6’4 and 190 lbs (still in high school) he would be a great safety, I thought! Little did I know he had the coordination of a newborn giraffe learning how to walk. All I can say is that football was clearly never in Dave’s future. It wasn’t hobbies that brought us together, it was support systems and safety nets. He was a very compassionate and trusting friend that provided me a safe space to grow up in. I was social and friendly, so I was a safe space for him to express his social anxieties. Plus, I was affable enough to get beer when I was underage – and I’m still proud of that (FYI – Dave never partook).

For some reason we clicked, and almost as if we had formed a pact, we battled the hardships of middle school and high school together. I had the privilege of growing up with Dave and experiencing a side of him that not many people had the opportunity to do.

My friendship with David really blossomed one particular winter. I forget the exact year but we were still in middle school, and the Hofers were kind enough to invite me to their house up in Maine for a week!

Dave of course was most excited about playing video games, particularly Halo and Dead or Alive 3 in our pajamas, and having tons of eggs, bacon, and steak in front of a fire. Then we would go out to the frozen lake and watch the sunset! It was always the most simple and highly caloric things in life he loved the most.

This was bound to be a good trip – it was my first time with another family for an extended period of time, and this good Jewish boy was about to spend Chanukah with his adopted German family in a town where “a Jew” sounds more like a sneeze than an acquaintance.

I’ll skip over the part of the story where I was stuck on a bus for 9 hours going to bumblef**k Maine next to some obese woman who brought 4 bags of McDonald’s as her carry on luggage, and I sat there as she slurped the salt and grease off her fingers after every bite… Did I mention it was a 9 hour bus ride?

Dave was so pumped! He got a BB gun, which totally freaked me out because, as David reminded me time and time again: I am a p***y. He was very excited about teaching me how to shoot. I was horrible – after a week I still couldn’t hit a can of coke from 10 feet away. Tellingly, he made a joke about my being a terrible partner if we were to be police officers together.

We cut down and decorated a Christmas tree. We watched the sunset on the lake. We rode snowmobiles – and I nearly killed myself. Helmut says that was the day his hair started to turn grey.

We also did as David had planned, and played tons of video games late into the night. He would kick my ass and call me all kinds of vile names – which I never thought I would miss, by the way, and I need not repeat them as it would ruin this wholesome story. It was all he dreamt our friendship would be. My version would’ve included more sports and some alcohol (this was before Dave discovered Fireball) but it was meaningful and beautiful nonetheless.

I had mentioned to Dave’s mom that I would be spending Chanukah with them. Sonja was kind enough to offer her help and make sure I had “that thing you Jews light on Chanukah” – a menorah. Finding a menorah in Maine proved challenging. At long last, we ended up making one out of clay. Sonja was almost more into this activity than I was. She is an artist after all, and I really only consider myself Jew-ish. It was actually Sonja, the atheist, who would yell out the window: “Jesse! Your prayers!” at sunset to remind me to light the candles each night and let me know which day it was. And each night my adopted German family would listen, and Dave would make fun of, my Hebrew prayers. It was a really beautiful and meaningful experience.

At some point during the trip, Helmut thought it would be awesome if he ran in 5 feet of snow around the outside of the house barefoot. And he did, and he looked super cool doing it. So cool, in fact, that Dave thought it would be a great idea to emulate his father… But only once no one was watching, of course. Now it’s 1am, everyone is fast asleep, I just got my ass kicked for the 1200th time in a video game, and it’s negative 20F outside. This was the moment Dave decided that this was the opportune time for him, his sister Meret, and myself to go for a stroll. And so we ran outside in our pajamas, just as barefoot as his father, and did a lap around the house… Only to find out that the door was locked behind us. It was FREEEEEEZZING! You could probably see Canada with binoculars, that’s how far north this is.

After much commotion and many, many snowballs to their parents’ window and not a peep from either of them, Meret decides to take matters into her own hands. Heroically, she scales the side of the house and knocks on the window. Their parents finally wake up and come down stairs. With a grunt, Sonja and Helmut let us back in the house as they muttered “idiots…”

— quick side note, I showed this story to the Hofers beforehand, and Sonja was very quick to point out that I had conveniently left out the part about my body overheating in the cold and throwing up in their sink when I got back inside. So there’s that. See Sonja, I owned it! 🙂

This isn’t exactly about Dave, but the Hofer family as a whole, and who they have been for me. Dave and his family gave me a safe space to grow up when I didn’t feel like my home with my father was that safe at all.

Thank you, Sonja and Helmut, for seeing that I needed the extra support and taking me on as one of your own. Thank you Meret for being an awesome big sister and allowing me to be a part of the relationship you had with your brother. And thank you Dave, for being a genuine and caring friend. We didn’t always get along, but I always knew you cared. Thank you for teaching me that lesson.”

~ Jesse B., Friend

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Dave and Jesse years later.

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