I don’t know Ben. I don’t know how old he is or what he looks like. I don’t even know his last name. The only thing I know about Ben is he used to live in a particular house on Grant Avenue and it was in this house where the unfortunate cover-up occurred.
It wasn’t scandalous, by any means. After all, Ben was just a boy when he lived there. The truth is, the cover-up didn’t happen until long after he had grown up and moved away. I’m just sorry it happened at all.
The first time I heard the story about Ben was at a friend’s party. He had recently bought an older house and was happily showing us around. When we arrived at the entrance to the kitchen, he stopped us. “This is the best part of the tour,” he said.
Directing our attention to the door jam, he showed us where the previous owners had charted the growth of their children. “Check this out”, he said laughing. We looked closer and saw a mark that read Ben 1988. Several inches above it was another mark that read Ben’s Hair 1988. Evidently, that was a big hair year for Ben, and we all enjoyed a good laugh over it!
I found it completely charming that he was so fond of the humorous inscription left by the previous tenants. Perhaps that is why I became fond of it, too. From then on, whenever I went to their house I made a point to look at those marks. No matter what was going on in my life, they always made me laugh. In fact, I had come to rely on Ben and his hair to be there whenever I needed a reminder not to take life so seriously.
Last month, however, my friends announced they were selling their house and moving to another city. I was happy for them, of course, but I had one question. “What about Ben’s hair?” I asked his wife. It was then she relayed the unfortunate story surrounding the cover-up.
On a day like any other day, she had come home from work to discover her husband had unceremoniously painted over it. They had been remodeling their house for years and had left that spot gloriously untouched. That is, until it was time to cover it up with a fresh coat of paint before putting it on the market.
We stood there together, his wife and I, lamenting the loss of Ben and his hair. I even got a little teary thinking about how a few pencil marks could mean so much. Yet, I realized it wasn’t just about marks on a wall. It was about the mark these dear friends had left on my heart and how deeply I would miss them.
You see, they had come into my life shortly after a divorce left me struggling to survive physically, emotionally and financially. Their love and support over the years played a big part in helping me heal from the wounds of the past. Yet, they did much more than that. By believing in me, they taught me to believe in myself — and to go boldly forth in the pursuit of my dreams.
Thank you, dear friends, for always being there for me, just like those marks on the wall. You can move away, and the marks can be painted over, but I will never forget any of it. I will always treasure our time together and whenever I feel myself taking life too seriously, I will think fondly of a certain house where Ben and his hair will forever live in infamy.
“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love.” – Elie Wiesel