Today my oldest friend, Keith, was buried.

Our mothers must have met on the first day of class, and his came over with him to our second-storey flat on a beautiful tree-lined boulevard, just up the street from St. Aloysius School, in the East End of Montreal. He was wearing a little brown coat with a velvet collar, and I kissed him on the cheek. He was five years old and I was six. What a start to 79 years of friendship!

I still recall grade one, with 52 (!) pupils crammed into the classroom, wet woollen mitts drying on the radiators, and Mrs. Quinn with her handy yard-stick pointer, which she broke to half its length on the hands of the Cassidy twins and others, some of whom were repeating the year for the third time. This was when Keith and I started competing to rank first in the class on our monthly report cards, and he usually came out on top.

Praise the Lord

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