Some days just get ingrained in your head.
I’m not talking about dates like Christmas or New Year’s Eve or even 9/11, but rather dates with personal meaning.
You know what I mean.
Days with personal meaning.
Maybe it’s your birthday.
Or the day you first got together with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Or the day you graduated from college.
For me, M. David “Scooter” Lee’s birthday is one of those days, and it’s today.
Scooter and I first became friends in fourth grade.
At this point, that was 37 years ago (It definitely feel strange to write that.).
The start was a bit bumpy as I borrowed a dime for him for milk, but was only able to return six cents since I had spent four on the pint of the white stuff.
But we got past all that, and soon became fast friends.
Two of the many things I admire about Scooter are his tenacity, his principles and his vision.
He was always a contrarian when it came to sports.
We loved the Celtics. He was a Sixers man.
We cheered the Red Sox. He constantly imitated Reginald Martinez Jackson and wore a Yankees hat.
And we couldn’t have rooted harder for the Patriots, but he boasted about his love for the Miami Dolphins.
Scooter introduced me to Malcolm X, who, he felt should have a national holiday rather than Dr. King, and would refuse on principle to stand for the national anthem.
Kids in assemblies would snigger and point and mock him. It got to Scooter, hurt him bad. He’d have tears streaming down his cheeks.
But he never did stand up.
He also never backed away from his love of movies.
Moviemaking got him in the guts and has refused to let go since.
In sixth grade his plan was to make a newer version of King Kong, but Star Wars’ being released when we were in seventh grade sealed his destiny.
He watched the film over and over, and I am proud to say that I played the Han Solo character in his first movie, “War With The Stars.”
Scooter and I also paired up during the course of 15 years in our annual football game against our brothers Teo and Mike in The Toilet Bowl.
At first, the game was the older brothers and their friends beating up on our younger siblings. However, as you can imagine, something changed.
Namely, the younger brothers grew up.
The first couple of years we’d practice our plays for weeks, yet somehow Mr. Lee, Scooter and Teo’s dad, always seemed skeptical.
He’d drive the quarter mile to the park in his Alfa Romeo or whatever other sports car he was driving, issue a few insults-one of my favorites was, “You guys practice for weeks, and in the end it comes down to, ‘Everybody go out deep, and if you’re open, I’ll hit you.”-snap some pictures and be on his way.
Somehow, we ended up victorious in 12 out of the 14 games we played. Teo and I were the only ones on each side to make it to all of the games, and what matters now is not so much who won, but that we would gather each year and that we have the memories of the battles we waged.
Scooter and I have not seen each other as often during our adult as we did during our childhood, and that only makes me savor the times we do get together even more.
The last was in the fall of 2009, when I was in DC to present about the project we did about racial disparities in nursing homes.
Scooter and Teo came out for the evening, and it was the proverbial feeling as if we were back in elementary school, with just the physical signs on our heads, chins and stomachs to remind us that it was not so.
And somehow I just know when his birthday comes around.
I wrote Scooter the customary Facebook greeting earlier tonight, and wanted to take some more space to honor the friendship and love he has given me and the contributions he has made to my life.
Happy 46th Birthday, Scooter. And thank you for everything.
Peace and love.