Heaven Bound Journey
By Joanne Malley
Summer days near Bellayre Mountain offered Brian McCormick and I plenty of exhilaration and adventure in Big Indian, New York. He lived next door, so my best friend was never hard to find.
Our bedroom windows were across from each other and it had become a nightly ritual to peer through them with glowing flashlights in hand. We’d always wave goodnight to each other while the sound of crickets and old Mr. Flemming rocking on his porch echoed in the background.
We nicknamed ourselves “The Space Rangers” because we’d often pretend we were astronauts. We’d lie on the warm earth and envision how neat it would be to shoot way past the mountaintops in a spaceship toward the heavens.
When we were ten, our fascination ignited after we saw Apollo 11 land on the moon. We watched in awe while we sank into lime green bean bag chairs and munched on a huge bowl of buttered popcorn. From then on, we’d collect anything space related. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were our new idols!
Space travel wasn’t the only thing that filled our days. We also liked long walks to the candy store and daydreaming under the old willow tree by the lake. One day, while sitting under the shade, Brian, the adventurous one, dared me to finally get the guts to catapult off the black tire swing that hung from the weeping willow.
I called his bluff and yelled, “bombs-a-way” as I proudly got the gumption to meet his challenge.
“Hey, your big splash got me all wet!” said Brian through his belly laugh.
His “thumbs-up” meant he was proud.
After the fun, my sweet tooth was aching, and we headed straight for Mr. Harding’s candy store. As future astronauts, “Mars” chocolate bars were our obvious choice! We sprinted to the cash register in relay style just like we always did.
“NO MORE RUNNING IN THE STORE, BOYS!” yelled Mr. Harding with frustration in his voice.
Even though he often got mad, he dismissed his anger quickly. He was a kind man who loved kids.
“The candy’s on me boys,” he pronounced, and with his strong, calloused hand he rubbed my head as if I were his pet dog, Mitzie.
As we made our way to the door, he said, “Stay away from Bellayre Mountain for a while, there were reports of a few campers being attacked by a black bear.”
“Thanks, Mr. Harding,” we said in unison, and we were off again in a flash.
With our favorite candy bars and cold root beers in hand, we headed back to the lake and stayed clear of any paths near the mountain. We weren’t about to be lunch for a hungry black bear!
When we arrived, we collapsed under the big willow. It was where we often dreamt about space travel and shared our “guy” talk.
“Can I tell you something?” Brian asked with uncertainty in his voice.
“Sure. You’re my best friend,” I reassured him.
“My dad drinks a little too much from the bottles in his locked cabinet and sometimes he yells so much that he makes me scared.”
While still feeling brave from my earlier catapult off the tire swing, I shared my relationship with God.
“You know, I just talk to God when I’m scared. He will also help you climb life’s mountains so you won’t be alone. My dad always told me that,” I said, feeling glad my father always had such great advice.
“Can God be like another friend?” questioned Brian.
“Yup, he’s mine!”
“Then he’s mine, too!” confirmed Brian.
Brian never went to church, so I invited him to go with my family the following Sunday. We were soon two Space Rangers on a mission to reach the heavens in a new way.
We were inseparable for many years after that, but college sent each of us in different directions. Eventually, we both married, lost touch and went our separate ways.
Sadly, our dream of being astronauts faded, but my hope is that Bellayre Mountain, Big Indian Lake and the old willow tree still held a special place in Brian’s heart.
Despite our lost dream, I’m so glad I shared the love of God with him. One day, we’ll still arrive at our destination in the heavens. Thank goodness we both learned long ago that no spaceship is needed to get there!