“He who takes offense when none is intended is a fool” -Confucius (or Brigham Young)
Update 08/20/13: I was reminded that we are not always right when we remember things and I think when I originally wrote this, I had a misconstrued vision of some memories based off of my depression I had at the time I originally wrote this mixed with not having truly let go of a negative emotions I held onto for far too long which attributed to me showing Court in not such a positive light. For this I am sorry and wanted to take some time to, well pretty much re-write this.
It was after a long year of living in a Holiday Inn in Tampa Florida (thanks to hurricane Andrew) that I moved to Utah. Before I had moved to Utah I have never heard of a Latter Day Saint. The first LDS church we drove past when we got here I distinctly remember my parents telling me: “Those are Mormons, they are really weird people, some of them can be nice, but most aren’t so stay away from them”. I remember my first day of school for fifth grade; everyone was at first, super friendly and nice, my first impression was “this was nothing like the kids in Florida” and for the first time in a long time, I felt I could let my defenses down. I felt this way until the question came up (as it always did) “so are you Mormon?”; I would let them know that I was not and after that I was a ghost to these kids (most of which I would grow up with). There was one kid who just happened to be the most popular kid in class; he didn’t treat me like the others, in fact we quickly became best Friends. That kid would be Courtlund Berg.
Courtlund lived down the street from me and was LDS. He was a cute kid who grew up into a handsome man. He was very down to earth, fun, hard working, nice and giving, but was very trendy and could be a little bit of a follower to the point that he could do mean or foolish things because others were doing them but yet at the same time would shrug off the expectations of the people around him and could be a rebel in his own regard.The first follower in him that I saw was something I think we are all guilty of as some point in time (or all the time in some cases) but it was the ability to shrug off the expectations of others was what I thought was different and great about him, even more so in a time of such tremendous peer pressure. He also had this ability to have others follow him at the drop of a dime, to look up or admire him, I know I always did and always craved his approval. He was the first person I ever really tried to follow and he helped me go out of my comfort zone a few times, I also learned that sometimes why you’ve decided to go out of that zone isn’t always for you.
He was the first real best friend I ever really had, the first real friend in general that I ever had as before then my “friends” consisted of kids that would try to use me. We hung out all the time, well except for when he had church which I never really had an interest at the time. We almost always hung out at my house, very rarely did we his, but when we did it was always fun. When at his house we’d jump on his trampoline, or sleep out in his back yard and pig out on junk food and drink IBC cream soda all night. We would play Super NES in his kitchen or listen to Easy-E and Ice Cube in his living room when his parents where gone. I also remember his sister Melissa was always such an jerk to us while his other sister I used to try to flirt with. I remember once she baby sat me while my parents went to Wendover for the weekend, I was hoping the whole time that 18 year old Heather would make a move on 5th grade me. During the summers I would always have to wait for him to get up because I was always up at 9 while he was up at noon; it always seemed like an eternity for him to get up. Once he was up we would normally go get free lunch at Lakeview Elementary school and then head to the Barn (the church’s indoor basket ball court) to hop the fence to the back where we hid old Playboys from the 70’s in one of the old electrical boxes. I used to go with him to watch him practice for football and then we’d come plop down and watch TV in my basement. The time we spent together seemed like make up for such a lonely childhood up till that point and I still remember those times and hold them in fondness.
When we started JR high we started slowly growing apart. I believe that this was due to the mix of peer pressures of being teenagers. Trying to discover ourselves while at the same time trying out different stereotypes to use as armor against this new world; the way that only teens seem to be able to do that makes it seem as easy as changing an outfit.
Back then I saw him as a popular rich kid, which was odd considering we lived a street away from each other. I think the reason why I had this perspective of him is because he always had the name brand clothes of the time, always was in fashion, always seemed to have more then me, everyone was or wanted to be his friend, and he was generally everything I wanted to be but wasn’t.
As I stated before, I craved his approval and would follow him which I always seemed to fail miserably at. This ranged from trying to cut my hair like his, trying to wear clothes the same way he did, to trying to act the same way and have the same friends. I always looked like I was trying too hard and I really was. I was trying to be something I wasn’t and didn’t really want to be, but because I wanted his approval so much I tried to become that. After trying to be like him and fit in with his other friends, I decided to go more into “my own” route and went through a couple of different other stereotypes ranging from “Gangsta” and then trying and settling into “Hippie Stoner”. As I was trying “find myself” I had started resenting the “preppy” and “rich kids” that I typcasted Courtlund to be apart of and in a sense, started to resent him without even realizing it.
Outside of school and away from all of that we where still friends and hanging out, even if that time together was starting to shrink. I remember one of our times hanging out we tried cigarettes for the first time. After an early out day went to smoke behind the bowling ally in Roy because there was a under pass there that people would tag graffiti, hang out, and do the things they didn’t want others catching them doing. We hid ourselves right under the road were Riverdale and Roy meet in the crevice of the underpass that bums would normally sleep in and we lit up a couple of cancer sticks. We both coughed our butts off while catching that really good buzz you get the first time you smoke. Once we where done we started running down the underpass towards the railroad tracks and I ended up tripping at the bottom and fell down. My knee made a solid connection on the train tracks which as you wold imagine, hurt pretty bad.
Our friendship at that time ended around the first half of eighth grade. By then we where mostly hanging our with other people more often then not, I had become a regular smoker and start smoking pot fitting more into my stereotype while Courtlund at the time was trying to be more active in the church and staying away from the things that I was starting to embrace. I honestly don’t remember when we both realized that our friendship was done but I do remember some harsh words being said in Ms. Beals Science class and that was the last time we would speak for a little while, at least that I remember. After a while he and his family moved to Bountiful and we both finished school and started our lives as adults.
The next time I would see or speak to Court would be from a tragic even in his life, I think the year was 2002. His sister Heather had died and they where having a viewing at the LDS central stake building next to my parents house in Roy. I don’t remember if he called me first to let me know or if I had read it in the paper but either way I wanted to make sure to be there for him, and to pay my respects. I showed up at the viewing really early and was extremely nervous because I wasn’t sure what would happen when I saw him in person and felt really out of place. When I saw him though it was a humbling experience and everything was water under the bridge. Because I showed up to Heathers viewing I ended up being invited and rode with Court and his wife to the funeral, we had a good drive to her burial plot and we took the time to talk and get to know each other again. The funeral and weather I remember being so beautiful and I felt something that to this day I can’t seem to place a finger on. After this we would hang out a handful of times but as it seems to happen as adults, we lost touch of each other and moved on to other things.
The next time I would see Court would be after I decided to become a member of the LDS church. He was honestly one of the first people I wanted to tell and invite to my baptism. The reason why is because he was my first real friend and showed me that not LDS people where bad at a time when I was getting the impression that my parent where right about the Mormons after all. I took some time to track him down and invited him out to lunch at a curry joint by his home in Layton and we talked about my conversion, religion as a whole, and of course catch up as it had been a few years since we spoke last. I was honestly disappointed because Courtlund was no longer active in the church and did not believe in it which some of what he said about it I could understand but deep down inside I felt a little hurt which I now attribute to my insecurity at the time about the choice I was making in joining the church. At the baptism I was happy to see him and hoped that it might light a fire in him again to become active until we all ended up at Coopers house for the after party. He and another friend showed up and ended up mostly sticking to themselves making some jokes about the culture of Mormons that was relevant to the event. Regardless of their intent, I choose to see it as a mean and non supportive move at a time when I was very unsure of myself, and my decision. What I wish I would have decided to focus on and seen at the time was the fact that he was there, he supported and was proud of me for my choice and that I was embarking on something to better myself, he told me that multiple times and even hugged me a couple of times. How was it that I was able to look back and focus on a hurt that was never intended? I think insecurity and confusion played the biggest parts, I wanted to join the church so bad and had some questions still and wasn’t sure that I was making the right choice and when I spoke to Court, he had made observations and asked me questions that had made those feelings worse so I instead of being smart, I got mad for no real reason in order to justify and make myself feel better.
These days we talk every once in a while, he’s now a father of a cute little girl and has another on the way. He works hard and in the end, is still the same person I’ve always known him to be. Who is Courtlund? He’s everything that his actions show that he is and nothing that I’ve perceived him to be in the past that I used to justify my own insecurity or anger. He’s the same guy that is still willing to call me a friend even after reading my original post and coming to me rationally. He is and always will be the same kid that came up to me and showed me what a real friend is. Thank you Courtlund for everything you’ve done for me.