I wanted to wish you happy birthday.
I started to write
I'm so glad my childhood included you.
Sounded stiff like a Hallmark card so maybe
I love you.
Too mushy, or maybe too weird without any context, and it's been ages since we last walked around the block watching our shadows darken while the stars came out, so maybe
I miss you.
I miss running through the woods with you, the way the earth felt spongy and strong underfoot. I miss building whole-basement forts and doing homework and watching TV with you. The way I could dial your phone number without looking. That time you called to let me know my favourite song was on the radio. Sleeping out and catching fireflies. Hide and seek in the dark. That time we went to the store with your mom and at the checkout she realized her pants were on backwards and we laughed and laughed. (By the way, I understand how that's possible now.) I always felt a twinge of pointless jealousy every time you told me about a new girlfriend but they came and went and I wouldn't have traded our endless adventures for a few months of holding hands at the movies anyway.
I hope my kids have friends like you. I hope their childhood is full and sunny and happy, like ours. I hope they have good friends who tell them when they find frog's eggs clustered around cattails in the brook, who bike with them to Ripley's for ice cream on hot and boring summer days, who build homemade teeter totters and - even on rainy afternoons - knock on the door and ask if they wanna play.
I miss you. I love you. I'm so glad my childhood included you.