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Winslow Homer, Snap the Whip. oil on canvas, 1872. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Christian A. Zabriskie, 1950, 50.41

Have you ever wondered what your friends would have been like to play with as kids? Mr S likes to, but he does have long hours on the commuter trains to fill, and I think by now he’s counted all the Bigfoot shelters along the route twice.

Sometimes we imagine one of our friends as the dirty, shirtless boy who plays hard until dark, until he realized he’s actually cut you with the stick sword, and you have to go home to get the blood cleaned up.

Another one might really be into building, but likes the process more than the result. Expect frank critiques, and lots of small parts, which ends in satisfaction and cookies. Sadly, when you come back, the creation is disassembled into neatly sorted constituent parts.

There’s the one who you partner with on a science fair project: you do the three-fold display with little samples of something, captioned. Too bad that when you win second prize and ask to take the display you designed and created home, you get hit under the eye with a lunch box for your trouble.

The Children of Nathan Starr. Oil on canvas by Ambrose Andrews, 1835. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987.404

Some friends are a little wilier: I don’t know how you get talked into licking something weird, but it can happen when you’re under ten. It’s not poisonous, but it is nasty. Sorry about that. Have some milk.

The bookish types aren’t all that safe either! Suddenly, on a windy day, you’re falling downstairs because Mary Poppins was far too convincing, and now Dad’s umbrella is ruined. Two strikes, and now your friend hears her mom calling her home? Pro tip: don’t play Wuthering Heights, Mill on the Floss, or Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Bonus note, and just trust me here: just leave the Brontes to Orson Welles.

Girl Skipping Rope. Tempera on board by Ben Shahn, 1943. MFA Boston,  1971.702

Girl Skipping Rope. Tempera on board by Ben Shahn, 1943. MFA Boston, 1971.702

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed all the games and stories we made up and played when I was kid with all kinds of friends, and I enjoy everything my friends and I do today. But sometimes I see the glint in a friend’s eye, and I know we are in for something I might wish my mom wouldn’t let me do.