When I was a wee lad back in the early sixties, I was convinced that Beaver Cleaver, of the TV show Leave It To Beaver, lived in our neighborhood, the Lakewood subdivision on the west side of Ann Arbor. I asked my mother to invite him to my seventh birthday party. Unwilling to shatter my illusion, she came up with an excuse of some sort about why he was unable to attend.

The good news that birthday was that I got a brand new bicycle with training wheels. I was only allowed to ride it up and down our short, straight street. But a few days after the party, my mother was in the kitchen making us some peanut butter sandwiches for lunch when the phone rang. It was a friend of hers, and even at that young age I knew that she would be on the phone for a while.

So I decided to go on a little adventure. I got on my new bike and turned down the road that led to the lower part of the neighborhood.

When I came to houses I hadn’t seen before, I started to call out, “Beaver! Beaverrrr! Has anyone seen the Beaver? Can Beaver come out to play?”

As you might expect, I got some pretty strange looks from the neighbors. But I was convinced that my TV buddy would run out of one of these houses and warmly greet me. Then he would introduce me to Whitey and Larry Mondello, and they would show me the park where they always played.

I kept riding and calling, but Beaver never answered. Where could he be? Finally, about six blocks from home, there were no more houses, just the lake that I’d heard about. I sat on the dock eating my sandwich and throwing bits of it in the water so the little fish would swim up and eat them. I was starting to think that Beaver probably didn’t live in Lakewood, although I was still certain that he lived somewhere in Ann Arbor.

As I started the long trip home, I discovered, for the first time, that riding a bicycle uphill is a lot less fun than riding one downhill. With frequent stops to rest, it took me twenty minutes to get back.

When I finally turned the corner onto my own street, I could see my mother in our front yard. I could hear her screaming at me all the way down the block. I toyed with the idea of turning around and returning to the serenity of the lake. But I realized that I would be in even more trouble if I did, so I went home to face the music.

When I got there, she was more angry than I had ever seen her. When she was finished screaming, she asked me where I went and why I’d left the street when she had made my boundaries very clear to me. I told her the truth: “I wanted to find Beaver Cleaver, Mommy. I want to be friends with him.”

This calmed her somewhat, and she let me off easy. She even made my favorite lunch, which was (is) a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup and chocolate milk.

The emotional day and the physical exertion left me exhausted, so I went to bed early. As I feel asleep I felt bad about not finding the Beaver. But I was convinced that on my next journey I would find Dennis the Menace, and that raised my spirits.