Before I veer off into another enchanted story about my past and its relationship to the universal search for truth, justice and understanding beyond the American way, I want to issue a brief apology to my regular readers. I’m down to about one posting a week right now, and for that, I am sorry. The 3,000 and more visitors (and 8,500 hits) this blog and website receive each month serve as part of my motivation to keep writing, to keep pushing to publish Boy @ The Window. Your comments, good, bad and ugly, are all appreciated. Because I’ve touched someone’s heart, or a nerve, or tapped into a deep well of rage for many of you. I’ve been swamped with work, looking for work, and otherwise stuck with a variety of other projects that have kept me from posting more. All I can say is that I will continue to post at least once a week, as I originally promised when I started this back in June 2007, and more as time and my schedule allows.
And because of my schedule of late, I didn’t post nine days ago about the event twenty-eight years ago that led to my first true crush, my first glimpse at love beyond myself and my family. But this is not a story about Crush #1, one that I’ve probably told too often over the past three years as it is. The fact is, I’ve had other crushes, not nearly as long, as deep or as enduring, probably because I hadn’t started puberty in my pre-Crush #1 crushes. They did exist, though, and two of them may have foreshadowed what would and did occur in early March of ’82.
There’s nothing like having a crush in first grade. Most boys run as far away from girls as possible, even tomboys. Even my son Noah has decided that he’ll never kiss a girl, after spending most of kindergarten batting off potential kissers between his class and second grade. I went the other way in the spring of ’76. The first girl I ever kissed was named Diana. She was a delightful beauty, with both of upper front teeth growing in at the same time. Our seats were assigned so that we were right next to each other, so I saw her every day, with dainty clothes, pigtails and barrettes. One day she walked right up to me during recess, sometime in April, when the trees had flowers and pink and white petals would take off in the wind. She told me she liked me, and we were “boyfriend and girlfriend.”
And so we were, in our little six-year-old minds. We’d sometimes hold hands on the playground or she’d walk me the three doors down from Nathan Hale Elementary to my house at 425 South Sixth. But my favorite part was the “French kissing.” Mouth, tongues, and sometimes teeth collided between her and me as we struggled to kiss the way we figured adults did. Looking back, it would seem about as disgusting as me making out with myself after having not brushed my teeth for two days. But back then, it was heaven-on-Earth. Until Diana told me at the end of the school year that her family was moving away. I was sad after I waved and said “Goodbye!” to her on the last day of first grade. I don’t remember crying, though. I pouted, and missed her for all of a day or two. Such is the life of a kid whose memories may have been solid, but emotions remained fleeting.
Three and a half years later, I had another brief crush on a girl, this one in my fifth-grade class with the late Mrs. O’Daniels. “T” was the only girl my age that I liked in any way between Diana and Crush #1. I really don’t know why, I just did. She seemed both feminine and tomboyish at the same time, I guess. Long and lanky, cool and calm, pretty yet not beautiful (although she always smelled pretty good to me). Who knows what was in my nearly ten-year-old mind that would’ve allowed me to have a crush on her?
Mrs. O’Daniels (and, I presume, Ms. Bracey, the other fifth-grade teacher at Holmes Elementary, but I’m not sure about this) allowed us to have a party sometime around Halloween ’79. It was a candy and dance party, from what I remember. Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” from his Off the Wall album, was playing on Mrs. O’Daniels’ record player. I was dancing — sort of, in the way you can imagine someone being half a beat off dancing, anyway. “T” was dancing too, and completely coordinated. The girls danced with the girls, and only a few boys were brave enough to dance too, though more in a Soul Train-kind-of-way. Though I didn’t dance with “T”, the fact that we were on the dance floor of our classroom at the same time made me feel as if we had.
Of course, “T” went away as well. Right around Lake Placid time, in February ’80. Her family was moving to Philadelphia. We had talked, but it was all small talk, nothing about crushes or the big philosophical arguments I got into with male friends like Starling. But she did specifically say “Goodbye” to me. I wondered about that for a few days after “T” and her family moved to faraway Philly. I did miss her, miss whatever longings I had for her, but, I was only ten, and I had other things to think about, like buying more Matchbox cars or arguing with Starling about what Carter should do about the Iran hostage crisis. I had time to wonder about those things without the pressures of family dissolution and religious confusion back then.
When I add my half-year-long crush on my third-grade teacher Mrs. Shannon to this list, it seems to me that my crushes back then were on people that were just beyond my grasp (or well beyond the attainable, as the case may be). Maybe that’s the point though. Not that love is fleeting, or that I should’ve been more assertive in the case of “T” or Crush #1. Maybe I should take a line from Shakespeare about knowing that I could really fall head over heels for anyone, for a few days, weeks or months anyway. Better that than having my nose stuck in a book or the World Book Encyclopedia all the time, right?