Believe it or not, I can pinpoint the exact moments that I’ve fallen in love in my lifetime. Except for the first time. Perhaps that’s because I was so young, or maybe I was preoccupied with learning to read and tie my shoelaces. Nevertheless, in first grade I fell for this curly-haired brown-eyed boy with the cutest grin and freckles across his nose. I knew it was love because I wanted to kill this other girl from our class when she rode the roller coaster with him right there in front of me at my sixth birthday party at Funland. No more parties for her.
It didn’t get serious until the eighth grade. My friends already had dates to the biggest event of our lives – the Barwise Jr. High band banquet – but even down to the week before, I was determined to hold out until he asked me to go. I don’t remember what he said, or how I responded – only that I was giddy the rest of the day, like nothing else in the world mattered any more because he asked me.
Never before or since have I been so elated about going to Luby’s Cafeteria. In a stationwagon driven by his mother. It didn’t matter, because at that point, nothing short of spending the day with him at Six Flags could’ve topped that evening.
He showed up at my door in a navy blue blazer with a white turtleneck and plaid bellbottoms. And he’d spent a fortune on straightening his hair. My dress was long, made from material that looked like denim with strawberries all over it, in honor of Tony Orlando & Dawn’s1974 hit, “Who’s In the Strawberry Patch with Sally?” Not that I knew anything about how to get to the strawberry patch or what to do once I got there. At 13 I just liked the song.
After the banquet we sat in the balcony of the movie theatre downtown watching The Towering Inferno with a tub of popcorn, a box of Sugar Babies and a huge Dr. Pepper. We didn’t hold hands and he didn’t kiss me goodnight, but I remember not wanting that night to end. It was even better once one of our mothers didn’t have to drive us home.
You turn fifty first, John. Happy Birthday from the girl who still thinks you’re adorable.