You probably don’t think that an old guy like me can recall a time way back in 4th grade, or vividly remember a romantic moment. However, I can very well remember one particular time my heart was all a flutter. The desks in our classroom were arranged into two semi-circular rows and there was this little girl- well, she was a big girl then- who sat directly across the room from me. I noticed after several days, SHE would be staring at me whenever I glanced her way. I remember her stare was so intense that I felt my face burn a little hotter, and then, my eyes would shy away to the front of the room. It seemed like she stared at me for hours. But it was OK, because she was really beautiful and I was flattered. Then one day I got the courage to stare right back at her. I wondered which one would back down first. Tick ... tick ... tick. I don’t know why I did it, but spontaneously, I wiggled my ears. This is an absolute talent that I don’t think everybody possesses, sort of similar to rolling one’s tongue. In any case, she smiled. No giggle, no laugh, just a big beautiful smile. Then she looked away. I won. I am surprised that the teacher didn’t notice- maybe she did, but I don’t remember that part. But I do remember there was a very nice Valentine card that came to me from our classroom Valentine box- the one decorated with red and white crepe paper with the red hearts glued on. Then summer vacation came and I never saw her again.
Junior High school: we had a two week dance class during Gym. It was the only Gym class we didn’t have to don white shorts, shirts, and socks. The boys lined up around the outside boundary of the basketball court. The girls came in from their locker room, walked around the line of boys, and stopped at the boy she decided to choose for a partner. I’m glad that the choosing process wasn’t reversed so that boys had to chose the girls. I think I’d still be circling. In any case, SHE stopped in front of me, blinking a pair of pretty, big brown eyes. And she chose me again and again for the next two weeks. We learned to jitterbug, waltz, Samba, and a few other forgettable dance steps. This was in the days before “dirty dancing” of course. Then summer vacation came again, but the close of summer was different this time.
I went to a new school in our district when school started in the Fall. And unbelievably, there SHE was, my old dance partner from the previous year. I thought with certainty from Heaven above that this was fate. We didn’t have any classes together but gossip traveled easily among our classmates and soon we were a couple. She had to take the school bus home, but I lived close enough to ride my bicycle. I would chase after her bus and she would obligingly sit by the rear window so we could have that last look for about 5 to 10 minutes depending how fast I could pedal that day. Together, over the next year school year, we had our first dance, first chaperoned date, and first serious kiss. And first heartbreak. The details aren’t so important to recall now, as I am sure most others have been down the same road. I can’t say whether or not ours could be classified as a “puppy love”, but apparently the puppy grew into a shaggy dog and ran away.
I could describe other loves in my life, but these earliest two were my favorites, probably because they didn’t grow to adult proportions. I loved the woman I married and had children with. And I also loved the woman of my second marriage. These were serious, hard-working relationships in which we really got to know one another and adapted to the good and the bad in our partnerships. Obviously, they did not last. So, do not tell me that love never dies. It does- in some cases at least. But I still believe that the DREAM of romance must always endure.
I went to my mail box today, Valentine’s Day. Inside it was dark and cold and empty.
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