Remember teen angst? The terror of being in the presence of someone you admire? Pulling petals off of helpless flowers; she loves me, she loves me not?
Those times weren’t so tough considering truly hard things like boot camp or a child with a temperature of 104 on a Friday night. But it seemed like I would drown in the pool of not knowing whether this girl or that felt the same way about me as I felt about her.
Then one day I met a girl on a hill at an October sunset. She was a curiosity and a conversationalist. Our tastes were so similar and talking was easy. Our experiences were different and knowledge disparate, but the foundation was the same.
Oldest child, built-in babysitter, lower strata of local society, tied to Old Saybrook by history more than family, little hope of affording college, a lover of lyrics more than melody, woods walker, and from a world that revolved around the aesthetic trinity of beauty, goodness, and truth.
My parents were much the same as the two of us. Kindred souls with a thousand similarities and familiarities, brought together by art and poetry. Everything in common and nothing going for them. Their kryptonite was his family. Ours was my expectations.
But now I’m ahead of myself. In the beginning we were just two kids talking. We weren’t instantly attracted, so we could get comfortable with each other. We hung out together with my young siblings at first, but we soon felt the need to be alone. Time alone led to that first kiss. And then came the questions in my head and heart.
I recall wondering what attracted me. Skin-deep beauty? No, she was not my “type”. Her eyes weren’t even blue! Carefree spirit? No, she was fun, but underneath there was brooding, much the same as me. Animal attraction? No, that has never been me. It was mostly ideas, shared dreams, and similar imaginations. It wasn’t a “dating” situation. Time in her presence inspired me to be a better me. How rare is that? By that I knew I had a friend. But was it more?
As JJ had pointed out when we first met, I was still in high school, with the days often extended by soccer practice and games. She had a part-time job in town and I had an evening and weekends job at the local Caldor department store, plus babysitting duties. Our opportunities to get together seemed limited. Friday nights and Sunday evenings were our only regular free times.
At that point we hadn’t moved beyond friends. I hadn’t met her parents or even her siblings. My family still thought of her as a friend to my seven-year-old sister and four-year-old brother. But one day everything about our relationship changed.
I don’t recall if it was a Tuesday or a Thursday, but my soccer team had a home game. As a senior with a solid build and no fear, I had the anchor position of left fullback. I played start to finish every game, so there was no question I’d be there.
In my imagination, something blossomed in her heart that day. She walked out of her front door and headed for my school. Seems simple, right? But she lived in view of the Connecticut River while I went to school three towns away in Madison. It wasn’t walking distance. So, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, she put out her thumb and set out for a place she had heard of, but never seen.
When she showed up at my school in the middle of the afternoon, to say it surprised me would have come short of the mark by half. I had a new realization, a new understanding of love. There was no question. My parents hardly ever came to a game. One grandmother made it to a few. But here was a girl with love in her big, brown eyes, who got lost on the way, showing up on shanks’ mare. I’d never heard anything more romantic. My ego was swollen that day, and my performance on the soccer field was superhuman.
After that we became almost inseparable. Some days she came with me to spend the day with the rug rats and the soccer team. She was there the day the team had their yearbook photo session, so we immortalized her as an honorary member by including her in our team photo. That was a winning year for the team. And that was my winning season, too.