Archive for January, 2008

New Year… knew you

January 7, 2008

I remember when I was in school; long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…

I was in Kindergarten. Kindergarten was quite the experience for me. I was raised without brothers, suddenly I was in a room with about 12-13 other boys. I was eventually raised with six sisters, but at that time I had only the first three. My oldest sister is 10 years my senior, my youngest is 3 years my junior.

While I was in school the first two years one of my sisters, Cyndi, attended the same school I did, being in 5th and eventually 6th grade. That was kinda handy… having my big sister around, checking on me… watching out for me. It made the transition from being a poor, shy kid to being a poor, sociable kid tolerable. Because I was sociable… I loved school! Where else could you go have fun all day with your new found friends, with a playground full of fun things to do and a classroom full of fun things to learn?

Well, everything was going fairly well… we played dodge ball in the playground with the bigger kids. My sister liked to play tether ball and always managed to hit it way over my head… out of my reach. I really was no competition, but Cyndi enjoyed schooling me on not “roping” the ball. She would hit the ball with such force that it went whisking through the air, wrapping the rope tightly around the pole. Usually the ball struck the pole with such an impact that it unravelled back in the opposite direction. Some kids were tall enough that they could reach the ball way up on the top of the pole and hold it there momentarily, signalling that the game was officially over. Cyndi wasn’t very tall so she never liked it when someone was able to “hold the ball” on her, especially the boys.

One day I was minding my own business, just hanging out like most poor, formerly shy sociable Kindergarten kids do when awareness came knocking and …I fell in love. I met a girl named Francis.

Francis had sandy hair and brown eyes. She wore it short, but not in a pixie cut, it was almost a buffoon style, like a movie star. She was elegant for a five year old… and had a smile that told me being a boy was a pretty good thing. I was enthralled with her, wanted to be near her… even played the games girls played (like jacks or jump rope) just to be around her. The other boys mocked me but I didn’t care, being with her meant more to me than being favored by them.

She actually attended a different class than I did, so recess on the playground was the only time we’d see each other. There was this sort of unwritten code of honor amongst boys that once you singled a girl out and declared her as your own, everyone else layed off. But that wasn’t true with Francis, I had to use force a couple of times to prove my devotion to her because… she was the “it” girl of the Kindergarten class.

My older sister found my romance with Francis humorous to say the least. But I knew she was the one and proposed one day as we rocked back and forth on the teeter totter… and she said yes. My confidence soared that day! I remember telling Cyndi, “We’re getting married!” To which Francis added, “We have to grow up first!”

Summer away from school and Francis was pretty tough. Going from having a room full of kids to race around the floor at nap time with on our mats to practically solitare confinement was a bit of a shock. It left me feeling lost and disparaged. School was the great equalizer, even at an early age I found learning to be a rewarding challenge. I thrived on arts and crafts, even enjoyed music class and reading. I couldn’t wait to start back up again in the fall; to see my friends, to experience new things and enjoy freedom of expression and to rekindle my romance with Francis.

1st grade was real school. We stayed all day and got to pack a lunch. Every day was like a picnic! I usually had a sandwich made with peanut butter and jelly or bologna whose first name I don’t remember right now… and I had a Hostess cupcake or Twinkie. I loved Twinkies! Of course, sometimes I got potato chips, too, but Twinkies were the ultimate. I remember we all gathered in the gymnasium to eat lunch and swap food items with each other. No one ever wanted my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and no one ever got my Twinkies.

1st grade meant learning new things, and I gobbled up reading, writing and arithmatic. Francis was in my class and I was in heaven, trying my best to concentrate with her nearby. When she smiled at me my heart fluttered, I was not growing up fast enough.

Our first kiss was on that playground. It was the most awkward and innocent, clumsy beautiful thing I had ever done. She swept me off my feet, I was in awe of this girl and my heart was prodded with all the pangs of a first love. And when she smiled at me afterwards, I knew my place in the world was to be loved by a woman. A kind and gentle woman that would inspire me and make me want to be the best I could be. Being in love with Francis put my head in the clouds, I was invincible… I lacked nothing.

But one day my utopia ended and I learned that life is not always fair. Francis came and told me that her family was moving to California. My school was tucked between majestic oak trees on a sleepy little street in Iowa. Her moving meant I would never see her again. I remember I went home that day and wept bitterly. Cyndi did her best to comfort me but I was crushed and would not be comforted. With Francis gone school became hard. I had no one to show off in front of, no one to look over my shoulder at and receive a reassuring grin from, no one to plan my future with. Puppy love is not always gentle and kind, sometimes it is a Doberman… snarling and vicious. My experience with my first love is still fresh in my mind all these years later… and in Cyndi’s mind, too.

I know this because she called the other day and I had a bit of news. The best of news that only she could fully appreciate. I was in love and I wanted to marry this woman. This woman who made me feel whole and complete, this woman who made me want to be the best I could be, this woman who made me feel fresh and new as if I was in love for the first time. Echos of my playground romance, reminiscent of a period in my life that I had almost forgotten, a clumsy beautiful feeling that stirred my heart’s memory like no other since…

“Really?” she asked, remembering immediately who I was talking about and how much she had meant to me.

“Yes,” I replied, fully aware of the whole in my heart that had only recently been filled. “She is the one, Cyndi. I wasn’t looking, but she finally found me… at last.”

“Well, I’ll be… that’s wonderful!”

“It is, I have no doubt… she is my Francis, she is my soul mate.”

I guess the only reason I bring this up is because my bride to be has made me feel like that kid on the playground again. I want to climb up to the top of the monkey bars, be the master over all I survey and declare my exhuberance to the world.

My sweetheart is French Canadian. She told me the other night how fitting it was that my first love be named Francis because it it reminded one of Frances, which in turn could be France in which is derived French which is what she is.

I have gone full circle.

I never heard from Francis again. I have often wondered what became of her; if she married or became a movie star, what her politics were… if she ever returned to Iowa. I wondered if she thought of me. Could she have remembered the playground and the poor, shy/sociable boy who stole his first kiss then locked a lifetime of romanticism in his heart?

I am proud I knew you, my love… and grateful to know you now, again …as if for the first time.

Je t’aime beaucoup