Monday, September 14, 2009

Bodies of Water - Memories of Me Monday

{The memory jogger for today, as posted last Monday (click here to read last week's Memory of Me post): "Tell about how you feel about water -- playing in it -- seeing it -- tell about the various bodies of water you have seen and an experience or feeling about each."}

I don't remember the first time I saw the ocean, or the first lake that I dipped my toes into, or whether I was ever scared of water as a very young child, but I do remember that my first kiss took place underwater.

When I was ten I had my first boyfriend. His name was Alan Carter, and he was my older brother, Mike's, friend so he'd have been in the 6th grade while I was in 5th. At that time my brother was "going steady" with my best friend, Teri. The four of us used to hang around in the neighborhood acting all big because we were "couples." Of course, the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship at ages 10 & 11 didn't consist of much more than holding hands, and of Teri and I wearing St. Christopher's medals, given to use by the boys, around our necks. Still, it did give us a little boost up the elementary school playground social ladder!

I was quite shy, and so was Alan, at least when he was around me. He pretty much took his lead from my brother who, as a natural-born leader always had followers. One Saturday they came across a yard sale and they bought Teri and I each a stuffed animal. Mike paid 10 cents for the yellow bear he gave to Teri, and Alan spent a nickel for my green floppy-earned rabbit. Teri and I thought they were boss, and displayed them proudly in the center of our beds.

Another time, in early December,we were still outside past dark. I'm not sure how we got away with that; we were supposed to be home as soon as the streetlights came on. On this night, it had been dark for awhile, and the Christmas lights in our neighborhood were all on. It was a crisp and very clear southern California night. In spite of the streetlights and Christmas lights, the stars in the sky shone bright and crystal-white, and it seemed they hung very low over our heads. We could see decorated Christmas trees behind many of the large picture windows of the houses we walked past, and sometimes the movement of people. It was very quiet, and the only sound was the crunch of dry leaves under our shoes.

One house had a waist-high wooden fence covered with ivy and on twined with strands of Christmas lights. These were not the mini-lights, or the dangling icicle-style that you see everywhere now. The lights used in the late 60's were still the larger sized bulbs, painted in bold colors, and they probably used way more electricity than would now be considered eco-friendly. Nor did they stay cool to the touch the way most holiday lights do these days.

My brother stopped at the fence and took up an overly casual stance. Alan, Teri, and I gathered in a loose semi-circle, wondering what was up. Mike had a roguish look on his face that I was quite familiar with; he was about to do something he shouldn't.

Sure enough, he reached out and quickly unscrewed a red bulb. It went dark in his hand, came free of its base, and disappeared into the pocket his jacket. Chuckling, he strolled off. Teri and I stared at each other, momentarily stunned, but then we grinned because we were just as thrilled by Mike's daring than we were horrified at his thievery.

Alan saw his chance to also play the confident & daring bad-boy, and quickly followed Mike's example. He grasped a green bulb, twisted it, and slid it into his pocket. We hurried after my brother, Teri and I clutching each other and giggling almost hysterically. After we'd caught up with Mike and calmed down a bit, Teri moved forward to walk beside him and Mike draped an arm across her shoulders. Alan and I fell into step together and fell silent, shy again.

After a few minutes, Alan took my hand. That alone caused a ripple of sheer excitement to run down my back and warm my belly. Then Alan lifted my hand, placed the still-warm bulb in my palm, and closed my fingers over it. He guided my closed fist into his jacket pocket and slid his hand in with mind, wrapping his fingers around mine.

My knees went weak, and I knew I'd love him forever.

What can I say? I was ten, it was my first experience of what I would later learn to call
romance and, as it turned out, it was unforgettable. The underwater kiss? Oh, that had happened at least a couple of months earlier, possibly even before school started in September.

A group of us kids were at the local high school swimming pool which was open to the public when not in use by the school. Alan and I were standing on the edge of the pool. He was wearing one of those nose-clips that hold your nose shut and I was wearing a white rubber bathing cap. Alan was scared of the water which I found endearing and which made me brave enough to take his hand and together we jumped into the shallow end. In the brief moment that we were underwater Alan let go of my hand, grabbed my face, and pressed his lips against mine.

Afterwards I wondered what the big deal was, about kissing. Seemed like a cold, kinda slimy activity to me. Alan couldn't have been too impressed either because, as far as I can remember, we never bothered with it again. In fact, although we exchanged sheepish grins after our kiss, we never acknowledged it again in any way.

But I did love him forever.

Or, at least for the length of a ten-year-old girl's perception of "forever," which was probably two or three months. Whatever activities we were each involved in back then just kept us from seeing much of each other as the school year progressed and one day, without a word between us, I simply handed Alan his St. Christopher's medal as I passed him in the hall at school.

As school neared its end I had second thoughts. Maybe I'd remembered the fun of the summer and fall of the year before, maybe Teri had a new boyfriend and I felt left out, or perhaps I just wanted to feel again the way I'd felt when Alan pressed that warm bulb into the palm of my hand; I honestly can't remember what set me off but suddenly I wished I hadn't broken up with him. I wanted Alan back. I concocted a plan.

I labored over a letter, writing and re-writing it to get what I thought was just the right casual tone, but still making it clear that I missed him and, though I didn't come right out and say it, would like to be wearing his St. Christopher medal again. I took a stamp from my mom's supply and placed it on the envelope which held my precisely folded letter. Then I carefully drew a cancelled postmark, right down to the squiggly lines, copying a real one from a letter my parents had received. I wanted it to look like the mailman had delivered the letter, make it look official and important. I walked the four blocks to Alan's house, looked around to make sure no one was watching, then ran to his porch and slipped my note through the letterbox in the door.

A day or so later I received a reply -- just a piece of folded paper notepaper shoved through our own letterbox and which I just luckily found before anyone else did. Printed in black marker it was short, only a few sentences, and I only remember the very last line, but I remember it perfectly:

"If my girlfriend knew you were writing to me she'd kick your a**."

And that was that. The end of my first romance and the boy who kissed me underwater.

FOR NEXT WEEK! "Tell about how, when and where you learned to drive. Any memorable experiences?"

1 comment:

Elizabeth Peterson said...

Hey Debbie,
I love the way you write. You make it so vivid and real as if I were part of the story watching it all unfold. I love hearing about your family and your memories. I esp loved the grandpa one. I did not know your paternal grandpa but everything you wrote about our maternal Grandpa I add a big amen to!