I remember my first love like it was yesterday, or perhaps I am just approaching that age where I remember things that happened in the sixties better than I remember what I had for breakfast this morning. Anyway, as I was saying, I remember my first love like it was yesterday. It happened at Shiloh Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio. Today, all that is left of Shiloh is an empty lot that looks far too small to even contain the dreams I had as a child much less a school with several hundred students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
I was in first grade, in Miss Davidson’s class and her name was Marion. I do not recall how it exactly began, but I do recall that I was a smitten young man and like a smitten young man, I began to plot my course of action to win her heart. I suppose it was an effort to allow each of us to get to know one another or perhaps it was a way to beak up the children that talked to each other too much, but whatever the reason, every couple of weeks, Miss Davidson would have everyone move up or back a desk. So, I knew that sooner or later I would have my opportunity, albeit brief, to sit close to Marion. I also knew this time would no doubt be one of the two most exciting things that would happen during first grade.
The other exciting event was the week when one was allowed the privilege of serving as the class “milkman.” In in those ancient days, we had no lunch room, so most kids brought lunch from home. If you brought a note from home, you could walk up to the drugstore. I usually had to walk home for lunch, all the way across the street behind the school, uphill both ways. Anyway, each week two students were chosen to collect the money and go down to the vending machines and get the drinks. It was a nickel for a carton of white or chocolate milk and a dime for a healthy bottle of 7-up, Orange Crush or Frostee Root Beer. You know nothing perks up a first-grader for an afternoon of education like a nice, cold bottle of flavored sugar. This was not only an exciting task, it may have well begun my career development preparing me for my days in banking and accounting!
But I digress, after what seemed like an eternity (of course a six-year-old has a very limited view of time), my time finally came and I got to sit next to my heart’s desire. Unfortunately, I took a little too much advantage of this opportunity by talking when I was supposed to be listening to Miss Davidson which resulted in my getting to stand by my desk for a while while the class continued. I do not believe I ever told my parents about this little indiscretion and it did not appear to affect my conduct grade. (Yes, I did check, I do still have my first grade report card doesn’t everyone??)
Perhaps my plan worked to an extent, for later that school year I received an invitation to Marion’s birthday party. I was excited about going and I’m sure my Mom helped me pick out just the right gift. However, my plans quickly unraveled when upon my arrival at the party I spotted another boy from Mrs. Thompson’s class by the name of Joe, who no doubt was destined to be my bitter rival for Marion’s affection. I recall little else from the party, no doubt I left despondent and downcast.
As fate would have it, one day at the conclusion of recess (yes, in those days gone by we actually went outside and played) young Joe seized the opportunity to kiss Marion before we went back inside for the afternoon. Lucky for this little Romeo (which prophetically rhymes with “Joe”) that was in the 60’s when everyone wanted to make love, not war. Today young Joe would probably have been suspended from the school and labeled as a sex offender which would have left me free to pursue Marian in a more subtle and refined manner. But alas, my opportunity had come and gone. Joe had seized the day while I had let it slip through my hands. I was only six, but love had done stomped on my heart and smashed that sucker flat. I was left to pick up the pieces and move on.
But fate makes some curious twists and turns. At the end of the school year Marion moved away and I never saw her again. I heard when I was in college that she was attending the same university I was at, but I did not even have an interest in tracking her down by that time and I am certain that I had been long forgotten. And what became of my rival Joe? Well as the years went on, we became great friends. We shared an apartment in college (until it burned down, another story for another day) and when my wedding day arrived, Joe was by my side serving as my best man.
Happy Valentine’s Day. You just never know how a good love story will turn out.