I was in about the third grade and I had not yet learned to tie my shoelaces when I first met her. Well, maybe I could tie them, I guess. But there were much more important things for a nine year old guy to do on a busy school day, than to keep his shoelaces tied. That was one of those things that you resorted to after stumbling onto your face or loosing a shoe while in hot pursuit of an “enemy” on the playground.
As I’ve suggested, the state of my laces were not a priority in my life. One day after a particularly nasty fall, I was approached by one of the older girls, Darlene, who took compassion on my plight. Kneeling before me, she graciously tied my laces. She cinched those puppies down so tight that it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up!
Wow! Standing hair! Goose-pimply skin. Sixty-three years later, those feelings still revisit me when I walk that memory lane.
“There now, Donny Bud,” she cooed sweetly, “Now you won’t hurt yourself any more!”
Well now, that was it for me! I was struck dumb! I had to get that feeling again! I raced around the corner of the schoolhouse and untied BOTH my shoes and casually wandered back to where she stood with her friends, just hoping that she would see my plight. It worked! She tied them for me three more times before the day was over.
Before the day was over, I was IN LOVE. That evening I filled the steamy bathroom window with hearts and DS + DR. I really was in love, wasn’t I?
I was invited to her home for an after-school party later in the year. She held a cupcake for me to taste. The group played Spin-the-Bottle to see who would get kissed by the birthday girl… but I couldn’t seem to win.
My darling Darlene! Darlene Roderick! But that love was not meant to be. It suffocated from separation and lack of attention. In our three-room country school She was too many grades ahead of me for me to ever be in the same room with her, or sit beside her.
Oh, I’m sure that I loved my mother before Darlene, but mothers just don’t produce that same kind of tingle. There were many, more practical loves that were to follow, but not many that I remember as well.