Tuesday, July 27, 2010

first love (lyn)

Mine was Robert Briggs.  (If you don’t count James Garner as Brett Maverick).  

I’m not sure if Robert Briggs ever knew how I felt.  That I couldn’t eat if he were around.  That I planned for weeks which Valentine I would give him when I gave Valentines to everyone in my class of 36 students as a cover for giving him one.  That I’d get nervous standing next to him in class.

Bobby Briggs lived near me and we used to have playdates.  I remember going to his house and sitting at his kitchen table.  I don’t remember much more than that.  Were we eating?  Were we finger-painting?  Or was I just so happy to be near him that sitting at a table doing nothing was activity enough? 
I recently found a picture from my third grade glass at Whitman School.

 Bobby is the cute boy to my left, not the heavy one.   Me?  I’m the gawky-looking one in the bottom row, third from the left; the one with the very short bangs.  Growing up, the biggest fights I had with my father were over the length of my bangs.  Clearly in this picture I was wearing bangs that conformed to my father’s preference.  As I grew older, and more independent, my bangs grew longer and the fighting became more intense.  “You have such beautiful eyes, but who would know with your hair hanging in them?” was a constant refrain in our house.
I look at this picture and can name everyone in it, both first and last names.  Fifty years ago and I still remember.  And I’m sure that’s not unusual. The young boys wearing suits and ties.  The girls all dressed up for their class photo. 
I still see Marcie W (2nd row from bottom, 4th from left), although infrequently.  Her gregarious personality the same now as it was then.  Marcie and I were frequently called out for talking in class and put in the “Chatter Box.”  Two checks next to your name once it was written into the Chatter Box meant five minutes after school.  Marcie stayed after school a lot.  Or Kristina N (2nd row from bottom, last photo on right) whose dimples I envied, and whose grandfather was the Brockton superintendent of schools.  I was always a little nervous around Tina, fearing that if I misbehaved she’d report me to her grandfather.  Or Ann Marie B (2nd row from bottom, 2nd photo on left) who lived in my neighborhood and whose much-older father used to drive us to school in his Rambler, on mornings when we didn’t’ walk.   And the two pictures on the bottom right are Candace J and Johnnie G.  I read in May that Candace J, a noted Preservationist, suddenly died.    We, too, were neighbors.  She had a big aboveground swimming pool and would selectively invite people over to swim in it.  I would get an invitation on a Monday, and if on Tuesday she decided she didn’t like me anymore, the offer was rescinded.   My mother thought she was a mean little girl.  I think my mother was right.  And Johnnie G.  The second grader who was introduced to my first grade class one day, mid-year, and re-installed there.  He wasn’t yet ready for the rigors of second grade.  Each face has a story and strangely I remember them all.
But Robert Briggs was the one who made my heart flutter.
Alexander is a summer mentor at his school through next week.  Everyday he comes home with new stories about his bright third-grade students.  One of Alexander’s tasks is moving the kids from one building (or classroom) to another.  He’s working at the lower school of Horace Mann and is not familiar with its layout.  His first week there, one of his outspoken charges said, “You’re not a very good mentor; you keep getting us lost.”
Recently Alexander came home and pulled a piece of paper from his backpack.  It’s a card, of sorts, from another one of his students, a young girl, around eight.   When you’re in love, even handwriting can make you swoon.

I wonder if when Tatiana is my age, she’ll remember my son as I remember Robert Briggs.

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