Monday, July 27, 2009

Forty Years Ago

I met him. We were both teenagers. I was spending the summer with my dad, he was spending the summer at his family's camp on China Lake. My dad's girlfriend lived in an upstairs apartment at his uncle's huge house across from that very camp. To earn extra money for the summer he was spending most of his days painting his uncle's house.

His name was Jack. Tall, handsome as sin and a soft spoken boy of eighteen. I was younger than him, but very mature for my age. I had the figure of a woman, my hair fell to my waist. I'll never forget the first time we saw each other. I was wading in China Lake, wearing my favorite blue and while polka dot dress. He was watching me from the bank, just standing there with his friend.

As soon as our eyes met I became infatuated with him. And I'm pretty sure it was reciprocated, considering we spent every free moment together the rest of that summer. My favorite time was when we would lay under a secluded tree after dark, staring up at the stars and just talking. It was one of those nights that he gave me my first kiss. A soft, exploring kind of kiss that revealed he was just as nervous as me.

When summer ended and I had to leave, I cried all the way to the airport, which was five hours away. Jack joined the navy soon after and we wrote back and forth for two years. We exchanged pictures, talked on the phone and he sent me gifts.

Then the letter every young person hates to receive, when someone you love or think you love reveals they've met someone and are getting married. I remember Jack saying he had a decision to make and he was afraid that no matter what he did, he would lose a good friend. I wasn't stupid, I knew what he was talking about. I have to be honest and say at the time that I told Jack I was happy for him. I wrote him one last letter and never heard from him again.

Why is it that one summer remains with me so vivid after all these years? I don't dwell on it, or Jack, but once in a while something will remind me of him. Or I'll have a dream and wake up with him on my mind. And worse, my cousin will call and tell me she's heard this or that about him. She's close to his family and has had occasions to visit with him and his wife and they email back and forth.

Over the years I've seen glimpses of him when I've gone home to visit and he just happens to be visiting his family at the same time. Then that summer comes back to haunt me with what was...what could have been. And that's silly.

So, what is it? Why are there times when I think about him that I feel so melancholy? My gosh, for the most part I've had a happy life. I went on and found my prince charming...twice:) Is it the loss of youth that bothers me? A time of innocence in a small town of days spent in the lake or down at the ice cream stand with friends? I wish I knew.

How many of you have something in your past that you can't seem to let go of?


Kathleen said...

Funny how some memories stay so clear even the bittersweet ones.

margaret blake said...

Yes, I think we all have these "what if memories"
A lovely story, I so
enjoyed it.