By Bob Strother
I was ten years old the first time I fell in love; stricken at church camp by a raven- haired beauty named Sandra Clarkson. It was love at first sight for me; second sight for Sandra, who had first set her sights on Barry – an older, bigger and better-looking version of me. Still, I followed her around like Pooh after honey, and four days into our week, my efforts were rewarded.
She approached me on her way to evening vespers. I leaned back against the big rock near the footpath between the girls’ cabins and the assembly hall, where I’d been waiting nonchalantly for nearly an hour to catch a glimpse of her.
“Becky told me that Barry told her he liked Sue Lyn Chambers.” She looked out over the lake as she mourned her loss, and absently twisted a strand of her shiny black hair. “So, if I can’t like Barry, I guess I’ll have to like you.”
Her words were music, sweet music to my ears.
“Okay,” I said, trying desperately to retain my casual facade.
I was searching for the courage to reach out and take her hand when the vespers chimes suddenly began clanging like a firehouse bell. We both jumped, and I sensed she was about to bolt for the assembly hall. I grabbed her wrist and pulled her behind the big rock.
“Can I kiss you?” I asked. My heart was pounding in my chest.
“Y-Yes,” she whispered back, and I could feel her own pulse racing under my hand.
We kissed, and I fell headlong into love’s sugary abyss.
Three weeks later, I waited for my love by the brightly lighted gateway to the Hamilton County Fairgrounds. Our “date” had been arranged at my insistence by my mom, who called her mom, who agreed to meet us at the fair on Friday night at seven. We arrived at six-thirty and I took up my vigil immediately.
“Honey, don’t you want to ride something or walk with us a while?” Mom put her hand on my shoulder. “You’ve got a good half-hour.”
“No,” I answered, already scanning the crowds heading our way. “I think I’ll just wait.”
At seven-thirty, my dad came around.
“Nothing yet, huh, Sport?”
“No, I imagine they’re just running late.” I turned and looked up at him. “They’ll probably be here any minute.”
He nodded. “Uh huh.”
Eight-thirty came and went. I remained; a lonely sentry – resolute.
At nine, my mom came back.
“Something must have come up,” she said. “I don’t believe they’re coming, so don’t you want to join us now? You’re missing all the fun.”
I finally did join my family, but I still missed all the fun.
I called on Saturday morning and indeed something had come up “at the last minute,” Sandra told me. She was sorry. You just couldn’t depend on parents.
I was staring at nothing out the living room window when Mom gently pried the receiver from my hand, checked for the dial tone, and put it back in its slot.
“Love hurts sometimes,” she said, ruffling my hair. “That’s how you know it’s real.
and I never saw each other again. She lived in
Still, I never forgot her, or the kiss – my first real kiss – or waiting by the gate for hours; the first in a lifetime of lessons in love.