This is the story of a first love, a teenage crush, love found and lost.
|Strange that by my junior year I had never really noticed Julie. She was one class behind me in our high school of 81 students. She usually had a steady boy friend, and I wasn't one to go after another guy's girl. Or, maybe it was because she was the principal's daughter and the thought of that was rather frightening. Truth be told, I guess I only had eyes for another. One who showed no interest.
But one snowy winter night at a country sledding party I found myself standing next to her as we warmed ourselves by the bonfire. Snow was falling in those big, wet fluffy flakes, turning the world into a scene from a postcard. Cotton laden tree branches hung low from the extra weight. Absent streetlights, the stars filled a velvet sky.
Pots of heated cider and cocoa were kept warm next to the fire. Some of the girls were singing Christmas carols, their young voices crystal in the icy air.
Julie was wearing one of those blue metallic vinyl coats that were popular in those days. Her nose was red from the cold and snow flakes glistened in the fur surrounding her hood. That was the first time I noticed how beautiful she was.
"Isn't this a perfect moment?" she asked, the reflected firelight dancing in her eyes.
"It's more than that," I replied. "It's magical." Where that that reply came from, I don't know, but it seemed to delight her. And that delighted me. Her smile was dazzling. I don't know how I managed it, but that night everything I said was on the mark--clever, funny, just right. I fell in love with her laugh and her sense of humor. And that's how it started.
I didn't muster the courage to ask her out that night, but I couldn't get her out of my mind. The following Monday I saw her in the lunchroom and I carried my tray to a place next to her. Thankfully, her girl friends graciously picked up their trays and moved away giving us privacy. I took the plunge and asked her to a movie the following Saturday. I had never been comfortable with girls before but she was different and conversation was easy. We never ran out of things to talk about.
In the weeks that followed I found myself doodling her initials on my notebook and hoping she was as attracted to me as I was to her. Julie was in every thought I had.
Soon we were "going steady." We dated as often as her parents would allow the rest of that year and into my senior year. Friday nights were game nights. Julie was a cheerleader and in a school that small even a ho-hum athlete like me made the teams--football in fall, basketball in the winter and track in the spring. After games we met our friends at the malt shop. Yes, corny as it sounds, we had a malt shop.
In September of my senior year a student named Billy Adams transferred to our school. He was one of those 17 year-old guys who looked like he had been shaving for ten years. He was over six feet tall and weighed a solid 190 pounds. His thick black hair was combed into a ducktail. Tall dark and handsome Billy turned out to be an excellent athlete and to top it off, an A student. He should have been an easy guy to hate, but he wasn't. He was one of those rare guys who appealed to both sexes. A man's man. A ladies man.
Billy was a natural born leader and became quarterback for good old MHS and one of my best friends. For the first time ever we had a victorious football team. With Billy on the basketball squad we had high hopes for a winning season. It was a time of my life that I'll always remember with fondness. We had a great group of kids back then, and everyone got along.
I took Julie the homecoming dance. She looked fabulous in her yellow formal, with the red carnation corsage I bought for her. "Red and yeller, catch a feller," my mom used to say. Well, Julie had her feller. I danced with some of the other girls and some of the guys danced with Julie. It seemed she danced a few too many dances with Billy, but he was a good dancer and a good friend, so I was OK with it.
As fall turned to winter my thoughts were on the annual sledding party. I was looking forward to a repeat of the previous year because Julie had become a little distant and distracted and I was hoping to rekindle our romance.
When I called her to arrange a time to pick her up she said the three dreaded words, "We have to talk." To her credit she didn't do it over the phone. She insisted on meeting me. We met at a neutral location where we wouldn't be likely to run into any of our friends. She asked me to meet her at the pavilion in the park.
"I'm going to the sledding party with Billy," she said. "I'm so sorry." There it was. The earth dropped beneath me and I was physically sick to my stomach.
I walked home in a daze with two old songs running through my head:
"I introduced him to my darlin' and while they were dancin'
My friend stole my sweetheart from me."
And a song that was popular at the time:
"Oh, oh, oh, oh, Julie
You'll never know how I love you
Oh, oh, oh, oh, Julie
A teenage dream that can't come true."
I went to the sledding party. The scene was a repeat of the year before, but that night even the snow couldn't improve the look of the place.