Summer may bring back memory of summer romances. There was that attractive person you met at summer camp, or at the beach during high school, or on vacation at your grandparents’ house. Maybe it developed into something–a few dates, letters back and forth for awhile, thoughts of that person when you lay in bed at night. No matter what came of it, chances are you learned something from the experience. Maybe it taught you to be more cautious the next time, or maybe you learned you should be more open to taking chances.
It seems to me there’s a place in our personal histories for stories about early crushes and romances. They shaped us in important ways and helped us grow up. What story could you tell?
Here’s a touching story from a student about the guy who got away…and then came back many decades later.
by Judy Huck
When I was in college I had a full social life. Thus, when my friend Evelyn requested that I go on a blind date with one of her friends out here from Kansas, I declined. She gave me her best puppy-dog pleading eyes and offered a sneak preview. So off we toodled to the beach, binoculars in bag for the great spying operation. We set up camp and retrieved the binoculars.
“There,” Evelyn whispered. “Down by the water.” I zeroed in on the group she pointed to. There were four of them, playing catch and enjoying themselves in the manner of land-locked boys who have discovered the ocean vista. One looked too dangerous. One looked too dorky. One looked too old. But the fourth—my, oh my! Tall and slender, with dark hair and good-looking to beat the band, this was my first sight of Jerry.
“O.K.,” I whispered back to Evelyn. “I’ll do it if I can have THAT one.” She okayed the condition and we went to meet them. Jerry and I dated for several months. We were compatible and fun-loving, and we had a great time. We talked of marriage, but it all came to nothing. He went back to Kansas to go to school and I returned to my full social life, eventually putting Jerry in the slot of fond memory and marrying someone else.
Forty years later an email came to my employer’s inbox. The receptionist rushed it to me. “If you are the Judy Griebel I dated forty years ago, I loved you then and I still love you”–Jerry.
We emailed back and forth, and he came to see me. It was marvelous, wonderful. We picked up where we left off and again made plans. It was not to be. He saw the difference in housing prices and what it would cost to relocate. He simply was not up to the financial risk at the age of 60. Two years later, I wrote about the experience. This was when I finally came to terms with reality.
It has been two years now, two years of adjusting and not adjusting, two years of checking the email, of picking up the phone and putting it down, of feeling that tinge of anticipation when the phone rings or I see a silver Avalon, or I walk out of work and wish to see Jerry standing there by my car, waiting for me as I am waiting for him. I don’t remember it being this difficult, this day to day longing for something that logic tells me will not happen, and common sense tells me should not happen. Logic and common sense do not seem to have much to do with this. It’s much more elemental, instinctive.
The other day I left the office to go to lunch. A Thursday, and I had not brought my lunch, so I decided to treat myself to Mexican food. I took a book with me, a Barbara Kingsolver about a woman who returns to her hometown to sort out her failure to establish meaningful relationships in her life. You would think this would be uncomfortable for me to read, a theme that points up my own problems in that area. In truth, Kingsolver writes with a whimsy and humor that kept the book from being oppressive, and I looked forward to bringing the story further along. Far from emphasizing my own failure, it gave me a sense of kinship with a woman who could write about this kind of relationship ignorance.
It was a lovely day, Southern California in January. A brisk windstorm of two days duration had blown the gunk out of the air. The sun was brilliant, the sky a gem blue, the clouds as white as untried dreams. The air retained a hint of winter, just a nip. That notwithstanding, I had a strong craving to be outside and requested a table on the patio. Sitting in the sun, I picked up my book and delved into it. The waiter knew my habits and kept his service light and considerate. He took my order, brought my food, and brought the bill, all at a minimum of interference. I read, I ate, I retreated from all concern. Time morphed and warped, Einstein’s plaything. The book and the food were the only realities I considered. I could have been there five minutes, I could have been there five hours, so far away was the press of the clock. The amazing thing was that I was there just the right amount of time. I left relaxed, contented, and on schedule.
As I walked out to the parking lot, I saw it. A black Corvette backed into its parking space. The rear end hugged the sidewalk and the long sleek front extended forward as if poised for quick getaway. The windows were tinted, so nothing broke the beautiful, speed-inspired lines. At that moment I could imagine Jerry leaning against it, arms casually folded, taking ownership as his due. In my mind his tall slender body was sheathed in tight levis and a white T-shirt. He wore dark glasses, which he took off at my approach to reveal those incredible blue eyes. I never got over those blue eyes. He smiled the warm grin that could suck me under. This is Jerry of my memories. This is Jerry as I had seen him even as I looked at the older reality. I wonder what he saw when he looked at me. Did he see the young girl incorporated into the woman I have become? Useless questions, never to be answered. I turned, walked to the Camry, and headed back to work.