Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reminiscing about my favorite girl…

Sometimes people come into our life and have such a profound impact in such a short time with just their “being”, that – even though we may not get to spend as much time with them as we would like or even get to know as much about them as we would like – at some point, we just have to sit back, accept, and appreciate that somehow, for some reason, we were deemed special enough to be blessed by someone truly special – even if just for a moment that is quite fleeting in the whole scheme of things.

In the Fall of 1980, when I started 1st grade, just such a special person came into my life only to exit far too soon when I moved away in the Summer of 1983 after the end of 3rd grade.  She had long brown hair; big brown eyes; a beaming smile that could light the darkest of Grinch souls; and an angelic niceness tempered with a heaping helping of sass and cleverness to keep one in line (which I needed at times).  Her name…Melissa VanOsdol.  Such a powerful, unbridled joy I felt with her that I’ve never felt since – oh, I’ve searched for that same feeling…through many avenues – but, 30-plus years later, it’s remained elusive.

She was the first girl to tell me I was “cute” (hello, ego boost!).  She was the first girl to say the words “I love you” to me who wasn’t my mom or grandma.  Obviously, the expression/meaning of those words when you’re the age of a 1st grader are comprised of a far lesser complexity than when you’re an adult – but – it still evokes a special feeling just the same.  Along these lines, she made this birthday card for me in class which I’ve kept in a safe place after all these years:

Outside of card

Inside of card

I do regret, as innocent as those three words were at the time, that I never said them back (to be fair, I’ve never said those three words as an adult either – they’re powerful words, more valuable than gold, so I keep them locked in a box labeled: “Open only in case of an extraordinary woman who is cool with my nerdiness”).

Anyway, that 1st grade year was pretty calm.  I don’t recall doing anything stupid, thus, I don’t recall Melissa and I ever being mad at each other – it was just a really special friendship…but always a bit different from the norm (I’ll explain later).  A lot of my memories of that year have faded away, but there are two that still stand out quite vividly. 
In the latter half of that grade (early 1981), Melissa was talking and giggling a bit too much for the teacher’s taste.  Well, back then, teachers still took us out in the hall and paddled us for misbehaving (I was never paddled…thank you).  She was taken out to the hall; our class got silent; and soon we heard the SMACK of the wooden paddle.  A few moments later, she came back in with tears in those big brown eyes…it devastated me.  I wanted to run across the room and give her a comforting hug and kiss right then and there.

The second memory happened after the school year was over and we were on Summer break – I’m pretty sure anyway – the event timing is fuzzy now, but the details are forever (I hope) engrained into my brain.  Well, I received an invitation to her birthday party (I was the only boy invited).  I wasn’t able to go on the day it was being held, so my mom drove me over to her house a couple days before the party to give her a birthday card.  When she answered the door, she was eating little powdered sugar doughnuts and had powdered sugar all over her face – sporting her patented beaming smile the whole time.  It was so funny!  I never mentioned to her that she had powdered sugar all over her face – I just gave her the card, shyly blurted out a quick “Happy Birthday!”, and just as quickly, turned and went back to the car.  I heard her say “Thank you!” as I walked away and the door shut soon after.  To this day, when I see those little powdered sugar doughnuts in stores, I think of that moment and get the biggest smile on my face.  That memory is one of my most prized possessions.

1st grade class photo
UPDATE 3-18-2015:  Out of respect for the privacy of my old grade school classmates, whom I've always cherished (even the ones I didn't always get along with way back then - haha), I have removed my old classroom photo.  If I knew for sure that people would be respectful, then I would keep it up - but for now, it will stay down.

2nd grade: 1981- 1982
2nd grade began the series of “tug-of-wars” in our relationship. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

We've lost a visionary genius...

Ralph McQuarrie has died at the age of 82. 

More than anyone - yes, perhaps even more than George Lucas himself - Ralph McQuarrie was responsible for bringing "Star Wars" to life and changing millions of lives around the world...mine included.  "Star Wars" sparked my creative fire back in 1977 as a 3-year old, and from that point for many years to follow, I spent many an hour drawing pictures and conjuring up stories of all kinds - not just "Star Wars"-related.  So, to find out many years later as a teenager that this grand cinematic vision really sprang from a technical artist from Boeing was a bit of a surprise.  I bought every "Art of Star Wars"-related book I could find just so I could take in every detail of McQuarrie's works of art.  There were many times I wished that a version of "Star Wars" could have been made that looked identical to the style of the paintings he created.  My personal favorite is his depiction of Luke scanning the far-off Mos Eisley spaceport atop a high cliff - I can sit and stare at that painting and just get lost in can almost feel the heat from the twin suns and hear a desolate wind blowing through.

What an amazing talent Mr. McQuarrie was - he may be best known for his "Star Wars"-related work, but it's really just one piece of an incredible portfolio.  Check out his website and be amazed.