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.
This was the year I fancied myself as being quite the “ladies man”…a disastrous endeavor on my part that would prove doubly embarrassing years later (just keep reading). Anyway, 2nd grade began well enough with me walking into class shyly with my head down (I had a tendency to do that in later grades as well), when I heard a sweet, familiar “Hi, Jason!”. I looked up and saw eyes that were just as excited to see mine as I was hers (and if I may digress for a moment, is there a better feeling than to see that someone is just as excited to see you as you are them? I want to experience that feeling again before I keel over…I’ll put that on my “Bucket List” along with space travel) – yep, Melissa and I were once again in the same classroom (two classrooms per grade)…this was going to be a good year.
Well, at recess we started playing this game called “Catch’em and Kiss’em”. The name of the game pretty much explained it all – we boys would chase the girls; catch’em; and kiss’em. Surprisingly, the teachers never broke up the game – it wasn’t until a month or so later that the Principal got a call from an angry parent and in turn gave us a talking to, ending that little game. Anyway, this was the game that started my ill-fated “ladies man” persona. It was the same group of us that usually played – Melissa did not play…until it was time for her to teach me a lesson. She would often watch from the edge of the pavement (we played our game in the grass) hanging out with her friend Rosie (I think) and as I ran by and tried to get her to play, she would usually just give me a look – not of anger – but of disappointment. I continued to have fun and play, winning many “battles” (i.e. catching and kissing many girls in front of her); but she ended up making a shrewd move that won the “war”. I continued to try and get her to play, and one day, to my amazement, she did. She ran out on the “field” and immediately got chased by other boys. Then she got caught by other boys…a little too easily I thought. Then she got kissed by other boys...wait a minute, this isn’t cool! The next boy that went after her, I chased behind and, maybe not too accidently, tripped out of the way and began the chase myself. Well, she sure was making more of an effort to evade my attempts at catching her than she did with the other boys, and the more I missed, the more she laughed! I eventually caught her, out of breath, tried to kiss her, but she dodged me (I got a bit of her cheek as I recall) and instead led me over to a big tire that stuck half out of ground (we had a bunch of those around the playground). We got under the tire, each with our back to either side of it, pressing our feet up against each other’s in the middle. We spent the rest of that recess just watching and laughing at all the others playing and just enjoying each other’s company. It was great. We spent the next few recesses going to that same tire and doing the same thing. Point, Set, and Match to her but I still felt like the winner. It wasn’t too much longer when the Principal put the kibosh on that game and we all found other games to play at recess.
However, during the time of this game I developed another of my “ladies man” techniques. A technique that, outwardly, was done to woo all the girls in class; inwardly, it was done for just…Melissa. Besides my habit of wearing big belt buckles with my name on them (Urban “Dammit, Sissy!” Cowboy and The Dukes of Hazzard were popular at the time so I wanted to be like Bud and the Duke boys), I also had to have my hair perfectly combed – not one hair was allowed to stand up! If water wouldn’t do the trick, then I resorted to dousing my head with cheap cologne – I shit you not. I basically ended up with a perfect helmet of hair that would make any Lego figure jealous. It was all so ridiculous but the girls liked me that year for whatever reason. So, when we re-arranged our chairs to watch the Electric Company in class (on what had to of been the first VCR’s ever made – the tapes were huge!) I usually had a rotation of girls on either side of me who each had asked to sit by me. I thought I was pretty cool. Every so often, I would look in Melissa’s direction and she would just give me this look like she was going to kick me square in the balls before she would ever ask to sit by me. I don’t know why I did what I did because Melissa was the only one I really ever wanted to sit by. When I look back at it, I was basically just being a d-bag who took her feelings for granted and pretty much wanted every girl to like me. I was so stupid. Eventually, I did ask her to sit by me and luckily she did…and…she mentioned that my hair smelled good – thank you cheap cologne!
The one who would be the bane of my existence was a new boy named Alex. He was our age yet he acted like he was 20 years older, and had a streak of gray hair on one side (seriously, who has gray hair at that age?!). He always liked to spout off various facts like he was so much smarter than everyone else…what an asshole. That aside, he would soon become the “Khan” to my “Captain Kirk”; the “Wil Wheaton” to my “Sheldon Cooper”. The reason: he became Melissa’s boyfriend. Aaarrrgh! What added insult to injury was that he treated her the way I should have treated her the whole time – he was always nice and spent every free moment of the school day glued to her side…pissed me off. Well, I semi-routinely made snarky comments about them being together in front of them. I don’t remember what I said, but I just know Melissa wasn’t too happy with me. I did it not only because I was jealous of course, but I noticed a change in her personality…she was still as nice and sweet as ever, but the sassy, clever side of her that I liked so well seemed to fade away. I guess I wanted to get a rise out of her somehow. Well, during one recess, things came to a head and I got my reaction. After I said something stupid, a couple of the boys mockingly held my arms and told Melissa to punch me. I looked at her, she looked at me, and she reared back and actually punched me square in the stomach! The two boys couldn’t believe it, but I smiled at her thinking “Now, there’s the spirit! That’s the Melissa I know and love,” and she ended up cracking a smile in my direction – she was trying not to, but she did. Eventually, Alex and his cavalcade of useless facts must have worn thin on her, because they stopped hanging around each other much. Yes!
Meanwhile, the new girl from that year, Jessica, and I eventually hit it off and she kind of became my girlfriend. She was pretty neat from what I remember…but she still wasn’t Melissa. Our little relationship started not too long before Alex and Melissa stopped being an item and was going along for a bit afterwards until one day out of the blue…Jessica had to move away. The day she left is the only real memory I still have of her. We were all in class when the Principal drops in and announces that Jessica is moving to Louisiana and is now leaving. I was sitting by the door and she was sitting on the opposite side of the room across from me (our desks were arranged in a “U-shape”). We just sat and stared at each other for a minute – I still remember the sad look in her eyes. Then she got up, and we just continued to stare at each other as she walked out the door to what I hope has been a good life. That was that.
So, at this point, I had some work to do. I needed to know that Melissa didn’t think I was a total booger. I couldn’t just ask her of course, that would make too much sense. Rather, I tried to impress her with my soccer skills at recess. Soccer became a big deal at recess at that time; me and my best friend, Bobby, liked taking turns being goalkeeper – we even wore gloves like the pros…we looked like dorks. Sometimes I played in the field though too. Well, while I don’t recall Melissa playing (she might have at times though) I do remember when she would be watching from the side. When I saw her looking in my direction, I always made sure to step up my game or try and make an ordinary play look a little more spectacular. Who knows if it had any effect?
However, I finally got my answer when it came time to do the dreaded Square Dancing in gym class. We did the ol’ dancing in 2nd grade as well and I remember being Melissa’s partner on a regular basis. This time, the girls got to pick who their partner would be. Sure enough, Melissa was one of the first called up to pick. Both of our classrooms were combined in the gym so she had the whole 3rd grade class to pick from. I didn’t like my odds. I remember her scanning the group while I waited to hopefully hear her say my name – or at the very least, not hear her say Alex’s name (Blech!). She finally looked in my direction and kind of gave me this look like “I don’t know, you’re kind of a booger.” – I didn’t take my eyes off her – then, I had my answer – she flashed that beaming smile of hers in my direction and said my name. Yes! She didn’t think I was a total booger! Now, I was pretty excited on the inside, but on the outside, I had to stay cool so I walked up to her like “ok, cool, whatever”. It was pretty great standing up there next to her waiting for others to pick their partners though. I honestly don’t remember how the actual dancing went, just the picking process and the joy I felt from that is what remains in my brain today.
Your friend, with love,