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Saturday, September 23, 2006

My First Crush Ever

I saw her the other day. She came walking up about the time that the shadows were shifting and the light from the sun touched the marble slabs on the ground making it gleam gold before my swimming eyes. My back was against the tower as I jumped up and both of us recognized the other.
The Vulcan Tower...one of the few touristy things to do in Alabama...and I work there. As a tried and true Alabama tourist site would do; it does none other than attract tried and true Alabama tourists ...which would bring Alabamians from all the swamps, hills, cottonpatches, peanut fields, and even Alabama suburbia to meet at this rare shrine of Alabama (actually Italian) architecture. Where I meet the hordes of Alabama as well as the hordes from the very, very, small world (I'm from Alabama you see) outside the state. It would be no coincidence to meet my first puppy love at this place...at this site...beside this tower....below this iron god.

Her name was Jenny Donaldson. Her parents were the close friends of my parents. She had an older sister that was my older brother's age. And she was about my age...maybe a few years the younger. I don't remember much. I can't remember much. I must've been about 4 or 5. A boy at this age doesn't give much regard to his likings for a girl. He may be ostracized or ridiculed by the other boys of his Stars Wars collecting gang for such a thing. But I liked her nonetheless. Now, it was in no way the same passions that were to make fuller impressions when older. It was not that sweeping feeling that paints the world all wonderful. In no way was it the swaggering melancholia, the blessed pang, the drunken attentiveness, the sublime panic. Such love songs are reserved for later in life when our world is all rational and ordered by logic...then our chiefest delights are latched onto the irrational, and the absurd. The life of a man is such that from the beginning he will forever be systemizing himself to be in control and to not look like a fool. But the moment that that sweet look is delivered from those eyes...the man abandons his lessons of rationality and becomes a creature of chaos who in every way takes on the role of the fool.

But childhood is a different case. The kid's world is flooded in the irrational and absurd. His imagination is less confined. It's open and embraces both earth and sky, both dark and light. It's not fixed and aimed at one single point. He plays at the threshold of the incomprehensible with every object he picks up. He doesn't attempt to wed himself to the sublime; he hopscotches within it. And so his loves and affectations are more rational and practical. There are no games, no artifice, no hiding of the self, no self-deceit, nor pride, grudges, envy, and manipulation. If he hurts, he cries. If he is happy, he laughs. That is all. There is no need to second guess about him. His dependency is to the exact degree to which he must be dependent. Therefore a child's affections are practical...they are the most healthy.

Well, I don't know what it is was about her that made me turn my head. I mean I would just assume play with my Transformers. All the other girls at that age would come into Sunday school class all wrapped up in what looked like huge marshmallows. Their mothers would make them wear these enormous, bouncy dresses that had all this excessive fluffiness springing from their shoulders and every place that years later these same girls will try keep off even the slightest hint of volume. And then their bows that were attached so keisha-like to the top of their heads made them much taller than us boys. Which is the one offense a boy will not suffer and cannot suffer. That his schoolmate, a girl, may receive better grades then he, this is all right and rather to be expected. That this schoolmate may even be a favorite among all the adults, that merits nothing in the eyes of a boy. But that this girl be taller by several inches even if its because one of those gargantuan bows, this is the unpardonable trangression. And so begins the boy's first long, back and forth, adventure into misogyny. But apart from this dainty rustle of the Sunday school pageant there was Jenny...and I guess I cannot remember why I started liking her but it may well have been because of denim, for Jenny....ahh, Jenny wore jeans. And who knows she may have had gone the extra bit of winning my admiration by bearing grass stains on the knees of those jeans. For grass stains, were every bit a status symbol among us boys. I hardly had a pair that didn't escape this praiseworthy fate. While our parents were busy accumulating green dollars inside their pockets for buying bigger houses and driving shiny cars for their sense of worth; we were busy accumulating green splotches to go on the outside of our pants for our sense of worth. And a girl that wore green stains on her pants jeans was something to be marvelled at.

As noted before, I do not recall much of this crush...maybe because it didn't inconvenience me none. Nor did it lead anywhere. Back then, a boy had his crush. It had nothing to do with a relationship. It was all about role-playing in that fantasy land that we visited so much. Or at least role playing in our imaginations. Every boy was to be a hero...and every hero was to have his lady that he would rescue when time saw fit. But for the time being all a boy could do was wrestle with the other boys and play with his He-Man characters. All that the boy knew about relationships in fact was that the hero must rescue the lady. And so several boys, including myself, already had a girl picked out to be that lady. And it certainly wasn't anything to worry about. The only thing to worry about was that the girl would find out that she was to be the lady that you rescued before you actually did. And this you could not let happen. To face the dragon, the evil villian, or whatever monster you had to face to rescue her was not anywhere as frightning as that she may find out.

However, one day, at her parents' house, I remember this scene very vividly. It was one of those dinners where our family traveled over to visit her family. I recall one of those magic 8 ball fortune tellers that you ask a question to and then you shake and a little triangle would float up revealing the answer to the question. Well, my parents never bought us one of those balls. So naturally, as most toys that kids do not themselves possess, it always intrigued me. While all the adults were at the table talking (I don't know why they travelled all that way just to talk) and while the other kids were in the playroom (getting down to the real business of what makes these dinners worth going to.) I crept into the den where the mysterious 8 ball sat like a magical orb waiting to open up portals of truth to me. With sweaty palms and quiet breath, I clutched the darkened oracle....and spoke in whispered incantations,..."Will Jenny Donaldson marry me?" ....As my lips pronounced that sweet name I made sure I was extra quiet for she was in the next room playing "kitchen" probably and what if she knew I was asking her very own magic 8 ball about her being my lady that I rescue. The fear was enough to make any normal boy paralyzed. Then I awaited what this sphere that contained the pronouncement of the stars had to say. I shook and shook my destiny with my small hands....attempting at that young age to force it to cough up its divining knowledge.

The triangle bobbed in the magic ball, my eyes hung impatiently on the brink of my life being unfurled before them. A moment of restless mysticism and my predestination was sealed within a phrase, a simple sentence....of which I must admit catapults this story into an even longer procession of words and sentences which strenously begs the reader's attention as well as my own. So, I intend to leave this exhaustible story where it is and to pick it back up when those nostalagic fires or burning brightly once again. Until then......To be continued.....


Blogger Ken Haynes said...

Hey- thought you might like this show on NPR's "Speaking of Faith".....you can listen to the mp3 or realaudio here


7:34 PM  
Blogger Brian Harrison said...

Hey Ken,
Thanks for the website I glimpsed at it briefly now. And I have to admit that I've never read most of the authors on its opening page. I've been meaning to read more of Thomas Merton and Flannery O'Conner but you know how procrastination and distractions can get in the way. -There's just too much to read out there.

12:11 PM  

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