Winter 1978: I lived in Klamath Falls Oregon and attended 7th grade at Brixner Junior High School. I was a band geek–I remember playing The Theme from Evergreen in band, and I still get the closing bars stuck in my head a couple of times a year. I was the only boy flute player. That didn’t make me popular with the girls OR the boys. I also had gone to about 10 different schools by that time, in 4 different towns, so I didn’t have experience really knowing people very well.
The thing to do on Saturday nights was to get dropped off by your parents at the skating rink. We would skate, play pinball, drink Cokes, and sometimes hang out at a booth. I wasn’t any great shakes as a skater–I could shoot the duck pretty well, but I could never skate backwards. I would watch as the couples would do the slow skate together, lights dimmed, facing each other with hands on each other’s hips, sometimes the guy skating backwards and sometimes the girl. I wanted to be one of those couples SO BAD, but I could never muster the courage to ask a girl to skate.
One time, I was playing the Tommy pinball machine when the lights went down. I’m pretty sure the song was Reminiscing by The Little River Band, one of my favorites. Just then, H____ D_____ came up behind me and asked if I wanted to skate with her. My heart leapt out of my chest. “Sure,” I said, trying not to sound too excited and trying to keep my hand from shaking. We just skated around holding hands, both facing forward – she in her denim-colored saddleback Dittos and me in my white bell bottoms. We didn’t talk or look at each other. I couldn’t think of anything to say that I didn’t think would make me sound stupid. But I soaked up the feeling of her hand in mine, and tried to flow with the gentle swinging of our arms.
When the song ended and the lights came back on, she just turned and smiled at me, and we gave each other a slight wave, from the hip, and then I watched her skate away. When my dad picked me up, I was silent on the way home in the truck, trying to remember her smell and the feeling of her hand. I thought about her all weekend.
On Monday, back at school, in Mr. Stauffer’s science class, I wrote RG + HD, surrounded by a heart, on my blue fabric-covered 3-ring binder, which also had signatures and logos and sayings all over it from other kids (that was a thing). At lunch, one of the other kids saw it right away and asked me if I was in love with Howdy Doody.
I don’t know how she found out, but at the end of lunch, H_____ D_____ came over to where I was sitting. She looked me straight in the eye, and said, “I’m not your girlfriend,” then turned and walked off. In math class, I dutifully filled in the heart with my blue ballpoint pen, and that was it. Not even a full day did that token stay on my notebook for me to look at and dream about. I don’t remember ever seeing or talking to HD again after that. I was totally ashamed that I had acted so one-sidedly, and I never wrote another girl’s initials next to mine again. I didn’t kiss a girl until my birthday party in 8th grade, and I didn’t have a girlfriend until 10th grade, but my heart fell in love many, many times.
And it still does. I don’t feel like my heart has grown up at all. Honestly, every trip to the grocery store is like playing pinball, waiting for someone to come up and ask me to slow skate.