Dear First Love,
And they called it puppy love…
I remember my mom using that expression when you and I broke up. I hated her for saying it. It was cruel. I knew what she meant. That it wasn’t real. That it didn’t count. But that wasn’t true.
I was 13 and you were 14 when we met. You and your friend came by our house on a Saturday morning just as my dad and I were about to do our weekly yard work. Summer had just begun as had your lawn service business, and you were looking for yards to mow. I heard my dad talking to someone as I opened the kitchen door to step into the garage. I saw your friend first. Tall, blonde, big brown eyes. He was giving my dad his best sales pitch. He was very convincing. I felt kinda bad for him, my dad would never pay someone else to do the yard when he got free slave labor from me.
I didn’t see you at first. You were around the corner on the walkway that led to the front door. As I ventured to the edge of the garage where it met the driveway, we saw each other at the same time. Our blue eyes met, and when you smiled, your eyes did too. My knees disappeared, I thought for sure I was going to fall. We stared at each other unable to look away. I was completely lost in your gaze. It was my father’s voice that jolted me back to reality.
“Tonia, do you know these young men?” he asked me. Unsure that I could speak, I shook my head. Just then your friend said, “Hi, I’m David.” He looked at you, nudging you with his eyebrows, but you didn’t speak. Our eyes were still locked. “And this is Jeff” he said, elbowing you gently. Jeff. Jeff…. I let your name roll around in my head. “Hi.” you said, in a much deeper voice than I’d expected. I could feel my father’s eyes on me. “I’m Tonia.” I finally managed to say. You said you’d seen me on the bus, which caught me off guard because I was pretty sure I’d remember if I had seen you before. Then again, your neighborhood got picked up first and dropped off last, and I rarely looked towards the back of the bus where you probably sat. That’s where all the cool kids sat and you were dripping cool. Ok, it might have been sweat, but you were oozing something and I was already infected…
My dad sent you guys on your way saying he’d call you if he ever needed any help which I knew would never happen, because – uh – free labor. Off you went walking down my driveway. When you reached the end – you stopped and turned to me. “Bye. I’ll see you on the bus,” you said, with those smiling blue eyes. I’d never felt that kinda tingle before. I glimpsed you several more time in the next hour or so as you made your way around my cul-de-sac selling your services. It was the first time I can remember being self conscious. Why did I wear these shorts today? Does my hair look goofy in this bandana?
You and David developed a steady clientele and we started seeing each other around the neighborhood on a regular basis. Our first, up close and personal experience, happened when you knocked on my front door one hot afternoon. I knew it was you because when I heard the lawnmower earlier in the day I looked out the window to see if it was you like I did every time I heard a mower now. I answered the door and you asked with a smile that melted my heart, if you could maybe get a glass of water. Even all sweaty and hot, you looked good. My mom let me give you guys drinks, and after that, you started coming over just to see me. We talked about everything. We took long walks around our sub-divisions, spent hours at the local playground, and put hundreds of miles on our bikes. It was a glorious summer.
I’m pretty sure my mother thought we spent too much time together. She wouldn’t come out and say it, but she hinted at it and sometimes contorted her face when I asked to go meet you. I think she thought you were a good distraction for me. Things were not good between my father and I, and she didn’t know how to make it better. So the summer flew by and school began. I went to 8th grade and you started high school. I was nervous about you going and what it would mean for us, but you assured me I had no worries. And you were right. We only grew closer that year; falling in love with each other. We became more affectionate, but never going “too far.” Your dad had told you to “keep it in your pants if you didn’t want to be a daddy” and neither of us wanted to have to face that, so we never did. Looking back now, I would have adored if my first time had been with you. You made me feel so safe, and special, and loved, the way your first time should be.
My parents moved our family out of the school district late the next summer and I started high school at a rival school that fall. You and I tried to keep it going, but space, and time, and too many distractions got between us, and we eventually ended it. It broke both of our hearts, but we felt mature in making the decision. We occasionally saw each other at football games and parties over the next few years, but our lives were filled with whatever it is teenage lives are full of, and time moved us forward.
The last time I saw you was shortly before I got married. You shocked me by showing up at the Mall where I worked, and asked if I could take a break so we could talk. It had been awhile since we had seen each other, and I was curious. In the middle of our Karmel Corn and chit chat, you all of a sudden blurted out “Don’t get married”. Dumfounded, I said “What?” You repeated “Don’t get married.” I thought you must have lost your mind, but when I looked into your familiar eyes, I knew you were serious. I don’t know why, but I immediately got angry. What made you decide to come to me now and say that? I wondered. And I still don’t know. Things got a little heated and you didn’t say much other than; don’t get married. I eventually stormed off heading back to work. Many years later when my marriage failed, I thought a lot about this moment with you. Had the universe sent you to save me? You had saved me so many times before…
We both went on to have full lives; college, marriages, children, divorces, businesses. A feast of life’s delectable treats and a few sour grapes too. I don’t recall many experiences with the detail I remember of you, and our love. It still feels like it was yesterday when I think about it. And it still makes me feel safe, and special and loved. I thank you for that.
Someone, help me, help me, help me please
Is the answer up above?
How can I, oh how can I tell them
This is not a puppy love…
Love & Peace,