Looking at the calendar, it's already spring. Yet the calendar is irrelevant here in Chicago, as it offers no help in predicting the arrival of warmer weather. In fact, I acknowledge the arrival of the season the same way every year. Like magic, a day comes when the streets and sidewalks seem to be overflowing with beautiful women wearing shorts, skirts or dresses. When that day arrives, my driving suffers. I would guess I narrowly avoid about seven accidents each year. When I finally get home, I change and go outside (on foot).
Recently it was Easter, and while it wasn't cold, it still wasn't spring, although it hinted at it. Our family met at my niece's house, very close to where I grew up, so I drove past my old grammar school. The anticipation of warmer weather influenced my memory, and I mostly thought about the girls from those years.
My career as a flirt began when I was in kindergarten or first grade. The object of my first affection wasn't a classmate, but the daughter of one of my father's co-workers. Each summer about four families from Dad's work would take a long weekend and stay in a huge old house in Eagle River, Wisconsin. Susie was cute as a button, and I remember being by the boathouse when I first tried to convince her to give me a kiss. She declined, but I was persistent.
One day we were having a house-wide game of hide and seek. Susie and I were the youngest of all the kids, so we were always paired up in any group activity. I convinced her to hide underneath a bunk bed in one of the many rooms, and I went to work. Finally, she gave in and let me kiss her -- and then screamed. Not the reaction I had hoped for, I opened my eyes to see the upside down faces of all the big kids. They had found us, heard our conversation, and then sneaked onto the bed and dangled their heads over the side to watch. It was the first and last kiss I ever got from Susie.
In third grade, I was enamored with two girls at the same time. My teacher noticed this, and switched the seating chart so I sat right in between Vicky and Cheryl. One might think the teacher liked me, but she didn't. She just knew this would give her more opportunities to punish me. One day, she was wearing a brightly colored dress, and drawing on the board right in front of us. I noticed a thread hanging from her dress, with a little "ball" of thread at the end, right near her butt. I caught the attention of the girls and lightly blew on the thread, which had the effect of moving it from one "cheek" to the other. Vicky was a straight A student and well behaved. She tried to ignore the whole thing, and it was Cheryl who picked it up and played the game. It was like we were playing "thread ball tennis", each of us blowing it to the other cheek. I can't believe we didn't get caught.
Cheryl and her best friend, Lynette, were inseparable. You never saw one without the other, and they were the coolest, "foxiest chicks" in fourth grade. My best friend Tony and I spent an inordinate amount of time dreaming about them. Tony was "in love" with Lynette, and I with Cheryl. We used to invent these grand games where we would be heroes and save our girls, so of course they would fall in love with us. In the winter, we would climb over mountains of snow pretending we were soldiers on a rescue mission. Sometimes we were riding our bikes, pretending to be motocross racers or stunt men. It would always end with us "getting our girl."
I arrived at school early one day, and I saw Lynette and Cheryl approaching. I noticed Cheryl was wearing a hat, but more importantly she had cut her long, beautiful hair! She was the first to get a "page boy." I was crushed. Being an idiot, I teased her and she started to cry. Lynette was furious. Do you remember those wooden "clogs"? Well, Lynette was wearing those and started kicking me in the shins. She kicked me hard and with alarming frequency. It hurt like hell, but all I kept thinking was "guys can't hit girls." So, I stood there and took it. Recently I reconnected with Lynette. She remembers me saying "OK, blue eyes, OK" as she kicked me, trying to calm her down.
I remember the pain, the realization that I was wrong and the beauty of her angry blue eyes.