To me anyway. I proposed to a girl in the second grade. I was 6 or 7 years old. She said she’d have to ask her mother. Her mother said no. I don’t know if that was the catalyst. We had exchanged notes in class a lot. We liked each other. It was fun. (Bear with me – I’m in second grade at the moment). I can’t remember exactly what she looked like anymore. Dark hair, and dark eyes, I’m fairly certain. For some reason, after this rejection of my proposal, we began exchanging hate notes instead of love notes. Whatever dirty words we knew at the time, we wrote them. The nun caught us. The nun, as nuns were wont to do at the time, shamed both of us publicly. We never talked to each other again, or exchanged another note. I didn’t fall in love again, if that can even be applied to kids at that age, until I was in another school after my parents moved again. They were always moving as more kids came along. When it was just me and my one brother, it was room enough. Having another brother seemed to put a strain on my parent’s relationship, as they were already fighting when I was in kindergarten. I remember the dented wall from a thrown coffee cup. I asked my mother about that years later, and she said my dad was always doing things like that. So, we moved. After fours years of elementary Catholic school at St. Thomas of Aquinas, we moved again. Then I was enrolled in St. Anthony of Padua. That’s when I saw Kathleen. She sat in front of me in 5th grade. One day I noticed the zipper on the back of the blouse of her uniform was down. I zipped it up for her. She said thanks. She was the first girl to speak to me since 2nd grade. I was instantly in love. For the next few years I watched her, talked to her. I rode my bike to her house and watched her skip rope. I called her up once and asked her to a movie. Her parents said we were too young. I wrote love notes to her. To be honest, I was noticing other girls then too, like Janet and Joyce. I sent notes to them too, but Kathleen remained the primary object of my affection. She wasn’t interested, but I persisted. Once, I wrote a note to her professing my love and wanting to be with her. I may have said something weirder, but I can’t remember it anymore. I had a dream just prior, in which she was in bed with me, but I didn’t know anything about sex until later. It was a pleasant dream, and it seemed we touched each other, cuddling perhaps, and she was in pajamas. In fact, it may have been this incident that prompted my mother to tell my father to have the sex talk with us two oldest boys. It was at a time of one of the early Mercury space flights. I think it was John Glenn’s orbital flight. The nun had brought a TV into the classroom – very exciting event at the time, circa 1962. In the darkness of the classroom I passed that fateful note to Kathleen. There was another girl Janet, whom I had also been giving notes to, but who had a friend she would have trip me as I walked up the aisle to my seat. I had the feeling she didn’t like me much. Janet persuaded Kathleen to give the note to our teacher. The nun, again, decided to shame me, reading the note, with its innocent declarations of my deepest feelings at the time, to the entire class. That was bad enough, but the nun called my dad and he came to school to get me. That was very odd, since I walked to and from school, and I don’t know why it couldn’t have waited until I got home. He was mad, asked me about the note, which he had. I had no idea why he was mad. Perhaps I was so used to passing notes, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. However, I got the belt when we got home – the worst punishment, for only the most serious offenses. I never spoke with Kathleen again. The last year there, in 8th grade, they put me in a different class, one composed of all boys. Since I ended up going to an all-boys high school, I never had a girl in my classes again until college. I saw Kathleen one day shortly before graduation, during a May Day procession through the streets near St. Anthony’s. I had been part of the school safety patrol in earlier grades, and an altar boy, but in my current persona as an Explorer boy scout, I was helping direct traffic. I hoped I looked dashing in my dark green Explorer uniform with my walkie-talkie and AAA safety belt, but Kathleen never looked my way. An odd thing those belts: white and military-looking. It had a strap that went over your shoulder as well as around your waist, something like soldiers use to wear. I think I saw a picture of an MP wearing something like that. Very authoritative. Every day after school the nuns had all the younger kids line up two by two and we marched them in a long column up the street, along the sidewalk a couple blocks, past the supermarket and the drugstore, to the main street. I don’t know where they went from there, but my job was done then. Funny that everyone drives their kids to school these days. That would have been ridiculous at the time. If one’s family had a car, it was used by the father for work. Moms didn’t have cars for shopping. My mom used to send me to the store a lot. It was the same walk as going to and from school, but carrying a gallon or two of milk, and maybe 5 lbs of sugar, infant formula, canned goods, and other cooking items, made it seem a lot longer. I had strong arms after awhile. After I graduated from St. Anthony’s I had to take a bus to the high school I’d gotten into, so I don’t know who got the groceries. There were seven kids by then, and I stayed at school in various club meetings as long as I could. Sometimes I still had to go to the store at night after I got home.
Before I started high school my mom and her cousin introduced me to my fourth cousin Theresa. I liked her a lot. She was a year or two older and she was fantastic looking. We went to a dance at St. Anthony’s, and danced, to the amazement of my classmates. She taught me how to do a box step, so we even slow danced, to Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.” I was in love again.