It’s Valentines soon. The last time I wrote a post on this topic was quite a while ago. Still, it seems that I drift back to it every once and a while. I thought I would take a diversion and try a slightly exciting and vulnerable experiment.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been a romantic. Most depictions of kids in movies showed them afraid of girls or thought they had “cooties.” For that remedy, I needed two circles and two dots, then I got my cootie shot. That sort of thing. Haha. It’s funny to think back to my life when I was a child, but on a holiday like this, I thought it was particularly appropriate.
My first crush was when I was very young. I was 6 years old and I was in the 1st grade. I didn’t waste time. I had my future to look to after all. Her name was Julie Mattic. I sat next to her in class. She lived fairly close to my house, in my neighborhood, and she was also on the same bus I was riding. I had a crush on her for what seemed like years. I have a very strong memory of Michael Danaher making fun of me because I chose to sit next to Julie in class. He said I liked Julie. This was true, but I was still embarrassed. I didn’t want everyone else knowing about it! Being a ginger isn’t easy when you get embarrassed because your face turns red fairly quickly. Genetics didn’t help me hide many emotions.
The next crush I remember having was in the 2nd grade to Caitlin Leisen. She was the kind of girl that all the guys wanted to get the attention of. I remember one day, we were passing our end-of-the-year yearbooks around so that your friends could sign them. This was a big deal. The more you got, the cooler you were. Caitlin’s turn was next. he wrote her name in my book and circled it with a heart. In the heart, in very small writing, as if she was trying to make sure no one saw what she wrote, she scribbled, “I like you.” I felt on top of the world. You have to remember, as a child, crushes and who likes who was a very common thing to be happening on the school yard. Gossip and talk ran the town. I felt very special.
I remember a game being played on the blacktop that was played from 1st grade to pretty much to the 4th grade. The rules: Chase the girls. That’s it. The girls would understand the game and play along. They would run and the boys would try to catch them. There would sometimes be a massive flock of boys following 3 girls. Sometimes there would only be 1 girl running, dodging, and escaping the horde. Caitlin was sometimes one of these girls. Every once and a while the girl would stop to catch her breath and the boys would just circle or stand there while she rested…because it wasn’t, “catch the girl” it was, “chase the girl.” Then without warning, she would race off and the boys would pursue her like birds.
I remember playing “chase” one or twice, but eventually stopped and just played kickball, basketball, or the occasional soccer game that was underway. I guess I never really understood the point of “chase” from an early age, haha.
Nothing really ended up happening with Caitlin, after all, I was only 7. What was the next possible step? haha. Then there was Taylor Brown. For pretty much 3rd grade till the 8th grade, I liked Taylor. In the 5th grade, we were in the same class and became really good friends. Taylor had a boyfriend at that time. His name was Kyle. Kyle became fairly jealous of how well I was getting along with Taylor. I found that pretty darn hilarious. Still, the reality was that I was friend zoned pretty hard. I thought about telling Taylor how I felt in the 6th or 7th grade, but I was petrified and let the moment slip past. Also as a red-haired child, my self-confidence was brought down more than a few pegs by those who thought it would be fun to point out a very obvious trait about myself…over and over again.
At this point, we start drifting away from young, careless, hilarious love, and into the teenage, awkward, avalanches of…awkwardness. Yeah. I think the snowball metaphor does justice to this stage of life.
I just think it is funny to think back on the very young, very average Eric, getting by, and crushing on girls at such a young age. I can’t help but laugh.
I ran into Caitlin again when I was a teenager. I was shadowing my mom for a school project, and my mom was working as a substitute teacher at my old elementary school. I don’t know why she was there, but I can assume it was for the same project at her own high school. I hadn’t seen Caitlin since Elementary school and it was weird. As soon as I saw her, butterflies jumped into my stomach and I was immediately self-conscious. I was 7 years old again. I’m not sure if she recognized me, but I remembered that encounter so vividly. I was immediately brought back to the second grade when she signed my yearbook and handed it back to me smiling. Funny.
Was it Love? No. Not even close. It was infatuation. It was a crush. It was a rush of feelings, for which I’ve never been in short supply of. It was an obsession cocktail of adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin, one that I would later learn the true pitfalls of. We like these feelings. We LOVE these feelings. When they say that it’s not far off from taking cocaine, there’s a reason. We LOVE the feelings associated with liking someone. They feel great!
So this St. Valentines Day, reflect on your days of youth and just thank God that you’ve grown oh-so-much since then, haha. Not without lessons and hard falls, but growth is something to celebrate. Happy Day today and show some love.