Boyfriends / Preschool Through 1st Grade

My mother teased me once that I had more boyfriends from preschool through first grade than the rest of my life combined! In preschool day camp, my first little crush called me, "my little teapot". Who wouldn't adore someone so sweet?! So I did, until the day camp ended, and we lived too far from one another to get together.

My next crush was my neighbor's cousin, Timmy, who I thought was soooo grown up because he was six-years-old, and I was only four! I wrote him a long love letter, then showed it to my mom for approval. I don't remember what it said - only that Mom was sweet, and didn't laugh as she helped me edit it down to about two lines. But despite my heartfelt, "Can you come over to play?" I never heard back. It  was a double whammy to my ego because Timmy aside, it was my first rejection as a writer! But the sting of it didn't stop me from having crushes on guys, or from writing, so I went outside, played on our swings, and dreamed up stories in my head.

Then, in kindergarten, a little boy with curly hair and a big smile asked me over to play. When my mother said that she'd known his family for years, and would talk to his mom, I was so impressed that you'd think she had said that she'd call a movie star! The guy himself was really sweet, but I remember being shy when Mom dropped me off at his house. And later, sitting uncomfortably at lunch realizing that we had nothing in common except for peanut butter sandwiches, and playing with baby chicks on the rug in kindergarten class one day. I was nice, but counted the minutes in my head until it was time to go home. (Ironically, I still remember that even their pretty kitchen seemed to have a gray light that came through the windows like a shadow, and that totally reflected how I felt. Or like it was foreshadowing for the fact that we never had another play date.)

And then there was first grade! I liked boys, but I was in love with reading, so maybe the guys saw me as a challenge. Whatever the reason, Mom said the guys followed me around like puppies.

One day, I lifted my desktop, and found a beautiful bunch of hand-picked flowers inside. I don't remember what the note said; only that it was unsigned. And that I was so oblivious that I gave them to my teacher, and told her, "Someone must have left these in my desk by mistake, instead of yours." I didn't realize that they were meant for me until I saw the embarrassment on the adorable little redheaded boy's face. But I was six, and didn't know how to fix it, so we both pretended it never happened.

Another day, a cute little boy with a silver-gray crew cut, glasses, and his best friend knocked on my backdoor. When I opened it, he handed me a tiny, clear plastic box with a smooth lime green, red orange, and indigo paint splattered rock inside. Also, a note that read, "Eat it. It's candy." The boy and his friend laughed a little when he handed it to me, so I thought maybe it was a joke that I didn't catch. But I kept his gift in my little pink safe with my other treasures anyway, and every so often touched the smoothness, and wondered why he gave it to me. How was I to know that he'd laughed out of shyness because he liked me?

(Oh!! As I'm writing this, it suddenly dawned on me that not only do I still have that same plastic box, I'm actually sitting five feet away from it all these years, and ten moves later! Only now it has different little childhood treasures in it, and is hidden deep inside my Bawby's cranberry glass sugar bowl - which is shown under Photos on this blog!)

Anyway, the crowning story in first grade was when a tall boy with ruddy cheeks came over to my desk, and unexpectedly planted a kiss on my cheek. And when, just as unexpectedly, I hauled off and slapped him! And then? I told the teacher on him. Because I was livid, "Because he kissed me, and didn't even ask!"

I don't remember if there were others before second grade. And still have no idea what attracted them to me. Maybe it really was because I was busy being in love with first grade! And busy being in love with reading!

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    Copyright © 2018 Joanie Strulowitz. All rights reserved. (Photography courtesy of Megan Conrad.)