The Playground Kiss (A Rare, Funny Memory)

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Source: drpinna.com. Apparently, these days a little girl can get the police called for pulling a stunt like this!

What do you find when rooting around in your memory? And do you do this often, or only when together with family or friends?

As a memoir writer, it is my job to sift through memories, but sadly, that’s not always a fun task. On the other hand, when my husband’s family gets together to excavate their collective consciousness, there’s no end to the laughs.

I can only hope my family will get to that point someday, too, but for now, I take hope from a recent realization: Namely, my memory seems to have these gaps—huge gaps—from my childhood.

Anyway, we were at my nephew’s Kindergarten graduation recently, and that jogged my memory back to my own early elementary life. Sitting there pregnant, I started to have memories of me around that age, and I wondered if I really wanted my kid to go to school.

Because suddenly, I was remembering how I’d been scarred by school—specifically, my rejection by many of the girls in my class.

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Source: stopbullying.myupsite.com

“Honey, I don’t want our kid to go through that,” I worried to my hubby later that night, explaining how recess used to strike terror in me like class time never did.

“Oh, you’re just assuming it will be the same for our child as it was for you. But you’ve never been comfortable in social situations.”

“Oh really?” I prickled.

“I mean, you’ve gotten somewhat better…” he amended. “But that’s just your personality. Most kids like recess.”

Hmmm. I can’t sort this all out now, meaning I don’t know where our kid will go to school. But I went to bed disappointed that my most prominent memory from early elementary was that painful sting of rejection. I also realized I hadn’t spent much time writing or thinking about my early years, and I hoped doing so would turn up some forgotten gems—and some laughs, like my in-laws enjoy.

So, as I lay in bed, I kept rooting around in my memory. There must be something funny in there, somewhere. Then, I found it.

A Rare, Funny Memory

On that same playground where I remember so often standing on the outside of the circle, I also remembered becoming bold, empowered. I remembered first grade, or the only time I have ever openly pursued a man (well, in this case, a boy).

I don’t remember when it started, or why I thought it a good idea, but for a week or two that school year, before the teacher told me to stop, I became a man-hunter. I spotted a boy I wanted—let’s call him Aaron—and every day at recess I commenced chasing him…past the monkey bars, around the sandbox, under the swings…all in hot pursuit of a kiss.

Poor guy. He was terrified of me, and one day the race, or the stress, gave him a nosebleed. Kindly, that day I desisted.

But one day I finally caught him, cornered him, and bent over his cowering figure. I remember thinking, as I went in for the kill, that it didn’t feel as satisfying as I thought it would, kissing my victim. I suppose it’s that I would have liked the object of my affection to reciprocate, just a little.

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Anyway, later that day later in class, my teacher, an overweight Trunchbull type, called me out in front of everyone else—in her stern voice and with her lightning eyebrows, she told me to stop chasing Aaron. And I, now terrified, could only stutter, “Y-y-y-y-yes, Ma’am.” It was enough for me, the embarrassment of being publicly chastised.

Aaron didn’t talk to me for the rest of first grade. And then I switched schools for second grade, and when I came back to third grade, he’d also transferred schools. And I’ve never spoken to him since. I wonder how he remembers those moments? If he comes to my ten-year class reunion this summer, I just might ask him. (After I apologize for my appalling behavior, that is.)

In case you didn’t catch it, this story is funny because of my personality now. Docile and quiet, everyone says. What got into that little girl to become a playground terror for a time? Or should I really be asking: What went out of me after that day?

Ever after that, I was never bold enough to send so much as a signed note to a crush—not before he first showed interest in me. So a lot of my crushes—actually most of them—sprouted, withered, and died, all within the confines of my heart, with no one else to witness the damage. I learned to keep it in. Maybe I learned that openness about love was embarrassing?

Coda

girl at pool

There is a coda to my playground story that makes it even funnier, at least in an ironic sort of way.

The summer after first grade, I was swimming with my brother at the community pool, with lots of other elementary kids there. And unbeknownst to me, I was about to get my just deserts for attacking Aaron.

There was another boy in my class—let’s call him James—who had a crush on me, but I thought he was about the grossest boy on the planet. Before that day, I’d never paid him any attention, and may not have known his true feelings for me. He, too, was a quiet child. But after that day at the pool, I would know without a doubt. He, too, got the devil in him, at least for a day.

Suddenly, he started chasing me. Around the perimeter of the pool, in the shallow end, in the deep end, and back again. I couldn’t turn my back for a moment because there he’d be—that big nasty boy—and he wanted more than a kiss!

Though it seems like this went on for hours, it could’ve lasted only minutes. All I knew was I felt trapped, and desperate. I couldn’t get away from this boy, and no one would help me! All they did was laugh!

In the middle of the afternoon, he caught me in the shallow end, cornered me, and caved in on me. His arms and legs wrapped around me like tentacles, and slowly I felt my breath escaping, as if the life were being sucked out of me.

I was thrashing my arms and legs, trying desperately to escape my attacker—and then, suddenly, he released me, and swam away. And that was the end of that. We hardly ever spoke again.

What is the lesson to be learned here? I’ll leave that for you to decide—and comment on. My job was just to turn up a funny memory. Do you think I succeeded?

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The Decade the Music Died

Your parents divorce. Your boyfriend reveals he’s gay. You show up to work one day to find the place has shut down.

Some losses are instant and sock it to you in a single blow. Others take more time to unravel, so much so that you don’t even realize you’ve lost something until, one day, you run smack dab into that old thing—that you suddenly realize you no longer have.

I was browsing the clearance racks of Half Price Books last week when I came upon some old CDs I remembered owning growing up. Mostly Christian tunes from the 90s. A dollar apiece? Sure, why not.

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When I put on the old Ashton, Becker, and Dente CD while doing dishes later that night, felt the music swell and my heart tingle, I realized something: I miss this.

I guess I first became vaguely aware of my loss of music when my bff, Samantha, and I were road-tripping one-thousand miles to Minnesota some years back (we’re both transplants to Texas) and she wanted to sing and I didn’t.

Sam and I had grown up singing together, even comprising two-thirds of a Christian trio in our teens. I remember being sixteen, when we’d just been liberated with driver’s licenses, cruising the Podunk town of W, Minnesota, singing at the top of our lungs just because we could.

But now, when we were twenty-six, cruising Interstate 35, and she suggested, “Hey, let’s sing some of our old songs, want to?” all I could do was shrug.

She looked at me quizzically. “You don’t really like to sing anymore, do you, Linds?”

I had never really thought about it. But it was true.

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For that matter, I’m not fond of playing the piano anymore, either.

Not so for the first half of my life.

I started playing piano at age eight, or during the only year my parents pulled me out of public school to try an experiment. During the 1992-93 school year, our church started a “school” that boasted a whopping enrollment of six. My brother and I made up one-third of all students. My mom was the teacher.

Though I was angry that year for being separated from my public school friends, I found at least one redeeming factor in this arrangement: all the pianos.

Maybe it was because I was in rebellion from doing schoolwork—or maybe it was because God had a plan. But for whatever reason, I found myself drawn to those piano keys all year long. When our school enrollment was slashed to 50 percent at Christmas (one family with three kids moved away), I was only too ready to head back to public school. But by then, I’d heard the music, and for the next decade I would play and sing frequently for church, adding in the trumpet during sixth grade, which I would play in various school bands until graduation.

Of our family of four, I was the only one who played any instruments; but with my dad’s love of classic rock, southern gospel, and his growing collection of Christian tunes, our house was, all told, very musical. And it is my dad’s constant playing of music (on stereos and other sound systems) that brings us back to Ashton, Becker, and Dente, or where this journey started.

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One year not long before the family split, Dad enrolled our family in a music club. You know the kind. Before everything went digital, they used to send out sheets of little CD stickers. You could “Choose 12 for the price of 1!” and you literally cut and pasted your selections onto the order form.

Before, Dad had always chosen the soundtrack of our house. But with this membership, we all had a hand in picking the twelve CDs. Some of the CDs we picked are the same ones I found at Half Price Books: Ashton, Becker, and Dente; Point of Grace; Phillips, Craig, and Dean; Geoff Moore and the Distance; Sierra; and more.

Through that music club I was later introduced to some of the Christian artists I still have in my collection today: Jaci Velasquez, Cheri Keaggy, and Steven Curtis Chapman. Others stayed with Dad after Mom left and Kyle went to college and I followed Mom (later to move to Texas, of course).

And until I stumbled upon these relics at the bookstore, I plumb forgot about them. What’s more, I forgot about the happiness those CDs had brought to our home, because we had all chosen them together—one of our last “family projects.”

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Why did I forget? Why is it that ten years have passed largely without the sound of music in my home?

For years it’s like I’ve just shut out this part of my makeup, flat-out denied it was there.

But rediscovering those CDs was like finding old friends. And more than pain, the memories attached to them brought pleasure. This is what healing must be. Writing. Listening. (Playing?) to my roots.

To face my past I can’t avoid the bad memories that, unfortunately, usually flash out at me first. But as I keep going, God is faithful—He takes me back to where I’m meant to be. And little by little, He restores what was lost.

At the end of a quiet decade, regaining my love of music has started with a few old CDs.

Maybe in my thirties I’ll relearn my love of piano, too.