November 3, 2009

Loving Daniel Webster

After my broken engagement to Jamie Gizzi in kindergarten, I wandered the streets as a single woman for several months, wondering if I would ever love and be loved again. Until the first day of school in first grade, I was convinced I was going to be a spinster for the rest of my days. Then came Daniel Webster.

I’d like to say that it was his charm or personality that first won me over, but truthfully it was his denim jacket. I found the way that he wore it to be incredibly sexy, and I got quivers in the pit of my stomach when he casually slung it on as we got ready for the school bus to come.

One thing I came to appreciate about Daniel was how genuinely nice he was. Most first grade boys were fickle and would turn on you in a moment. Daniel, however, was not like the other boys. He was a good-natured and friendly boy who was nice to everyone. He had wide blue eyes and glasses and a ready smile. At the tender age of 6 I felt like a woman when I looked at him—I wanted things from him that I only partially understood. I wanted to melt.

I would like to say that Daniel and I fell in love. I would like to say that he was as enamored by me as I was of him. We never even held hands. I did, however, chase him around the playground and steal kisses from him whenever possible. I can distinctly remember throwing my arms around him and the feel of my lips on his rosy, all-American boy cheek as he squirmed away from me and tried to run. I wanted his attention intensely, and I was determined to take it by force if he didn’t hand it over willingly.

Daniel was not in my first grade class; he was in the class across the hall. I lived for the moments when I could be near him on the playground, and I pined for him as I sat in Mrs. Nease’s class completing my math worksheets and taking my spelling tests. As my class marched down the hall in gender-segregated lines to the bathroom, I tried to steal glances in Mrs. Scott’s class to get a glimpse of him. My classmates ran into the back of my skinny, dawdling frame and grumbled in irritation.

“Amie, pay attention,” Mrs. Nease would admonish. “There’s nothing for you in that classroom.”

Oh, but there was! The father of my future children was in there! The person with whom I would sit in a rocking chair on the front porch drinking iced sweet tea as our grandchildren played in the yard was IN THAT ROOM! Laying eyes on him was a touchstone in my day.

When Valentine’s Day came around, Daniel gave me a special card. This was not a run of the mill childhood Valentine with Snoopy or Garfield or cartoon hearts on it—this was a real grown-up card purchased at a card store with his name carefully printed in childhood script at the bottom. Inside the card was a sheet of cloth heart stickers. Stickers! Oh! That boy knew the way to my heart.

That afternoon on the way to the school bus, Daniel offered to let me wear his coveted denim jacket. I will never forget the walk up the hill from the school cafeteria (the “bus room”) to the school bus. I relished the warmth of the jacket from his body, and I was the happiest girl in the world. I reluctantly gave it back to him on the bus, hoping that we would be sitting together and could finally start making plans for our life together. Disappointingly, he proceeded to the back of the bus to sit with his friends and I was left to wonder who would be the one to punish our kids when they were bad. Would he be the disciplinarian? Or would I? Did he like spaghetti? Peanut butter toast? I vowed that Daniel Webster would never eat Hamburger Helper as long as he was my husband.

Unfotunately, Valentine’s Day was the climax of our romance and the rest of first grade proceeded uneventfully. I can vividly remember the last day of school and my anguish at having to spend a summer where I wouldn’t see Daniel at all. I watched mournfully as he got off at his stop and gleefully trotted off to begin three months free of school. Slowly the tears started to slide down my cheeks, and by the time I got off the bus I was full-on sobbing. Christel Andy tumbled off the bus after me, and asked me in a concerned, motherly tone why I was crying. I blubbered out my anguish to her; she didn't laugh as I was afraid she might. She patted my arm and assured me that I wouldn’t always feel this way and that we would still have a fun summer.

I trudged home miserably. For weeks I plotted how I could reach him. I looked up his phone number in the telephone book, and twice I worked up the courage to call him. I can still remember his childhood phone number.

One day when I could take it no more, I sat down to write him a letter. I poured all my love into it, certain that after he read it he would rush to my house and whisk me away to live with him and his parents. I carefully wrote his address on the envelope and ran to the big blue mailbox on the corner to drop the letter in before I changed my mind. Oh god, I felt alive! I was aglow with my courage and ran to Christel to tell her what I had just done. I recounted each step up to the mailing of the letter, and when I finished she asked, “Did you put a stamp on it?” My face fell. No. No, I hadn’t. My letter would never reach him.

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