Archive for December, 2009

Frustration 101

December 27, 2009

As I look back on it from the distance of 50-odd years, I can see that making any headway with Molly was doomed from the start.  She was a General’s daughter, went around in girlish circles surrounded by others who doted on everything she did.  If she wore a pink sweater one morning, by noon every one of her group would rush home at noon and put on a pink sweater.

I watched from afar; and by that I meant from the county of Afar (near the town of NoWayJose).  My best friend had a sister that was best friends with one of her inner circle of girls.  By word of mouth, which I am now sure was either garbled in transmission or purposely twisted to thwart me, I was informed that she ‘liked me’.

The term ‘liked me’, in the teenage glossary of the day meant that the person you were telling this had to be at least four people removed.  Apparently the term went from her lips to the girl in her group that was friends with my best friend’s sister thence to my best friend who delivered the line with a Cheshire Cat-like grin.

“So, what are you going to do about it?” He asked with glee.  “Ask her to the dance next week?”

“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.  She has enough guys hanging on to her she looks like a tackling dummy.  I haven’t got a chance.”

“Well, you never know.  Stranger things have happened.  Give it a try.”

I did think about it for a while.  A couple of days later the same remark was made to me directly from a different source.  In a gross violation of the ‘code of the group’ I was informed by one of her immediate circle that she ‘was waiting for me to call’.

I suspected some sort of trick because normally she wouldn’t bother at all with someone as insignificant as me.  Taking in to account that I was the son of only a light Colonel I was hardly worth of her.  Still, being told by two different people that she ‘liked me’ was something I couldn’t ignore.

I spent the next two school days doing what now would be called stalking.  I lurked around corners, watched her closely from the back of the room in two of our common classes, and spent a ditched study hall sitting at the top of the grandstand taking in the girl’s soccer class.  I had to admit, in short-shorts she was definitely a looker.  Brilliant blond hair, blue eyes, almost as tall as me, good looking, and extremely well-built.  I grew drowsy as I watched and fantasized her and I together in a warm ski lodge, trapped by a huge blizzard, warming ourselves with brandy on a bearskin rug in front of a crackling fire.  Damn, why does that have to pop up now?

All the ‘he saids’ and ‘she saids’ came to a head on Friday afternoon.  I was hurrying to math class and turned my head to answer a question from a buddy as I rounded a corner.  BAM!  I ran headlong into Molly.  We crashed to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs.  We got sorted out quickly and, after my stammered apology, she looked me right in the eye and said that she didn’t really have this in mind when she said she wanted to meet me.

I blushed pink and again stammered a reply.  I don’t remember what I said, but I followed it up with something inane I’m sure.  She gathered up her books and swiveled down the hall.  I could only stare after her.

My brain kicked in with a mental thud, my feet turned back towards her disappearing hips and I rushed up behind her.

“Wait, Molly, wait” I called plaintively.

“Yes” she answered, turning to see who it was and seemed to flinch. “Oh, hi.  You’re not going to run me down again are you?”

“No.  I’m really sorry about that Molly.  I’m such a klutz.”

“Well, there may be hope for you though.  What did you want?”

There it was.  Right out in the open now.  I would have to either put up or shut up.  My throat closed, but I managed to croak out “do you want to go to the dance with me Saturday night?”

This was said with a very sincere look and little more.  I doubted greatly that she even knew what planet I was on much less really wanted to go to a dance with me.  My palms got sweaty, my heart rate tripled, and I started hyperventilating all in the short time it took her to form an answer.

I was so sure she would turn me down that I almost turned away prepared to mumble a “thanks anyway” but she surprised me totally by saying “Sure”.

The word ‘sure’ echoed in my empty head for milliseconds before firing my ‘holy cow’ synapse.  My eyes opened a little more, I mentally danced a little jig but physically answered “great, what time do you want me to pick you up?”

“How about seven?  That’s a little before the dance starts and we can go get a soda before it.”

I managed to get a “thank you” out without sounding like a complete idiot (nobody can be a complete anything, but I sure tried sometimes).  “I’ll see you then Molly.”

She went one way and I turned and floated back down the hall the other way to my locker.  Somehow I got through the next class and headed home.  My buddy came over and we chatted for a while.  I was dying for him to ask me if I had done anything about Molly.  Finally he did and I casually said that she was going with me to the dance tomorrow.  If I had smoked I would have leaned back in the chair and lit a Marlboro before I answered.  I was oozing calm.  Inside, I was a mass of insecurity.

“No shit?” He asked.  “That’s great” he said as he walked to the phone; presumably to alert the press.

“Yeah, well, it’s just a dance date Jerry, not an engagement” I called after him.  “We’re not going to Paris here.”

He came back a moment later and said that he and his girlfriend would come along with us.  Now, he was a great guy, and I liked his girlfriend Beth a lot, but, I kind of resented him intruding on what I had hopes of being a stellar night and it must have showed.  “Just kidding” he said.

Saturday I awoke early and tended to every one of my chores without being hounded by my parents.  I dodged taunts and hassle from my brother and helped my sister with some of her dish washing duties after breakfast.  My mom looked askance at me but didn’t say anything.  I am sure she thought I was up to something.  I must have stepped over the believability line when I asked her if there was anything else I could do.

“Are you feeling okay?” She asked, leaning close to playfully slap a hand on my forehead. “What’s the matter — got a hot date?”

Ahhhhhhhhh!  She’d guessed it right off the bat!

“Not a really big one, but I’m taking Molly to the dance tonight.”

“Molly?  General Confusion’s Molly?  I thought she didn’t know you existed.  Isn’t that what you said just a few days ago?”

She had me there.  I did, in fact, tell her that on Wednesday but I hemmed and hawed a bit and answered obliquely – “sorta, but I asked her yesterday and she said ‘yes’.”

“Well, good for you.  What are you going to wear?”

Damn, zapped again.  I hadn’t a clue what I was going to wear and told her so.  She answered that I had better make up my mind because most of my clothes were still in the laundry room.

I flew down the hall and dumped a load of my best shirts and pants into the washer.  Then I headed to my room to plan my assault on Fortress Molly.  I might prove to be a long, and embarrassing, campaign but maybe I could overcome her defenses and emerge victorious.  As Jerry said ‘you never know’.

There is a Burt Reynolds movie called ‘Hooper’ (1978) where, as the opening credits roll, he is dressing to the sounds of a trumpet doing a Toreador theme solo.  In retrospect, I can see where this applied to me that very evening as I slowly readied myself for my date one article of clothing at a time; after first gassing everyone with deodorant and aftershave.  Well, all seven hairs on my chin needed to be clipped.

Finally, with a flourish of a Mariachi band’s finale I emerged from my room.  I was slick from head to ankle because, as my brother pointed out, I had forgotten to change out of my sneakers into my Bombers (see:  So much for being classy.  I was back on the ground again and NOT ‘Bond, James Bond’.

It was a cool evening but I don’t think it registered on me as I walked over to Molly’s house.  She lived up on what was called Officer’s Country up on the hill.  I got more and more insecure the closer I got to her house.  What if this was just an elaborate joke?  What if she was just going to giggle at me all slicked up?  What if her dad answered the door?  What if my head fell off and I got it back on wrong?  All of this went through my mind on the twelve mile walk up her driveway.  I paused for the final time ready to push the doorbell, pushed the hair out of my eyes and rang it.

“Hi Tom, I’ll be ready in a second” said Molly, pulling me into the hall and pointing into the living room.  “Go sit down and I’ll be right back.”

“Okay” was all I could work out of my parched throat.

I looked around the room and discovered that not only was her dad there, but her mom also.  This was going to be very painful.

“Hello Tom” said The General.  “You’re taking Molly to the dance tonight?”

For a General he sure had his finger on the obvious I thought.  However, I managed to speak briefly in some sort of coherence that “yes, I was”.

“Hi, I’m Molly’s mom, June.  Your mother is Betty isn’t she?”

“Um, yeah – er, yes, she is.”  How did she know this? I thought, and then remembered that both of them probably saw each other at the various officers’ wives functions they gave at the club every month.

“We don’t see very much of her, is she ill?”

“No, not that I know of.  She is kind of a quiet person and not likely to go out very much.”

This was a total fabrication because I can remember many times she told us that she would rather be nibbled to death by baby ducks than attend one more ‘tea and crumpet’ session with other officer wives.  Nothing put her off more than the pretentious airs of “Missus General” and “Miss Colonel”.  She was more a beer and pretzels person than fine wine and cakes.

“Well, tell her I said hello will you?”

“Sure thing. Ma’am.  I’ll do that.”

I was saved from further conversation my Molly appearing at the door and motioning me she was ready to go.  I said my goodbyes, helped Molly into her coat, and we hustled out the door.

Next:  Frustration 201



Drive In Movies

December 21, 2009

My first exposure to a drive-in movie was after I returned to the States from Germany in 1958.  I landed in California a newly-minted, but savvy, driver; having gotten my International Driver’s License in Germany at age sixteen.  Unfortunately, the state of California had decreed that I must go through a driver’s education course before I could get my California license.  Even my dad thought it was outrageous, particularly because he had to undergo a road test himself to regain his US license.

Nevertheless, I pushed onward and endured several weeks of novice drivers that ground gears, screeched tires, slammed brakes, and generally turned my perspiration into a river.  I was ever so glad to have it come to an end and take the driver’s test – which I passed with ease.

Once my little VW convertible arrived from Germany (via the Panama Canal to Oakland) I was free to go cruising all over the area.  Since my car was totally unique (there wasn’t another like it in Northern California I think) I had what is now called a “chick magnet”.  Hardly a day passed when I didn’t have at least one pretty girl sitting in the car as we headed out for lunch, went to the library after school, or just cruised up and down Petaluma Boulevard all night on Friday.

My dad also shipped a car home from Germany.  It was called a Volkswagen Deluxe Bus.  It was black trim over red and had three bench seats.  The top slid back and let one stand up with the wind blowing your hair.  I had almost as much fun with his car as mine, but he rarely let me drive it.  Most of the time, he would tell me he needed it because he was “on call”.  This, I assumed, meant that he could be called to go down the base at any minute to resolve some difficult weather prognostication.

It was this very same bus that made me a hero to the general population of school as it would fit up to eighteen kids in it.  When, on Friday or Saturday night, the drive-in theatres would declare “carload” night an entire carload could get in for two dollars.  Most cars of the day would rarely fit more than six or, if they were really friendly, eight, but mine would take an entire football and a basketball team.

Drive-ins of the day would feature as many as four films a night depending on length of movie and weather.  Since California boasted good weather, we almost always got to see at least three movies every time we went.  The breaks between movies wasn’t very long, but gave a person time enough to grab yet another hot dog, box of popcorn, and a drink before the next feature.  If you were still in line, you could watch the beginning of the movie through the huge plate-glass window at the front of the refreshment stand.

Since my car was pretty tall, I learned right off that people wanted me to stay near the back of the parking lot.  This turned out to be a real boon as I could park perpendicularly between two speaker posts and put one in the front and one in the back and be assured at least one of them would work.  If both of them worked, so much the better.

Most movies shown at our local theatre were sci-fi and horror movies like “The Blob”, “The Fly”, “I Married a Monster from Outer Space” (which is a pretty good movie by the way), “Earth vs. the Spider” and “Attack of the Puppet People”.  I was a great deal more partial to some of the more romantic movies of the time like “Houseboat” (with my hero Cary Grant), “Bell, Book, and Candle” (with the delectable Kim Novak – but don’t tell my girl). As far as the more raucous movies went, a full busload of kids was fine, but for romantic movies my little convertible was just fine.  Just I and my girl snuggled up with a gearshift between us.

For the first movie we would leave the top down and chatter with our neighbors as well as watch the movie, but when the second movie started (which was usually the feature) the top went up for some serious necking.  Never believe anyone who says that serious necking cannot be carried out in a Volkswagen.  It can, and has, been done.  Many a warm California summer night has steamed up the windows of that little car.  And, yes, it is definitely possible to go from the front seat to the back seat without opening a door.

What better life could there be but to be a teenager, have a movie in front of you, a girl beside you, and a popcorn tub sitting on the seat between you.  If there is one, I couldn’t imagine what.

There existed a state of war between the theatre owners and the patrons.  They would try and make sure that everyone who got in paid their fee, and we would try to get as many of us in free as possible.  This led to a veritable host of methods for sneaking kids in without paying.  Each one attempting to get more kids in than the one before.  The old standards of stuffing a trunk worked a few times, but if the wait to enter got too long there was a distinct danger of suffocation.  The old ‘blanket in the back seat’ would hide maybe a couple of kids with others actually sitting on the back seat.  Since there was usually a very bright light shining on each car at the toll booth this one could be risky.

My favorite was a car that had a trick back seat.  It was a panel van.  Not one of the huge things you see now, but a really nice Ford delivery van built along the lines of a woody but with no back windows.  An enterprising teen had created a moveable back seat that dropped downward and let one move freely between the back bed and the rear set.  When this one got to the toll booth, the taker would first look into the back, count heads, and then move to the rear window.  As this was being done, the seat was dropped and kids poured from the back to rear seat – quietly, of course.  I don’t think this method was ever found out.

Usually, before the movie started and while it was still light, a local radio station was be broadcast over the speaker system.  In our case it was ever faithful KEWB from San Francisco.  Good old “Channel 91” would entertain us with songs that started impromptu dance parties down in front of the screen.  KEWB was the sister station of KFWB from Los Angeles and, if you were ever to drive between the two one would slowly fade out and the other would take over as you traveled.

Parenthetically, I might add that a description of a trip down to Tijuana to get one of my friends car tucked and rolled might be a good story also.

Finally, it was dark enough to start the movie and we would all head for our cars.  Great knots of girls would break up and stream back to their date’s cars too and the lot would get calm as we all watched. Once in a while, you would hear a car door slam and maybe a parting shot by an outraged girl, but mostly we behaved ourselves.  There was also a car patrol wandering around with flashlights to illuminate cars that showed any sign of nefarious behavior.

Periodically the film would break or the operator would blow a change-over and car lights would come on, horns would honk, and jeers erupt from everyone.  This was mostly endured stoically (if you noticed at all) and activities continued as they left off before being interrupted.

Teen etiquette dictated that one never approached a car whose windows were totally fogged up, nor did one get near a car that did not have at least one person in the front seat.  Lights of any kind were frowned upon except in an emergency – like trying to find a wayward bra.

All in all, a trip to the local drive-in movie was a real adventure.  I took full advantage of the times and weather of Northern California to see as many of those movies as I could.  I usually went with male friends to adventure, science fiction, or other non-chick movies but when a good romance was playing I hardly ever failed to take my girl.  It was an uplifting trip on gossamer wings.  A true American experience.


A trip to the beach

December 15, 2009

One summer, while we lived in Washington D.C., my dad had to go to some sort of Meteorologists conference out on the west coast which left the rest of us at loose ends on what to do.  My mom came up with the idea of loading all of us into the old station wagon and heading for the beaches down in Delaware; Bethany Beach to be specific.  We had been there several times before and liked it so much that my mom made reservations for us at one of the motels.  Our usual one was full up, so we had to take what turned out to be our fifth choice.

We went around the house and stuffed small bags with clothes and stuff we would need at the beach.  Actually, there isn’t a lot you really need for the beach so the bags were pretty small.  This would have been around 1954 or thereabouts so I would have been 12, my brother 8, and my sister 5.  The station wagon, a 1950 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, had two large seats and a huge ‘back end’ that we loaded up with soft things to lie on.

With a flurry, we were off – well, not quite.  We got 10 miles down the road and found that we had forgotten a couple of bags.  Back we went.  I don’t want to hint that this set the tone of the trip but it did.  We were arranged in the car thusly:  I was in the front seat with my brother hanging over the seat back whining that he wasn’t in the front seat.  My sister was happily lying back on the bags in the back until she said that she smelled something.

Quickly ducking to the side of the road, my mom discovered that a perfume bottle had leaked inside her bag.  This prompted her to crack the back window a little as we took off again.  Bad idea, as the back end of a station wagon causes a huge vortex of air to be pulled from under the car and directly into the open window.  This, of course, caused yet another complaint from my sister – that of being gassed.  Carbon monoxide is not a viable replacement for cooling breezes on a hot day.  Closed went the window.

Now, my brother decides it is time to get into the act and begins kicking the back of my seat.  I endure it for as long as I can (around 12 seconds) and then rise up to smite him.  The moment I do, my mom whips to the side of the road again and threatens to decapitate all of us and leave our heads at the side of the road as a warning to other kids.  She thrusts the map at me and tells me to direct her through Baltimore.

Baltimore?  I hear you asking – Baltimore?  Well, of course.  The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel hasn’t been invented yet so you have to go all the way up to the north end of Chesapeake Bay and then down the DelMarVa peninsula (Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) to get to Bethany Beach.  We may have been able to shorten our trip at Annapolis, but the bridge there wasn’t in service due to repairs (we found out after driving into Annapolis).  So, with a heavy sigh, my mom heads back north towards Baltimore.

At this point in development of the Interstates there were none to speak of.  Some very small portions of them were under construction around DC, but nothing in the wilds of Maryland.  We ended up on several US highways passing through many tiny municipalities that appeared to consist of nothing but used car lots, fast food joints, bars, hock shops, bowling alleys and the like.  Every fast food place we passed my brother whined about being hungry.  My mom, after planning carefully ahead, decided that making a lunch we could eat in the car would be much faster than trying to herd us through some beanery along the way.

When instructed to look on the floor of the middle seat for the basket, my brother again whined that he couldn’t find it.  This prompted another crash dive to the side of the road and an exasperated search by my mom – no basket; we must have left it home also.  My mom told us that she’d stop at the next ‘greasy spoon’ she found.

We pulled into a roadside café and, true to his calling as a wise-ass, my brother then asked the greeter if this was a greasy spoon.  She smiled frostily and directed us to seats near the restrooms and behind a large column holding the ceiling up.  Eventually a waiter came to take our order.  The funny thing was, the spoons were actually greasy to the touch.  Was this truth in advertising?

Even my brother ate only about half of his food.  Usually he snarfs it up and starts looking around for more.  It was truly bad food.  My mom’s hamburger looked as if it had once been a nice fat one, but cooking it for twelve hours at four-thousand degrees had turned it into a lump of coal.  On the other hand, my sister’s hamburger was almost raw; mine, well let’s just say it was passable.

Barely suppressing a gag reflex, we all walked back to the car to take up our forward charge towards the beach.  Once loaded, off we went and two hours later found us cruising south along a narrow stretch of tar-topped gravel deep into the wilds of Delaware.  The first sign of Bethany Beach was, of course, a sign that read ‘Welcome to Bethany beach’.  For all the size of the town it should have said the same thing on both sides.  We didn’t count actually, but I bet there couldn’t have been more than twenty-five or thirty buildings in the entire town; and half of them were either bars or tourist traps.  All the motels were cleverly placed so that you had to run down the center of town to get to them.  We finally located ours and, it could be said charitably, that the place was a real ‘fixer-upper’.

There was some confusion at the registration desk but none of us kids knew what it was because all we could hear was muted muttering by our mom when she got back into the car.  Something about having to pay – in advance – for the entire weekend, or we wouldn’t get the room.

After being warned that “there might be some sand in the room” we unlocked the door and waded through the stuff to each take our turn at the bathroom.  The sink was stained with rust and the bathtub held a nice set of rings around it etched in yellowing stages from top to bottom.  One bed, when we sat on it, sank nearly to the floor while the other could have been a cement slab with a sheet over it.  The radio howled like a banshee but gave up some static-filled twangy music when whacked on the side.  Virtually every tube in it was microphonic.

The good part was that we were right on the beach.  By that I mean we could walk out our back door and be just above what appeared to be the high tide line.  This was easy to tell because we first had to go out the front door and clear away the driftwood from the back door.  Apparently, there had been a storm a while back and nobody bothered to clear it out.

Dinner that evening turned out to be pretty good.  Every one of us dug into the huge pile of crabs plopped in the middle of the table and started whacking them with the wooden hammers provided.  This was really great!  We could eat with our fingers!

Smeared in butter from mouth to fingertips we walked back to the cabin (yes, each unit of the motel was a separate cabin) and started our cleanup.  While waiting for the water to get hot, my mom read War and Peace to us.  Finally, we eased carefully into the tub (one at a time), washed the grease off, and hopped into bed.

I’ve never liked sleeping with my brother.  He’s one of those kids that, when he rolls over, he actually catapults upward, flips in midair, and crashes back to bed.  This has the effect of an artillery shell near-miss and never fails to wake me.  Since we had the soft bed, his movements would be transmitted to me and I would echo what he just did. Only a half-second later.

The next morning dawned rather bright with the sun hitting our eyes through the torn window shade.  Taking turns, we all washed up, dressed, and went to breakfast.  On the way, we noticed that there was a fairly stiff wind coming up and had to hold up our hands to keep stinging sand from blowing in our eyes.  Our waitress told us that sometimes this happened and would last for days.  I could tell my mom was not happy with this news.

Finally, we donned bathing suits and headed for our little stretch of beach.  We walked towards it until we could feel wet sand but never opened our eyes.  On the beach itself, there was nothing to break up the wind from its charge across the Atlantic to dash against Bethany Beach.  If anything, it had grown stronger while we were at breakfast.

We struggled about two hours trying to find or build some shelter from the stinging sand.  A fort was made using driftwood but all that did was allow the wind to drop whatever sand it held directly on top of us as it passed over.  Finally my mom hopped up and yelled for us to go back to the cabin – we were leaving.

Even I was kind of happy we were going because having my skin sandblasted really wasn’t one of my favorite activities.  It really stung and grit got into some of the most interesting places – and created raw spots that really hurt.  We packed rapidly and put all the bags in the car while my mom went over to the registration cabin.

When she came back lightning was flashing around her head, steam was coming out of her ears, and a huge cloud of angry black clouds hovered over her.  She said not a word. But marched directly into the cabin and began stripping beds of covers and sheets and piling them on the floor.  Once they were bare she balled the linen up, took it to the car, and pushed it into the back seat.

A woman came running out of the registration cabin yelling things like ‘you can’t do that’ and ‘give those back to me’.  My mom only replied that “if you don’t give refunds, then these are certainly worth what you owe us” and hopped into the driver’s seat.  With a slam of a door, off we went, throwing sand into the woman’s eyes as we left (against the wind, actually).

We were all strangely quiet on the trip home.  Probably fearful of lightning striking in the same place.  Our mom was awesome when she got mad.


My secret love

December 3, 2009

When I was around twelve or thirteen I fell madly in love with a girl in one of my classes at school.  Since this was grade school we stayed in the same room all day long with just occasional visits to other rooms, like gym and science.  This put me ever so close to her pretty much all day because her last name began with the same letter as mine.  The teacher loved to have us sit in order because she always passed out test results and marked up homework from an alphabetically organized pile.

My seat was one person behind and to the right of hers.  This meant I got a right-quarter view that drove me to distraction most of the time.  She was always in my field of view and, when she got up, sat down, moved, or twitched my eyes would flick to her instead of where they should have been.  I missed many a homework assignment because of this.

I was shameless in my efforts to attract her attention.  I would try to help her with her coat for recess only to be told she didn’t have one; or push other guys out of the way in order to get paired with her for ballroom dancing in the gym.  This particular activity would cause my feet to grow about seven extra toes and become as big around as a tennis racquet.  Thus, I was armed (or footed actually) to cause real pain when I stepped on her feet.

She would allow me to barely touch her waist while keeping her arm straight out from her side.  I don’t remember ever being allowed to move much closer than two or three feet.  We weren’t going to win any tango championships.

I would daydream through class coming up with elaborate scenarios where I would heroically rush in and snatch her from the jaws of an alligator, or carry her from a burning building.  The inherent problems with my fantasies were that there actually had to BE an alligator about to chomp her or how to arrange a burning building.  Each bizarre thought would smolder, burst into flame, and then be extinguished immediately by a dose of cold water.  What’s that Ma’am?  The country to the south of France?  Denmark, maybe?

As the school year dragged on decade by decade, her defenses began to crumble.  Occasionally she would glance in my direction and almost smile.  At Christmastime I helped rig the name drawing with a little deception (and a big hand from my friend who was picked to draw the names).  I ‘drew’ her name.  Now, if only I had a clue as to what to give her.

I agonized over the present for days; rapidly thinking of objects and just as rapidly rejecting them as not suitable.  What could I possibly get her that she might appreciate?  My little bank jar had exactly seven dollars and assorted coins.  I had no idea how much diamonds cost, probably a lot, so that was out.  Besides, her parents wouldn’t let he wear them anyway.  Clothes?  No, not hardly.  I tried to remember if I had ever seen her with a hair ribbon.  No, that’s not right either – too simple.

I began to ask her friends if she had given them any hints.  One of them told me she needed a new bicycle.  I could barely afford the new inner tube I bought for mine much less buying a whole bike; that was out.  Our ‘mall’ was actually a collection of five and dime, hardware, and grocery stores at the edge of our development but I spent a huge amount of time over the weekend there prowling the stores for an idea.  Finally, I found it.  It was the perfect gift – practical, yet with a certain whimsy she was sure to like.  She would surely throw her arms around me and we would share a kiss.

Finally, the big day arrived.  We put away our books, circled the desks, and loaded down a table in the middle with our gifts to each other.  Slowly, piece by piece, each gift was handed out to the proper person and everyone watched as it was opened.  I could hardly contain myself as the presents on the table were handed out.  At last, the ‘elf’ lifted my gift and called out her name.

She stepped up and accepted it from him, then sat back down to open it.  All eyes turned to her as she ripped the paper off … an ant farm.  A stunned silence fell over the classroom as the kids stared at her.  Oh, how could I have been so stupid!  What the hell was I doing buying her an ant farm?  As I prepared to slink into the coat room, she snickered and began to chuckle.  Through a rising tide of laughter my face began turning a deep shade of red.  She looked around and, once she met my eyes, she gave a big smile and mouthed the words “Thank you”.

Later, when all the gifts had been given, cake cut and eaten, and ice cream slurped she came over to me and asked:  “How did you know that I have wanted an ant farm for so long?”

“I dunno, Deanna, just lucky I guess” I mumbled.

Then she did lean over and brushed her lips along my cheek.  I was invincible and ready to fight off any alligators that tried to chomp her.