Den of the Beastly Bear
Way, way back some 45 years ago my family lived in Auburn Heights, Mi.
I went to Will Rodgers Elementary from Kindergarten through 5th. grade.
I was one of the "early bloomers" as my first grade teacher Mrs. Clarke (a survivor of the Titanic) told my mother. Mostly because of my infatuation with one Miss Theresa Tenuta.
Our families were friends, though the exact connection is lost to me through the mists of time. Though I know for a fact that they went to the same church we did, St. Michaels.
How do I know this? Because Theresa and I did our first Holy Communion together. Me in my suit and her in her little white dress...we looked like we a miniature bride and groom.
It seemed I'd known Theresa forever, she was in my Kindergarten class...but we'd decided we were boyfriend/girlfriend in Mrs. Clarke's class.
Our families socialized together quite a bit. The Tenuta's had a swimming pool (the first family we ever knew that did) and in the summer pool parties were common. In the winter my Mother would take us with her when she would go over to visit Theresa's Mom.
The summer between 1st. and 2nd. grade there was one particular pool party I will never forget...because I got my first kiss.
We'd been swimming all day, and we were sitting out for a while at our Mother's insistence...lest we "Shrivel up to a prune!"
The Parents were enjoying a little peace and quiet in the pool with no kids, enjoying a cocktail (very 60's) as the kids had Kool-Aid at the picnic table.
A game of tag was quickly organized and the running began with a "You're it!"
There was a woodpile stacked between two trees that offered a natural barrier for the game of keep away. As the game ebbed and flowed around the yard, Theresa and I both found ourselves behind the wood pile (yes it's a cliché, but it's a cliché for a reason). ;-)
As we hid there crouching, hidden from both parents and siblings...I looked at her, and she at me.
Without a word we both leaned in and kissed! Just a peck, but the first girl other than family I'd ever kissed! We immediately laughed, both a little embarrassed and we were off again!
Second grade found us in different classes so we only saw each other at recess and at lunch. We liked to swing together, sometimes holding hands.
Third grade...devastation hit, mandatory bussing!
Theresa's parents sent her to a private Catholic school to avoid it. We couldn't afford that and I ended up at Robert Frost Elementary in a less than savory part of Pontiac.
As my parents marriage started to unravel, we socialized less and less, and I lost track of Theresa and what she was doing. By the time my parents divorced and we moved to Waterford for 6th. grade, I hadn't seen her for a couple years.
Time passes and we live our lives...new friends are made and old ones fall to the wayside.
I dated my share of girls through school, a few after but never forgot that first kiss.
Eventually I married and had a daughter of my own, moved out of Waterford to Clarkston.
As Princess Bear grew and spread her wings, social butterfly that she was....she was always going somewhere, doing something, with her friends.
There was an old grocery store near us, that had been closed for years. A local church leased the space and turned it into a youth center. Katie and her friends loved it there.
It was a very safe environment, the children checked in and were issued a bracelet and their names were taken. When they wanted to leave they would only be released to an adult on the approved pick up list the parents had to complete for the kids to participate. They kept these on file.
One day Mamma Bear went and picked up Katie and her friends to take them home. When Katie got home she ran up and gave me a hug and a kiss.
"Did you have a good time?" I asked
"Sure did!" she replied "Guess what Daddy?"
"What?" I asked with a certain amount of trepidation. As this question usually ended with "I met a boy..." My daughter was an early bloomer too!
"I met one of your old girlfriends today..."
"You did? Which one?" Trying to think just how bad this was going to be...as she now had Mamma Bears full attention as well.
"Her name is Mrs. XXX, when she saw my name she asked me 'Is your Dad's name Joe?', when I told her it was she said she was an old girlfriend of yours, she asked me to ask you if you remember her, her name is Theresa."
There was only ever one Theresa!
"Next time you see her, you tell her of course I remember her...you never forget your first kiss!"
Katie giggled at that with an "Ewwww!"
I filled Mamma Bear in, and she suggested I go pick the kids up next time and say hello.
I did, and it was her...funny how after 30 some odd years I could still see the little girl in the woman before me.
She's married, got a few kids of her own...the youth center was her pet project for the church. We chatted for ten minutes or so, until the kids started getting restless and I had to leave.
Amazing what a small world it is! That through all the years and miles, she would end up meeting my daughter at a youth center she ran, less than a mile from my house.
It truly is a small world...
That was 10 years ago, the youth center's gone now...bulldozed for another strip mall.
Haven't seen her since....
But I hope she's doing well!
Be Well Folks!