When I was in first grade, I had a beau. "Johnny" was a typical freckle-faced boy -- not very clever, but raised to be polite and quiet. He lived about five blocks from me, close enough in those days that he could walk to my house and ask if I wanted to play. I never did. He didn't know anything about doll houses and I didn't like cowboys and Indians. Time after time, I sent him away, saying "I don't like boys!"
One day he knocked on our front door. My mother answered, looked around to see who had knocked, and finally looked down to see an earnest little face. "Please, Ma'am. Are you Carolyn's mother?" When she admitted that she was, he asked, "Please, could you tell her to like me--just a little bit?"
Well, it made a a great story at the dinner table, much to my embarrassment. My mother, who missed no opportunity to councel me on proper female behavior, shook her head at me. "Really, Carolyn, you should at least be nice to him. Who knows? He might be the only boy who will ever ask you to the prom."
My father's reaction was quite different. "You stay away from him! I'll have no little boy courting my daughter at age six! I don't intend to let you date until you're thirty."
I thought the whole thing was silly, and I pleased my father by taking his advice (well, some of it!) I certainly stayed away from Johnny all through school. He remained shy, not very bright, neither an athlete or a scholar, just one of the kids in he back of the classroom.
I don' remember ever talking to him, until i went to college. On the first night of Orientation Week, I went to a Freshman sock hop -- and there was Johnny. "What are you doing here?" I asked.
"I'm starting college," he said. "Wanna dance?" So we tootled around the gym for a while, and then I let him walk me back to the dorm, purely for safety's sake. I never saw him again. My mother reported that he dropped out after two weeks and joined the army.
And that was that. Until this past Saturday. I was taking the holiday weekend off, and decided to spend a little time nosing through the newly released 1940 census. It hasn't been indexed yet, but it is possible to find the town where you were living and then page through the various wards, looking for your last name. I found our local grocery store owner, the high school drama teacher, a couple of classmates, including one who died young, and a man who worked for my father. Finally, I spotted my parents, listed at the very bottom of a page. I was there, aged 10/12s of a year old. And there was my brother, working as a special delivery mailman. We weren't yet living in the house where I remember growing up, so I didn't expect to recognize the names of any of our neighbors.
UNTIL . . . there was Johnny, just 9/12s of a year old, living right next door. I wonder if he ever knew that we were once that close? Did he miss his chance with me before he was out of diapers?