This week I’m pulling entries from my diary and telling stories that make me laugh, squirm, and wonder how any of us survive childhood.
Today’s story starts when, after re-reading my diary, I’d jokingly posted a Facebook status update apologizing for anything I’d ever said or done from 1981-1987. My childhood friends, a tight-knit group whose bond is strong, forged in the crucible of the boarding school experience, soon joined in a long string of comments, howling along with me.
About halfway into the conversation, I mentioned the reams of pages dedicated to my old boyfriend, Tim, and Laurie wryly said that she had been waiting to see how long it was before his name showed up.
Bless her heart, she was my best friend and had a first class ticket to that crazy train.
And then Tim chimed in saying if he’d kept a diary there certainly would have been a page or two there about me and we all had a big laugh, fairly certain every line would have either said, ”What have I gotten myself into?” or “Susan is certifiably insane.”
I might have been a wee bit clingy.
And a whole lot immature.
If I hadn’t written some experiences down, they would have been lost forever. Others, though, I didn’t have to put on paper; they became legend, ingrained in life’s fabric, moving with me in an ethereal way, shading and shaping in unwitting ways. And that’s how it was with Tim.
I have more written in my diary about him, my long-time friend and on-and-off again boyfriend, than anybody else. The first entry is dated 1983, but it’s not the first time we met. He and I were pals in the early boarding school days. We ran with the same pack and not only did I think he was loads of fun but his sister was also one of my best friends which made it all just perfect. It was only a matter of time before he and I were A THING.
Well, as much of a thing as you can be when you’re 8 years old.
Mostly that thing entailed running to the dorm after school to grab an extra treat for him from my snack box to share while we sat up in the trees in the afternoon, spying on the kids running around campus.
Food as a love language goes way back.
It was in those treetops where we first kissed, thinking we were hidden from prying eyes. Not until we climbed down did we realize we’d been discovered by a teacher (Aunt Julie, for the Huehue Academy friends reading today) who, unbeknownst to us, happened to be bird-watching and saw us through her binoculars. There she stood, waiting for us on the path back to the dorms.
Expulsion was now certain but the fate worse than death would be having to face my father who was not going to be happy about his daughter kissing on a boy, and a Methodist boy to boot. Oh, this was going to be bad.
She greeted us with a sly smile and without letting on she knew what we’d been doing, she told us about a pair of lovebirds she’d been watching with her binoculars in the trees and although they were darling and clearly having loads of fun, sadly, they flew away and she was quite certain she would never see them again.
And we said, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Heard you LOUD AND CLEAR, ma’am.”
“Nope, never will see those birds again, ma’am.”
My memory is a little fuzzy about where we left things when I went to the US at the end of the school year for our 1979 furlough, but we must have still been an item
at least in my head because Mom says I was all about writing him letters while we were stateside and she remembers a particularly impassioned one mailed with great haste after discovering he’d started going out with someone else while I was gone.
Apparently I chewed him up one side and down another (beware a 10 year old girl’s righteous indignation), laying into him about how could he DARE betray me in such a way and he was a low-lying weasel. So there!
And then I ended it with a heartfelt P.S. that I was still available if he wanted to get back together.
Sus, failing Relationship Rules 101 from the get-go.
I’d like to think he’d have ditched that old hussy for me but I didn’t have a chance to find out because his family left the country for reasons I can’t recall before we returned to Guatemala and I was devastated, DEVASTATED, I tell you. So devastated that I wrote about sixteen different boys with whom I fell madly in love in middle school over the next 24 months.
You know, heartbroken.
Barely hanging on.
Three years later, though, his family returned and this entry from October, 1983, picks up the story right where we’d left off. Those old feelings? Instantly rekindled but this time flamed hotter by 13 year-old hormones that had kicked into high gear.
His hormones were burning bright, though, for Cyndi Lopez.
It didn’t seem to bother me too much; after this entry I didn’t mention him for months when I noted he’d broken up with her and we were both dating other people. But it was apparent that our friendship had hit a good stride and was meaningful. I wrote several times that we’d spoken by phone or hung out in groups together. Yes, my tree-top buddy was back, and life was good.
As I turned the pages, there were signs that the friendship started to blossom into something more. We’d ditched our respective boyfriend/girlfriend and we were once again A THING, just in time for me to, you guessed it, leave for another year-long furlough.
Sus, also failing Timing Rules 101 from the get-go.
This time, leaving was harder.
I was in love.
And being 15 and away from all you hold dear? There was no easy way around it. My body might have been in America but my heart just wasn’t there.
It was back home with my boyfriend.
WHO HAD A NEW GIRLFRIEND.
Tim, taking advantage of Out of Sight, Out of Mind from the get-go.
And I was wrecked
and ripped those pages out of the diary years ago but it wasn’t for long. Soon after returning from furlough we had a brief summer renewal of our relationship (I take perverse pleasure that he broke up with Becky a week after I got back) but, sadly, ran out of time. Tim had to go, headed back to the States to finish high school, and this time, I was the one left behind.
And that’s when the reams of tear-stained emotional vomit start hijacking the diary.
I will spare all of us those pages.
It’s beyond maudlin.
I may have actually yelled out loud while reading them, “Girl, you needed to GET A GRIP.”
But while I get that grip, let’s all bask in the glory of “our song” that I played on repeat for a good six months while I cried and pined enough to reforest Brazil.
Yes, it took a long time to get my footing. Tim and I would still keep in touch - there are entries for almost two years referencing letters we’d written, working through hurt feelings (mostly mine; I’d perfected the art of milking a heartbreak, I’m pretty sure he’d moved on long before) and page-long passages where I’d argue with myself and with him and, slowly, the mentions start to dwindle and at long last, when I was easing out of 17, the last entry with his name shows up where I’d finally and dramatically come to a peaceful place about this roller coaster of a healthy/toxic, happy/sad, innocent/powerful relationship which lasted half my life.
Memories are tricky and snippets and snapshots don’t always convey the totality of truth. I can only imagine Tim’s version of events; he’s graciously given me permission to tell mine. A lot of turbulent water ran under our bridge but the streams run peacefully now, a byproduct of time and maturity. We’re friends, not the kind that make spouses nervous, but cherished ones who know a part of each other’s story, respect and honor it, and carry it lightly.
Sometimes it takes an awful lot of fluttering for a lovebird to finally leave the nest.