First Love; First Loss

In second grade I had a crush on a classmate, Karen (not her real name). So did two other boys, Paul and Jake (also not their real names). One spring day during recess, we were vying for her affection and, how we got to this is lost to the ages, someone proposed a test of our love. It might have been Karen’s idea, but it could also have been one of my rival’s. Nonetheless, whomever could best express and show his affection would win her hand. The test would be the next day.

After school, I went home and racked my brain of what to do. How do you show your love to someone else? At seven-and-a-half I didn’t have much experience in the “love demonstration” department. I went to bed hoping for inspiration but none came. The next morning I awoke in a panic — I had nothing and would surely loose. Sitting in our kitchen poking at my raisin bran, I stared out the window and it came to me. Of course!

“Mom! I need to bring flowers into school today!”

The school bus was minutes away but I convinced my mom to hastily cut some blooms from one of the many azalea bushes around our house. Too embarrassed to confess the real motive, I lied to her that the flowers were for Mrs. Summers, my teacher. “It is her birthday,” I explained, and I was supposed to bring the flowers and forgot.

So Mom dutifully hustled outside and cut three or four small branches with blooms, brought them in, wrapped the ends in damp paper towel, and put the paper towel end in a plastic bag with a rubber band to hold it all together. She handed the bouquet to me as I ran out to the school bus just in time. Stepping on the bus, I was greeted with chuckling and pointing. Apparently word had got around about the test. I found an empty seat next to my rival Paul — Jake road a separate bus — and he gave me a look of understanding. Without saying a word, he pulled out from under his arm a plastic bag filled with candy. My heart sank.

We sat there quietly and eventually arrived at school, filed out of the bus, and joined the other kids in the pre-morning recess. Karen saw us and came over, then Jake saw us and ran over too. The contest was on. Paul handed Karen the candy, which she gladly accepted, then I handed over the flowers. My memory is that she made little to do about it. Then our attention turned to Jake who had walked up to us during the candy and flower contest entries, and stood silently, his eyes squinting in competitive contemplation. He looked around and noticed a school desk off to one side of the playground. He ran over to it and we gave chase. He stopped, stood in front of the desk, paused, then lifted it up over his head. And with that, the contest was over.

It serves as no consolation to know that Jake and Karen never married. I don’t think their relationship was even promoted from second grade to third. Yet it still stands as my first lost love.