At sixteen: Boys, launching into life

As part of the never-ending sorting and packing, I came across a box of my diaries from high school.

I paused to dip into my sixteen year-old self, formed (I thought then) yet so naive. My interests were absolute clichés: school, boys, friendships.

Occasional world and family events were noted, but the parents who loved and reared me took a backseat to young men whose names I'd long forgotten.

The summer I was sixteen, though, I dated a boy whose gifts brought renown. Of course, no one knew at the time. His family had a summer place in the area; he was the golf buddy of a friend at my school. We met, went out, had fun, then summer ended and he returned to Kansas City. We wrote each other a few times (I was impressed that he had personalized stationery), then soon pursued different lives.

I missed him, though. When his friend said, "Tell your boyfriend to give me back my club", I wrote his command in a September entry, but can't remember if I ever passed the message along.

By Christmas I was crazy about a pale, anguished guy who dumped me for my girlfriend Julie on, I see, April 7. The next true love appeared in several months, confirming my mother's assurance that "Men are like streetcars, one along every five minutes."

What intensity (did I ever merely like somebody?), yet what innocence. Kisses were all I was willing to document; I well remember there was not much more. Some of the entries had me laughing and scolding my teenaged self: "Wake up, dummy, he's not interested", or "Twenty-two is way too old, run!"

The boy who took the club was named Tom, as was the friend who wanted it back. Both Toms grew up to become golf pros, not a surprise; my mother remembered how the thump of his bag hauled up the steps announced the slight, polite, strawberry blond boy, even before he rang the doorbell.

Last summer, I happened to see Tom Watson kiss the bridge at St. Andrews in fond farewell to the course where he played his last British Open. I thought, "Oh! There's Tom!" and the years fell away, his ebullience and easy grin unchanged.

Still smiling
Emmet County Fair Ferris Wheel

In my diary, I read that I too had been kissed–"practically in public!"– on the Ferris Wheel at the Emmet County Fair, by the young man he'd been on a starry August evening in northern Michigan, 1964. 

Funny, isn't it, that if he had not become one of the true sports greats, I might be just now be reminded, forty-seven years later, of his name, too, along with Dave and Robbie, Dick and Don.

Each of us had taken our seat on the big wheel of life, lifting to the stars. The future spread before us, glowing like the midway, expansive and exciting. A few years later, some boys would serve in Vietnam; several did not return.

I'd see others at reunions or hear of their milestones from my parents. "None of your friends are in jail at the moment", Dad loved to tease.

I wish each of us, as we edge into our sixties, several more glorious turns before the wheel begins its last return toward earth.


spacegeek said…
Interesting that you are reflective in this manner at this moment. A colleague's 79 year old mother died last week, and my husband's grandmother passed just this Monday (funeral was yesterday).
And I was also greeted Monday morning at work with the news that a 55 year old colleague dropped dead of a heart attack the day before.

I too am in a reflective mood this week. I am reeling with the notion that life is short and one must savor the good things, including first loves, things that bring you peace and joy and a sense of a life lived well.
Susan said…
Wonderful post Duchesse. I love the image of the ferris wheel.

I never kept a diary, but I have a huge box of letters written to me during my youth. Occasionally, an old friend wlll return to me some of the letters I had written to them. I am also amazed that most my writing is about young men. I guess it is a universal topic for the young.
Mardel said…
Sometimes I wish I had those early diaries now, but I burned them all after my freshman year in college, when my parents moved to a new house and my younger brother taunted me with long passages that he claimed my mother read to him. She confessed when confronted. The innocence of youth was lost, but not the memories.
Duchesse said…
spacegeek: I'm so sorry top hear of these losses. And yes, savour and don't put off what you really want to do.

Susan: We were learning about relationships. Must be strange to get your letters back, a piece of yourself reappearing.

Mardel: I would have been furious about that. Bad enough to read them but another level of insensitivity to read them to your brother.
Susan B said…
What a touching, poignant post.

Thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn,, I'd connected (no, not rekindled) with two of my old boyfriends from my teens and 20's (I didn't date a lot otherwise). The year before last while visiting my hometown, le monsieur had lunch with one of them and his wife. He'd been my first love and my first real broken heart but it was good to see that we never would have worked out anyway, wanted different things. Sometimes it's good to revisit those "what ifs" and put them to rest.
Susan said…
Deja Pseu's comment reminds me that my husband and I keep up with several of my old beaus. They are such nice people (and my husband says I had good taste in choosing them years ago), but like Deja Pseu, I always come away thankful for my own dear husband who is such a perfect fit for me.

I am still thinking about the ferris wheel imagery Duchesse, probably because I had similar experiences at our local East Texas Fair at age 15. Poignant indeed.
Duchesse said…
Pseu: That same summer I also briefly dated Iggy Pop, and that would NOT have worked out :) Tom Watson did in fact marry his high school sweetheart (which lasted 25 years) so sometimes early loves do work out- or at least for a good long run.

Susan: I think there is more than one person for everyone, but am very relieved some of the romances that I mourned never took hold!
Susan said…
I'm going to have to google Iggy Pop!
SewingLibrarian said…
My husband would have been in your vacinity that summer. His family spent part of every summer in Emmet County. I wonder if he passed you on the street or saw you at the Bay View Country Club? (I hope I got that name right. It's been a long time since I've been up there!). Small world indeed.
Duchesse said…
Susan: As you will see, he was (and still is) the opposite of the clean cut athletic type. You can imagine what Dad thought.

Sewing Librarian: Why yes, I was right there, as I was for all summers till 1971.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for this entry. Beautifully described, it gave me shivers.

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