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>>>This skip down memory lane is perfect for Valentine’s Day … along with a photo of my son, Gordo, with two of his grandmas … since I don’t have a photo of the night detailed in this story … How wonderful to remember the simplicity of love before the real world taints it … Enjoy … <<<
It was perhaps the simplest form of love.
My most memorable Valentine’s Day was chaperoning my nine-year-old son as he went out with a girl he called his friend.
She was quiet, her voice barely above a whisper when she talked to my husband and me. (Of course, they had chatted non-stop in the car’s back seat.)
“What pizza topping do you want, hon?”
Whisper whisper whisper.
“I’m sorry, hon, which one do you want?”
We caught it this time.
“Pepperoni,” we announced to the waitress.
Her gentleman friend ordered the same before they scurried off to play on the video machine. That was a reassuring feeling, handing over $2 worth of quarters to the pair. That was still fun at this age.
My heart ached and laughed during the evening. In barely four months, my little boy would reach that hallmark of 10. He was sensitive yet caring, quiet yet the socialite, polite yet still a child. He was the blend of our hopes and dreams, and we knew some tough days were still ahead.
Baby cheeks were long gone, replaced by a handsome young profile and just one dimple when he smiled. His glasses accentuated his vibrant eyes instead of masking them. His eyes were like mine, bright green in the morning and a darker shade as the day wore on. Just by looking at the color chart in our eyes, his father could always tell when we were tired.
Our son had curly eyelashes that his grandmothers envied. His pudgy little nose was a duplicate of mine, but the mouth was his father’s, most often racing in the open gear. Except this night.
His voice was low and quiet, rid of the argumentative tone from the day before, but one I knew I’d hear again. His words were carefully chosen and honest. It was amazing what charm one little lady had over one little man, my little boy.
I studied this girl who had spellbound him. She was quite pretty, dark eyes, a smooth thin face, three inches taller than her escort, and she was a year older.
Yes, my little boy had fallen for an older woman. Notes from her were taped to his bedroom door. Her picture had a prominent spot in a small frame next to his bed. But if you called her his girlfriend, he quickly corrected you.
“She’s a friend who’s a girl.”
Some of the kids teased him mercilessly about his “girlfriend.” It was painful, but I told him to ignore them. If she was just a friend, fine, then be friends and ignore what those other knuckleheads have to say. Of course, that’s easier for a mother to say 23 years after she had been that age.
I don’t remember much about when I was nine or 10. I was too busy playing softball and basketball with the boys on the playground to pay much attention to nature’s gift or curse of puppy love. I could spar with the best of them throughout grade school and only gave it up in junior high because recess wasn’t part of the curriculum.
But all my schooling had not prepared me for a night like this.
The simple act of liking someone was in its purest form this night. The deep-rooted feelings of love are wrapped up in innocence before it becomes complicated and fragile. At this age, it is in a delicate state, warm fuzzies mean a lot and the fear of rejection starts early.
What I experienced watching my young man in action put my feelings in a whole new dimension.
My baby, my little man. While I panicked at the prospect of him growing up, deeper inside me I felt a sense of relief, of comfort. He was well-mannered, considerate, fun-loving, a listener, a talker, a truly caring human being. Somehow it made me feel stronger and self-confident, that I was doing okay as a parent, as a human being.
It warmed my heart and made me chuckle as my husband and I walked behind them when we later left the ice cream shop. They held hands as we walked in the darkness illuminated by the streetlights and moonlight.
As we took her home, my son put his hand on his companion’s back as if to protect her as he walked her to the door. He gave her a hug. Short, sweet, nothing elaborate.
The whirlwind night had started with a discussion of homework and ended with this. As my son and I unlocked the front door at home, he looked up at me beneath the floppy coat hood and orange stocking cap and said, “I hugged her, Mom.”
“I know, honey.” I drew him to me and felt the warmest I ever had in the February wind and rain.
“C’mon, Mom,” he said inside, leaving a trail of winter clothing behind him. “Let’s sort through the Valentine’s candy!”
This Valentine’s Day would be the biggest haul both of us would ever make. Our hearts were full.