Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Friday, August 19, 2011

March, 1967

I don’t know much about the physiological intricacies of adolescence, the growth and flow of hormones that thrum and strum inside the bodies of pre-teen or early teen boys and girls. I’m deeply familiar only with the rhythms that pounded within the boundaries of my own skin in those years and remember well the emotions, actions/reactions and resulting memories, like those of a day in late March, 1967. Though it has been many decades, there are two triggers that always play the events back, a song and a childhood rhyme.

We had moved from Rising Sun, OH, to New Haven, WV in early March. The strangest thing in my mind, regarding the move, at the time, was that I was going from one school with an Indian sounding name, Lakota Jr. High, to another, Wahama Jr. High. Disappointment fell upon me quickly, like a whack from a tomahawk. Wahama had nothing to do with Indians, but was named for three school districts that had merged, Waggener, Hartford and Mason. I never bothered to be disappointed further by checking into the history of Lakota, because it was past history, where I was concerned. It snowed the week we moved, last snow of the season. There would be no dogwood winter. Flowers, trees and plants would sprout, bloom and remain, as each adhered to its normal cycle. The whole relocating ordeal was dreary and sad (words like depressed, depressing, depression were used rarely in those days) but the weather quickly changed, as did my twelve year old body and emotions.

There was a girl in the new neighborhood, an eighth grader named Cathy. She was a year older. Up to that time girls were simply friends or enemies, mostly enemies, but she was akin to Miss America. In my eyes she could be on a stage, crying tears and saying she wished for world peace, her arms loaded with roses. I had never seen such smooth skin or perfectly shaped facial features, at least my hormones had never recognized any such things.

One Saturday morning I was sunning on our deck, in the boiling sixty degree weather, listening to the radio. For whatever reason—maybe because I had moved beyond the Monkee euphoria—the Buckingham’s Kind of a Drag is the one song that stuck to me that morning. I hummed and sang it over and over all afternoon. I don’t have much recollection about the rest of the day, until the events at dusk.  Several kids gathered in the cul-de-sac, loitering, chatting, bored, when someone pitched the idea of playing a game of tag. There was, however, a small curve added. Whenever a boy tagged a girl, or vice versa, the person tagged had to kiss the person who tagged them. After much eye rolling, giggling and anti-spin-the-bottle argument it was decided the boys would run first, after a count to ten the girls would chase.

Before we started I looked up, saw a star, and said to myself:  Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have my wish come true tonight. It was more of a prayer than a hope, but I wished for Cathy to catch me, as farfetched as it seemed. Within a minute she did, after my feet grew roots into the flower bed at the corner of our house. She stood there and waited for the kiss, which I planted on her cheek. Her fingers moved slowly and touched my hand for a few seconds, before she smiled and ran back into the cul-de-sac. The game ended after the first chase. Perhaps everyone had caught the kiss they wanted, or maybe others received kiss leftovers and were disgusted. In any event, I saw Cathy on the bus ride to and from school, but we never talked about it. Then one day, a few weeks later, I came home to find packed boxes throughout the house. My mother told me we would be moving, again, by the end of the week.

My life has turned out just as I could have dreamed, so this is not story of regret or what-if. It is about being transported back to a point on the continuum of my life whenever I hear that Buckingham’s song or the silly rhyme. I have been blessed, or cursed, with accurate recall, prompted by a smell, sight or sound. I can feel the internal heat and the heartbeat of that early spring evening. I still tingle a bit when I remember the kiss on a soft cheek that carried me into the days of waving goodbye to boyhood. In many ways leaving those days was wonderful, in some, it was kind of a drag.

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