Wednesday, September 28, 2011

kid-love: Jeffrey

I never need to think "Jeffrey who?" because there was always and ever will be only one Jeffrey.  I sometimes use the shorthand "childhood sweetheart," but that's not really accurate.  We weren't in kid-love.  It was a little more complicated.  We were eight or nine when we met (he's a month older) and saw each other every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day for five or six summers, and even now and then in-between.  Our families spent the summer in a small bungalow colony, 30 families, and pretty much all of the kids interacted with all the other kids.  There were certain age groupings, and some loose, gentle cliques; for instance, I hung around most with the kids of the five or six couples closest to my parents.  (My parents' clique was far and away the smartest and funniest, and they actually referred to themselves as "the In Group."  It was the mid-late sixties, but, you know:  )

So Jeffrey was part of all of this; his parents were one of several couples who spent time with "the In Group" but weren't really of it...or maybe you'd say they were secondary members.  And so Jeffrey and his brothers were pretty mainstream kidgroup players.  He and I had one of those hate-you things, classic boy-girl kid stuff, and always made fun of each other and teased and said mean things.  Boys and girls did play together, especially games that required a lot of players.  And these were really bonafide running-around-outdoors games like tag, kick the can, and hitting tennis balls off the handball court wall.  But that boy-against-girl thing was always there -- not that we played games in same-sex teams, but there were always squabbles that came down to "boys are SO stupid!"

Jeffrey and I were a particular pair in the boy-hate-girl-hate-boy facet of the kid social scene, and it was like that for years.  And then, of course, it dawned on both of us.  Things changed.  We used to do a little off-to-see-the-Wizard routine that was a thinly veiled excuse to hold hands.  We wrote a few letters in-between summers one year.  (He lived in Manhattan and I lived in Brooklyn, but at that age, unless our parents were having some kind of kids-included get-together, we simply didn't see each other between summers.)  We were sometimes shy with each other but it was clear to us that we shared a secret.  That transition was a tremendously awkward thing, maybe because the connection between us was so powerful and so weighty.  I've heard adults say, "I fell in love with my best friend."  I supposed it was something like that, except we didn't really know that kind of love when we were friends, it was an early friendship, and it was first love.

Did it get a little dim between summers, and did I also "like" boys at school?  Of course. But the summers began to mesh with my other life when I went to his bar mitzvah.  There was the business of dressing up, of picking the best gift I could think of (even then, I was obsessed with giving the perfect gift), of consciously looking forward to seeing him.  I remember how much he loved the gift (double live Judy Collins album, y'all), and what I wore (orange and white dress, orange tights -- early 1970's, y'all).  And even though there was still a lot of awkwardness and shyness, and not yet any kissing, we smiled at each other a lot and stole glances and we knew what was what.

About six months later, his family moved to Florida.

There is more to say about Jeffrey, I suppose...I've seen him three times since then and the last time was about 30 years ago.  We always had a very special feeling for each other, but never got to, ahem, express it physically.  I'm been web-searching him for years, but there are many, many Jeffrey Solomons out there who are not my Jeffrey Solomon.

Why he is particularly on my mind right now is that I dreamed about him a couple of nights ago.  I dream about Jeffrey maybe once a year, and he's always so real in the dream, so very much himself, his face precisely as I remember it, and the feeling is always the same, too.  I'm always wondering about Jeffrey, wondering how he is.

1 comment:

  1. Only recently got caught up. Very sorry to hear about your distress.