I kind of love it when random memories pop up.
On a long cab ride, I found myself falling asleep when a nearly 50 year old memory came to me.
In the early ’70’s, I spent the night with a boy. I was 6…maybe 7. He was a year older. His parents lived across the street and they had gone out of town, so their son Mark was staying with us. He was cute and I had a super crush on him.
The Wizard of Oz came on that evening. I was not a fan of tornadoes, but I didn’t show any fear. Mark, on the other hand, was terrified of the Wicked Witch of the West, and in the middle of the night, he woke up after having a bad dream and sat on the edge of my bed telling me about it. I felt like we bonded.
Soon after, my parents took a trip and I went over to stay at his family’s house. I remember sitting at breakfast with Mark the next morning. The sun was streaming across the table between us, and I knew I was in love. I was contemplating the best way to tell him…
Let me set the scene:
Mark’s mom looked like she had just stepped out of a ’60’s Mod-Girl Magazine. She had a classic flipped bob (think “That Girl” or early “Mary Tyler Moore”, but with auburn hair). She normally wore mini dresses and boots, but this morning she was wearing a fluffy robe and clutching a cup of coffee as she stood next to the kitchen counter. The family dog was under the table and trying to act casual. Mark’s baby sister was in a high chair on the other side of the table, and was clearly in cahoots with the dog, who was waiting (now, not-so-patiently) under her chair for more tidbits. Mark sat across the table, facing me, with his back to his mom.
The toaster popped up and Mark’s mom slathered grape jelly on one slice, dropped it onto a plate, and placed it in front of Mark. It was then that the dog noticed who had the food, and her alliances immediately shifted. I was focused on Mark as he scooped up the piece of toast and brought it up for a bite. I almost didn’t hear his mom ask me if I wanted jelly. Jelly? What’s jelly? Oh yeah, jelly… sure. “Yes please”.
As she was fixing my toast, the dog began to beg and decided that a high-pitched whine would help her cause. She was clearly not going to get any crumbs from Mark, and she ramped up her game. I was so focused on Mark that none of this was bothering me.
The next few seconds happened in slow motion. The sun was dancing off the grape jelly as Mark began to take a bite. I leaned forward…surely this was the best time to declare my love for him. At the same time, his mom was moving past him with my plate in her hand. The dog was seriously losing her mind by this point. Without warning, his mom yelled, “PETRA!!!” and Mark simultaneously jumped and jerked his arm so that his piece of toast smashed against his face.
It took me a hot minute to realize what the word “Petra” meant. It was the dog’s name, of course. Then Mark lowered his toast to reveal a jelly-covered face, and I began to laugh. Then he began to laugh. The moment to proclaim my love was gone, but I knew we would be married some day.
Sometime later on the playground, I stood across the blacktop watching him play with his friends. “Oh that man of mine” I thought (probably). I had that relaxed, comfortable feeling of someone who has been in a relationship forever. He began to run in my general direction. General. About the time he neared full speed, I took a deliberate step in front of him.
He never saw me. I suppose, looking back, that he may have been lost in thought. Perhaps planning our wedding, or honeymoon, or names for our children. He ran straight into me. To be more specific, his head ran into my teeth.
I ended up with bloody, but intact teeth. He ended up with stitches.
I don’t know what happened to Mark after that.
Mark, if you are out there… you had your chance. I am taken these days, so don’t come looking for me. Just know I remember you fondly.