Scattered within all of these little stories I’m sharing with you, there is a ‘sub story’ about the progression and development of my love affair with my wife. The stories are in chronological order, intermittently published. I’ll begin this one here by telling you that this is the story about telling my girlfriend Kim, (now my wife), for the very first time that I loved her. I don’t know where the story will go. Even though this occurred almost 40 years ago, the memory is easy enough to share. It’s the background, the ‘noise’ if you will, that I think will take the longest for me to think through and document. Was I scared to say I love you? If so, why? How far back does it go? Am I needy, why did I always have a girlfriend, what was the reason? Why did I feel so certain that Kim was the one?
When I was a little guy at Fillmore Elementary, I easily blurted out the I Love You’s to my little girlfriends, Tammy and Kathy. Wait a minute, perhaps I should back up. My first kiss and my first girlfriend occurred in the very first grade of school. The story is a cute one offered up here if you missed it (link). Tammy was a daring little first grader and I loved the attention. She was a very brave little girl and all throughout the elementary years, I never ran across someone who I felt was as open about sharing herself at such a young age. She easily, (and very often), doled out the ‘I love you Robbie’. We were only 5-8 years old throughout our 3-yr ‘affair’.
I guess I’d have to say that I first learned to share I Love You’s with little girls from Tammy. After that puppy love affair, I easily doled out the affection to all my subsequent girlfriends. I was affectionate, attentive and the girls who liked me seemed to also like that I could make them laugh. I became afraid to say I love you after losing Diane (read me). The time frame coincided with the time early in puberty, I assume, and it continued into the early high school years. I recall being afraid not to hear the phrase returned.
Let’s you and I think about it together for a moment. When you say I love you to your spouse or person you are romantically involved with, how often are you saying it to share your feelings vs wanting to just receive a moment of affirmation from your lover? What happens when you utter the words, expecting to hear the phrase returned, and it isn’t? We get a little anxious, don’t we. Maybe not if we’ve been together for a long time or are just naturally confident, but for a large portion of people, they’re anticipating hearing I love you and if they don’t, they get anxious or upset. We are needy beings and we need to feel connected, (just look at the social media usage). Don’t you love me too? You didn’t say it – why didn’t you say it? Now it’s an argument. Take my advice; unless you’re wanting a fight, when someone says I love you to you, say it back! If you don’t, pour yourself some coffee – it’s going to be a long night.
At the age of 15 I was dating a girl named Betty. We got along great while we were together, but in the end she left me. Why? Because I could not bring myself to say I love you. My heart was broken, but ultimately I learned a big lesson. People who care for you, those who love you need to hear those words from you. I could rationalize that episode in life and make it sound like I was magnanimous or something, but the truth is I screwed up. I screwed up, it hurt like hell and I made a pact with myself that if I was lucky enough again to find someone who would love me, I would not repeat the mistake I made with Betty. Please read the Betty story here.
I experienced a bad time in my life after Betty left, but after awhile I finally had a good come-to-Jesus meeting with myself and decided to turn things around. Once I “got my mind right”, (to use a Cool Hand Luke quote), I began getting on the right track. I got a new set of friends, started refocusing on my schoolwork and then something else happened; I had a class with that girl I wanted to meet – Kim (read me).
(getting your mind right)
I found very early in our friendship that Kim was special. I know today just how special. She can do whatever she puts her mind to. She is loyal. She is a nurturing mother and a standout nurse. She’s great with her hands, something she likely inherited from her father. And there’s something else too – she’s like me in that she knows how to keep a secret. You can confide in her; and people do. But back then, it was just a hunch, a feeling, chemistry, whatever. I think I first started feeling ‘in love’ right before the episode at the skating rink where she tried to break up with me. I recall at some point that what I was feeling was love, and that I wanted to say the words to Kim.
I really dragged my feet and I have no idea what was going through Kim’s mind at the time. Kim is not the type of girl who would give me the upper hand by sharing her feelings with me first. She always made me work for her affection early in the relationship. I remember very well the precise moment that I opened up about my feelings. I remember it so well because it was pretty lame, (to quote my kids).
Kim and I were spending a weekend day together on my side of town. I don’t remember what our activities were that day, but it was a nice summer day so likely we walked downtown together to roam the shops or else took in a matinee. Hamilton had some cool shops back in the day and likely that’s what we were doing. No doubt we took in an ice cream or a shake at Hughes Drug Store, (read me), which was within walking distance from my house. I remember clearly that I had been thinking for at least a week that I wanted to say the magic words to Kim. I also remember though being afraid to say it, afraid I wouldn’t hear it returned.
I was really smitten with Kim and I just didn’t know what I was going to do if she took it as another opportunity to end things with me, regardless of how well I felt they were going. I loved Kim and I didn’t want to lose her; but I also had learned from my previous relationship that if I dragged my feet any longer, it might not matter because she would eventually leave me just as Betty had. So I decided that this week was going to be the week.
After our downtown day, we walked home. We walked down the alleyway and into my yard from the rear. During the entire walk home I had been thinking of how and when to pop ‘the news’. Like a little boy, I had been hinting to Kim that I had something important to tell Kim. Each time I would say I wanted to say something, she’d say things like – well, what is it?
As we approached the trellis on the side of our house, the one that had Concord grapes growing all over it from Mr. Manglecamp’s 75 year old grape vines next door, (Kim loved those grapes by the way), I remember thinking to myself that if I was going to get this out today, if it was going to happen, it needed to happen here on the side of the house. It was the most private spot I would have left in the day before Kim’s parents picked her up. There we were, walking under the trellis, jockeying back and forth about this important thing I needed to tell Kim, and at that point she smiled and told me that she already knew what it was. And then she just blurted it out – “that you love me“.
Was she tired of waiting on me? Did she realize I was having difficulty? Or was it just friendly teenager bantering? I will never know. Too much time has gone by and I’m sure she doesn’t remember this with as much detail as I do. But the cat was out of the bag. I was off the hook. When she said those words, I just grabbed her right arm and turned her to face me. “Yeah, that’s it. I do, I love you Kim.” She smiled a giant smile and simply said, “I knew it!” “I love you too.”
We stood there, just kissing.
My story, my blog site is called Growing Up On Prytania because that is the name of the street that I lived on during much of my formative years. Most of the psychology classes say that the formative years end around the age of 12. I have to say though that, although they may be correct in this point, I do think that most of my ‘growing up’ only began at the age of 12. Am I done? Am I all grown up now?
Now that we’re older and approaching the next phase of life, maybe we’re both finally grown up. At 17 however, we were far from it. There was much drama, heartache and happiness yet to come. Stay tuned……