I usually don’t respond to prompts like "Write a blog post about your very first boyfriend or girlfriend." I’m going to in this case. May God have mercy on my soul…
Julie lived at the other end of Glenwood Avenue from me. She was a classmate, so we normally saw each other all day. (Those were the days that they separated us, not by sex, but by whether you were "smart" or "not smart." Which, by the way, was a real crappy way to do it.) I thought she was kind of pretty: she had long, light brown hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones, a couple of crooked teeth, a little on the heavy side, walked funny because she had some sort of hip dysplasia. She and I both played guitar and played for the school Masses, so we spent time together doing that, too.
I’d see her a lot after school as well, usually when she was walking her dog, Lassie (who, as you might imagine, was a collie) through the alley between Glenwood and Wayne, where it seemed like everyone would hang out if they lived on the west side of Wayne or east side of Glenwood. Sometimes I’d be out on my bike and detour past her house, just to see if she was there, and if she was, would hang out there for a while. She was fun to talk to, smiled a lot, had an obnoxious little brother and sister who were more like comic relief.
Julie sat in front of me in math in 7th grade, and the two of us would have a lively "conversation": she’d lean over and write in my notebook, and I’d reply underneath or beside and tap her on the shoulder while Sister Anna Marie was teaching us the finer points of calculating square roots. (This was the 1960’s, before we had even heard of calculators or seen slide rules.) I’m surprised we never got caught, but anyway…
Julie was my first slow dance with a girl, my first kiss, and my first sort-of date: the guy who had directed the Christmas pageant in eighth grade was in a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and the whole class attended; I walked here to the theater and back and sat with her during the performance, which made absolutely no sense, but I didn’t care.
I could go on and on, but I won’t…
I saw Julie a couple more times after I moved out of the neighborhood. Once was at her prom: I was dating a classmate of hers, and when we arrived she and her date were sitting there, looking uncomfortable, and we got a chance to catch up a little.
The last time I saw her was really strange. Mary and I were in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I had played in a Highland Games with my band. They had a ceilidh that evening (ceilidh is the Gaelic word for "party") and our band, still dressed in Highland drag, arrived. There was a fairly large ensemble playing on the stage, and I swear, she was there. "Mary, I know their guitar player! She was my girlfriend in grammar school!" "Are you sure?" Mary said. And I thought for a second, and I couldn’t say that I was.
Until the group took a break and I saw her walking. Remember I said she had hip dysplasia?
Mary was kind and understanding and let me go and see her. I walked up to her and said "Julie?"
She looked at me funny. "Yes?"
She looked shocked. "Oh my God!" and started to laugh. We chatted for a couple of minutes until Mary came over, and I introduced them. Julie had to get back on stage by that time, so we said our goodbyes, and that was that.
Julie was a really good friend, and I realize that was all she ever was or wanted to be, and I felt the same way. I hope she’s well. We had some good times.