A Story from Nostalgia
You Can't Hold On To Your Innocence Forever
One evening last year, I was sitting in my favorite worn chair. As the breeze met my face, I began to drift back to an earlier time, an earlier time of innocence. Her head tilted showed only her profile. I continued to study her. She had a face of bronze complexion, shadowed by hair of black rich coal. My heart was smitten with this Italian beauty. Somehow, I caught her eye. Her mouth began to open into a rich full smile showing a full set of strong white teeth. As words began to come forth from her, for a moment, I thought her soft brown eyes were speaking to me.
Her name was Mindy and we were in the seventh grade. She was sitting in the same row that I was however, she was just few chairs in front of me. Other students joined us. However, Mindy had my full attention. I had never seen her before that day. Mindy enamored me. She was more than beautiful she was striking. I could feel within my chest the beat of my heart.
"Now everyone is here because you have not been misbehaving in class!"
The roar of the homeroom teacher pulled me from my vision. She was right. We were seventh-grader, mischief-makers and we were the Wilshire Junior High School Breakfast Club.
For our detention, the school administration required that we sit in the detention room for an hour after school keeping ourselves quiet. The teacher left the room. Mindy and I began to talk. We became fast friends. Remember we already had something dear in common. We were both mischief-makers.
Our relationship continued into eighth grade. It was the summer of 1967, the year that Israel won the sixth day war. Mindy and I made a promised to one another. We said, no matter what, we would always be there, forever, for one another. Pressing our index fingers together, we mingled our blood, confirming our vow. We were twelve years old.
It was in the eighth grade, I would never forget the experience. I walked over to my mom and asked, "How do you know that you are in love?” Her answer was as direct as I was sure. Mom said, "You just know. It is inside you.” I was in love with Mindy.
The date was September 21, 1971. We celebrated our fifth year "going steady" anniversary by seeing the Hawaiian entertainer Don Ho. He was singing, at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Mindy really liked Don Ho. She liked his music too, especially his rendition of Tiny Bubbles.
It was in our senior year that our relationship ended. Yes, it was over another man. His name was Greg. He must have been dashing in his military uniform. He was in the United States Navy, all spit and polished. As I think back, I wonder if Mindy saw in Greg and "his uniform" what I first perceived in her.
It was an ugly break up. As I ponder back now maturing in my emotional awareness, it seemed Mindy was unable to admit that she was seeing another man while "committed" to me. David, her brother, told me first about Greg. I returned from a visit from my dad's house in San Jose.
My parents were divorced. I was wearing love beads given to me by my stepmother when I arrived at Mindy's home.
Mindy met me on stairs leading to the front porch. She first began reaching up toward the necklace. At first believing that she was admiring the necklace, I was encouraged especially with the assurance that something was right.
Mindy beguiled me however. She took a hold of the necklace and pulled it from my neck like a dentist pulling my wisdom tooth. Mindy ran up the few stairs left between the front porch and me. Opening the door, she slammed it breaking the panes of glass used as decorations in the wooden front door.
As Mindy slammed, the door and the glass panes began to break so Mindy was closing herself off from me breaking my heart. A few years before in a time of innocence, she was my first love. Mindy now broke my innocence. Mindy's behavior had caused my first broken heart.
Soon she returned to address me. She proclaimed revengefully we were through and the necklace that another had given to me was now flushed down the toilet.
I told her that it was my stepmother and not another competitor that gave me the necklace. It was too late by now her dad was involved. Told to leave, I felt lost. My first love, as I called her my Ichi Bon (Japanese for number one) was gone. Later getting my necklace back, Mindy admitted that she had not flushed it down the toilet, only that she was jealous.
By that time, I had found out about Greg and Mindy and I were over. I could still see in my mind's eye Mindy slamming the door and the glass panes beginning to break. I thought of Humpty Dumpty. All the King's horses and the entire king's men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again once he fell off the wall so our relationship was slammed shut and broken.
The year was 1973 and Greg was not an only child. He had an older brother named Monte. They sent her dashing young sailor over to Viet Nam.
While serving his country off the shore of Vietnam, a fellow sailor assigned-to mail call spoke out the name Greg. While sitting a board ship far from home, Greg opened a love letter gone south. Greg had received a "Dear John Letter."
Mindy was going up the ladder of success she figured. Mindy, I found out later, had told Greg that he did not have to come home for her because she was marrying his soon to be doctor brother, Monte.
She took my innocence and now she wanted to destroy Greg's life too. Now Greg did not seem so much as an enemy as a wounded comrade in arms. I tried to think how Greg must have felt reading the letter Mindy sent him.
Many soldiers received a "Dear John Letter.” He may have turned from conversation with his friends on ship looking out to the open sea. He may have felt embarrassed, blushing like a bottle of new fresh wine.
Thinking to himself, "how could she have written such things to me?"
What memories had she now elicited within the clandestine of Greg’s thoughts? Memories, yes, for memories were all that Greg had now. He may have reached out for her one more time and fell. For Greg like me, memories were now our crutches.
His memories would have to carry him throughout the bitter nights and summer days while he was on a military deployment in Vietnam. He would have to make it home now in order to confront his brother Monte and his new sister-in law, Mindy.
The year was now 1994. My mind drifted back in time. I began remembering when I was in a local regional park, near my apartment, in 1989. I was gazing up at a waterfall at a spot that I shared many lunches.
I began to recall how the falls would flow free through water formed crevices on the mountainside that they created over time. Trees had grown tall beside those falls. They would sway when the cool breeze would blow through them.
I would watch as leaves would fall down, abandoning themselves on the strength of the rivers current. I would ask myself, then, “What does tomorrow hold for those who love today?”
Now, tomorrow is here. Tomorrow is today and what had happened to my first love? I decided to call Mindy's father. He was not hard to find. His phone number was listed in the phone book.
Due to the passage of time, we would now be on a first name basis. His name was Ken. After speaking to Ken, I could attest to this; “it is no longer because of what I have heard by some that I believe the saying, that truth is stranger than fiction, for now I. have heard it for myself.”
The story that Ken told me about Mindy, I thought, I was reading fiction or a story from Ripley's Believe It or Not.
'Monte had dropped out of medical school never becoming a doctor. He had been working in a medical lab. He had been a drug addict and drunk. Monte was in a recovery program. One evening David, Mindy's brother walked into Mindy and Monte’s garage and had found Monte. He had committed suicide while hanging dead from the garage rafters.
Greg and Mindy, once again took up a relationship after meeting at Monte's funeral. They had married and now were divorced. Greg had become an alcoholic like his brother.
Mindy had several children from Monte and Greg. I was overwhelmed with this information. This stunned me.
Ken gave me Mindy's phone number and I called leaving a message wishing her a happy birthday it was April 4, 1994. Mindy would be forty. On April 4, 1995 and 1996, Mindy continued to receive birthday messages from me without a return phone number being left.
It was another repetitious evening of watching television, listening to music or reading a good book. I could not decide. I chose to take a break from my routine. Having become accustomed sitting in the same chair, a breeze from my open window met my face. I began to drift back to an earlier time, an earlier time of innocence.
My mind drifted back to a classroom thirty years before. I began to see her image across the room she began to draw me from my twilight mist. I was not accustomed to what I was drawn away by her eyes and smile. I decided to write a poem about experiencing falling in love with her. I called this poem, “First Love.”
I remember the hour that it struck
Like ‘the climax to a drum roll
I was waiting all my life unprepared.
Then, suddenly, unbeknown to me,
like a stranger appearing uninvited
from the mist,
It made its presence known within me.
I decided to call Mindy, this time talking with her. The year was 1997.
Her voice sounded like she was broken. Her voice still was holding some resonance of the Mindy I remembered in my innocence. We were candid with each other. She confirmed and added to what Ken, her father had told me.
I found out Greg had been emotional and physically abusive to her and to Monte's kids. Her oldest was in a psychological adolescent facility. They deemed him incorrigible. She invited me to meet with her and the children and to call again.
I held off from sharing with her the poem, waiting first, to see how she would receive me. I called again as she asked. This time I shared the poem, First Love.
She stated that she was touched, that no one had written a poem for her for many years.
My mind filled with a rush, “could it be that this time it may work?”
“Was Chicken Little wrong being that the sky was not falling?”
I shared with her another nostalgic experience, I asked, "Do you recall anything special, anything out of the ordinary, that we did together when we were about twelve?”
She told me that we had made a promise in blood to one another. We said, “No matter what, we would always be there, forever for one another.”
I told Mindy,” One, “It was thirty years ago this year that we made that promise to one another.” Two, “I intended to keep our vow that it was still in effect no matter what. I went on to tell her that three “Like a precious jewel that is exclusively chosen being placed in safekeeping. My friendship will be ever present, secure in the residence of her mind, being reviewed whenever she needed it, to remind herself that she was loved and not alone!”
She told me there was no way we would ever be romantically involved together and she would keep to our vow.
A few years before, in a time of innocence, she was my first love. Later, she broke my innocence having become my first broken heart. It seemed that time had taken its toll on Mindy. She too had lost her innocence.
In 1989, on a quiet breezy' summer's afternoon gazing at a waterfall the question, "What does tomorrow hold for those who love today?" first made it's presence known to me. Now in 1998, almost a decade later, I have the answer to this age-old question. “You can't hold on to your innocence forever.”
“Keeping my vow thirty years later to Mindy has shown me this.”
“My conscience is clear my conscience is undivided.”
“I can still see her head tilted, showing only her profile.”
After thirty-four years Mindy has released me from my vow, "to be there for one another no matter what."
I have learned through the example of the Lord Jesus to keep my vows, Praise the Lord, "He will never leave us nor forsake us." Hebrews 13:5