:Lightning Could Strike
Could It Happen To You? Yes. If you're lucky it could. How does one know if it happens? There is no way to not know when it does! You'll be electrified!
So, then - has that ever happened to you? You may be seven or seventy. But you see him (or her if that's your thing) and the earth seems to stand still. It may be the first glimpse ever you've gotten of him. Or you may have seen him many times before, but it's never been like this. You're frozen in your tracks or you may seem to be lighter than air. Whatever else, you're transformed.
You don’t know quite what has happened but you cannot take your eyes off of him. You're safely out of his view so you can stare and absorb his image to your heart's content. You feast your eyes and his image seems to fill your being till your heart feels too large for your chest. It's as though some angel had touched him and bestowed on him all grace and beauty, every virtue and inspiration! He's become the sole occupant of a place in your soul which can never ever again be filled so fully.
It's summertime and he's riding his bicycle out in his back yard and you're under the back porch of your house, peering through the lattice. He looks so - free, so joyous! So wonderful. You're transfixed. But how you wish he would ride you with him on his bike.
You're so very aware of everything! What is this, you wonder! It’s as if lightning has struck! The hairs on your arm stand up; that is if you're older than seven and have arm hair. If not, still, your mind is dizzily reeling and your heart seems to be pounding out of your chest even though you are aware that you've never felt more in balance. Somehow you feel - both whole and molten.
Everything inside seems to reach out to him. It feels like a magnet is pulling you and you are but helpless shards of iron flying into his sphere with no will of your own. Of course, if you're seven you have no idea what this is all about but, even so, you're acutely aware that you will never be the same again.
From that moment onward there is and always will be an imaginary wreath of trembling flowers and shimmering lights surrounding his name as you think of it or write it. It is like a song. You know that you'll never ever again be able to think of it without that wreath around it, the distant music tinkling and this magnificent sense of - what? Reverence? Awe? Amazement? Devotion? Completion? OH - All of that and more!
Today While The Strawberries Still Cling To The Vine...
It's evening now and the sun is sinking over the 'sleeping lady' mountains, but the glow around him riding his bike still tremors and radiates brighter than the sun. And where did this marvel come from? Why just now aware of him?
Oh, his family had moved across the alley the year before. But this apparition which is just now filling my thoughts must have originated somewhere very special! Even before, – when they'd just moved in, though, there was something special about him. He seemed to have a little smile about his mouth that suggested he knew some private joke. But he was always busily involved in doing things and scarsely had time for little girls, so little girls didn't often get the chance to focus on his expression like this!
But this evening, I could and it was - -something unearthly I beheld, as if we had been made together in some original place far away and it was inevitable that we would meet. But he didn't seem to be even the sightest bit aware of it.
I shrugged but still felt elated. That didn't matter, not at all. I was aware enough for the both of us. He would see.
My reverie is interrupted unceremoniously.
Mother calls me for supper just as he is parking his bike and going into his house. I scramble out of the private place under the small elevated back porch, which is enclosed on three sides by the lattice, with the other side opening into a large enclosed storage area with stairs leading up to the house which is raised from the ground. Each of the three porches, back, side and front, has a raised porch.
As I get up to the central hallway, I can see that my siblings are assembling around our table in the dining room, chattering merrily about their day's activities, as usual. Washed, seated and with grace said, we pass around the bowls of veggies, the platter of meat, the basket of bread and I eat with the usual conversaton passing over my head. Tonight I didn't even try to find out what they are talking about. I just eat my dinner like a good little girl. Besides, in our house, there is no discussion about likes or dislikes. We are all happy with the fare and we clean our plates. Tonight, however, I barely taste the food, though it's my favorite: Mother's corn soufflé, her roast beef and a salad full of buttery avocado slices. The occasion is my eldest sister's upcoming graduation from college. But I can hardly wait for the meal to end so that I can go to my bed and think! Think of HIM! Without interruptions!
"You did well, dear" Mother is saying to me as my sisters gather up the dishes. "You'll love the dessert! It's banana pudding!" That is my very most favorite, but tonight, I just felt delayed by it and ever so eager to get back to my musing.
At a later time, he's going to the Pumphouse to swim, riding his bike and I’m walking, as I always do. He pulls up beside me, stops and props the bike up with one foot on the ground and says, “Hop on, kid.” as he gives me a hand clamoring onto the narrow seat behind his on the bike. I'm not even allowed to ride a bike, but this is justified as an exception, I'm thinking. I put my arms around his waist and I can feel the muscles contract as he pumps the bike. The breeze is teasing my hair as we ride the six or seven blocks to the swimming hole which is fed from a tremendous natural springs and as soon as it's in sight he lets me off the bike, rather unceremoniously, I thought, but I don't care. I'll forever treasure that moment and that ride with him for as long as I live, I know I will!
But how quickly the days of childhood march on and in a few years my family moves to another town north of there, as does his, except that they move further north-west, where the Davis Mountains rise and the mysterious "lights of Marfa" continue to fascinate those who love to speculate about such things.
Gradually I'm not thinking about him all the time. I'm getting accustomed to a new house and school, all in another town. I encounter my first real snow! I like some things about the place, and some, not so much.
The kids there have been together since early grades, the way I and my friends were back 'home' so I'm not especially happy about that. I feel more awkward and self-conscious, too. I miss my friends and now that my siblings are all grown and flown the nest, I am the only 'kid' in the house most of the time. I make new friends, but it's not ever the same as before - when you're so young.
Every time I do think of HIM, the flowers and lights encircling his name appear and the faint scent of summer lightning-activated ozone seems to permeate my senses and nestle there under my nose as I experience strange feelings deep inside. I wonder what he's doing and if he still rides his bike of if he even remembers me.
Everyone else has always called him Kenny but to me, he is always Kenneth. Even now, there are the flowers and lights around it, just thinking about it again these many years after his passing and even more years beyond young love. It still has the magic glow about it.
Mother and I went to see his family that summer, which was when she decided to enroll in the summer session at the teachers’ college in his town. She had her degrees from up north, but was not accredited to teach in our state, so that was the plan. She wanted to substitue-teach whenever the opportunity arose and she was free to fill in. So while she went to her classes, I went to piano lessons. We stayed in the dorm and had time to go out on painting forays too. And that summer I learned to play Beethoven’s Fur Elise on the piano. It always reminds me of that special time.
He was 12 now and I was 10. Bicycles no longer captured his interest. But I certainly didn’t! either. I could have been invisible!
No, now he was into rodeo riding. Oh – not professionally and competitively, but he rode his own horse every chance he got and was pretty good on the bucking ones in the little local weekend rodeos. He obviously dreamt of riding in real rodeos, though.
I was enthralled. I didn't care what he wanted to do - it was all tinged with magic to me. I still felt it whenever I beheld him and he still didn’t notice me beyond the fact that I was his little sister’s playmate and we were into dolls and stuff, though I never missed a chance to watch him ride his horses or even swim in the cold mountain swimming pool. I tried it once, but I was too much the warm spring water swimmer. Better to be a spectator - every chance I got!
More years went by.
I went to school in that town where we'd moved through the grades from junior high, 7th grade till my junior year of high school. That year it was decided that I would go away to boarding school (only 100 miles distant) for my senior year. In fact my best friend from the old town joined me for summer school at the academy between our junior and senior years. We didn't have any heavy classes for summer school. We just took light electives; one of mine was piano. I did a lot of sewing for the fall and we enjoyed just being "away at school" without having to do too much studying - yet. When classes started in the fall, it was serious school. My grade average improved vastly. Had i done as well all four years of high school, I might have been valedictorian. As it was, I was fifth in the class. My parents were pleased and felt they'd made a good decision to send me there.
I suspect that my parents, being older, had felt a bit overwhelmed with having a lone and not extremely happy teenager at home, now that the older siblings were all away living their own grown-up lives.
Another factor was that my parents had frequent lengthy commutes between the farm near our town and the ranch hundreds of miles distant. This always required that I stay with neighbors when school was in session, which was somewhat disturbing to regular studying. Boarding school took care of several problems in one fell swoop and they knew I was well supervised and had plenty of friends on campus.
After graduating high high school there the next spring, I again enrolled in summer school at the college with which the academy was associated. I was well acquainted on campus and had settled into a pleasant school life.
But the following summer, when I'd finished my freshman year and I’d been away at school from age fourteen, plans were made for me to come home for the summer! I was eager to see how it would go.
I'd had a few boyfriends at school but had never forgotten HIM. But it seemed I was too busy trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up to dwell on it a lot and I'd learned to not pine for what did not seem 'to be' in the works.
Still, the old spark was alive and well. I always felt a tingle when I did think of him. And no one else was like a bolt of lightning through me, although a 'current' beau at school had surprised me with a huge Sweet Sixteen birthday party that spring semester and was courting me 'big-time'. Nothing gave the same thrill of that bicycle ride holding on to him when I was seven though.
So now, sweet sixteen and home from school for the summer, I learned what I hadn’t known: that HE was now in the military and was stationed at the base in my hometown! He’d been coming out to the house and visiting with my parents when he had days off all during that year! For whatever reason, they hadn't thought to mention it to me before that day in early June, a day when he was planning to drop by. As far as I know, he wasn't expecting to see me that day, either, although I'm not certain about all the details. I am pretty sure tht my mother, being a romantic, was more enthusiastic about a possible romance between us than my dad was. You know how dads are!
Honestly, I was so excited, in fact, almost giddy, but I managed to keep my composure, which I was noted for at school.
I do remember that I wore a simple but becoming navy blue dress and when I walked into the living room where he was, the lightning flashed and struck again, except this time – it went both directions and it fused two soul-mates into one complete soul. The song I'd been playing then was Cole Porter’s Night and Day. It became our song of songs.
This Never Happened Before
Our paths were star-crossed from the onset, I suppose. I've wondered how things 'might have been' many times. But there did come a time of closure.
After being so in love - and engaged (off and on) - for the next twp years, with myselfI off at school and himself still stationed in my town, where we were able to spend time together during summers and on holidays - (when we weren't broken up) - a major challenge arose. We were obviously too immature to deal with it well.
He was to be transferred away to a base in a northeastern state. We'd had a tiff over Christmas before I returned to school for the spring semester. This major change occurred in January, so when he called me at school to announce the transfer and to ask me to marry him right then and go with him to New York, I said I couldn't. That was the truth.
I had to finish school before I made any major plans. It was rare in those days for any young people to attempt or even consider both marriage and college, with the exception of returning veterans who pursued educations after their service, and on the GI Bill. In the cases when marriage was too great a temptation, the girls just had to drop out of school and become housewives. I wanted to be a wife someday but I wanted to finish school first.
In any case, it was unthinkable in my family that any of us would allow anything to stand in the way of finishing school. i was the last of four children who was expected to finish her education and it wasn't negotiable. Besides, I thought if he really loves me, he will be willing to wait a couple more years. I'm sure I expressed that sentiment.
But he wasn't happy. He was angry and upset. In fact, he was so upset that he came to my school - quite inebriated - and made a scene, which was a really BAD - - -BAD idea at the conservative school I attended. I really hardly remember the consequences for me at my dorm, but I have no doubt there must have been some.
In fact, it was many years later that he told me that I was so peeved at him, I told him off in no uncertain terms for doing that and sent him on his way. He remembered that I said I never wanted to lay eyes on him again, but I have no memory of that. I must have blocked all that out of my memory, because I was totally crushed when he left and even more crushed when I learned that he soon thereafter married a girl he'd only just met in that other state. I was devastated, in fact.
But time passed, as it is wont to do. And I transferred to another school and finished my degree - under the eagle eye of my eldest sister. I thnk my family was concerned about me and wanted to steer me aright. Other major things happened, of course, including the death of that sister not long after I graduated, which was another crushing blow.
So life went on - as it is wont to do. There were many more real challenges.
YEARS later- almost 30 years, in fact - he reappeared in my life during one of his many divorces from the same wife he'd married way back then. My champion in grade school who carried my books home many days, became the District Judge who officiated at the many divorces of the couple, in fact.
But this time, HE had tracked me down somehow through friends of relatives who knew relatives of his and he'd heard through that grapevine that I was divorced. He called me and almost ordered me to come to him right away, but again I had to say I couldn't and that I wouldn't I wasn't someone to summon like that and moreover, I was committed to my George.
But Kenneth soon came to see us both and we formed a strong friendship, more than he and I Iever really had as kids, when we were so crazy in love we couldn't think straight!
We developed a strong mutual respect for each others' minds and even though we still felt the lightning at times, we also had a strong respect for each others' commitments. In all our years we never consummated our passion. Those were different times. Perhaps all those long visits with my parents put the fear into him. I'm not sure I was the one keeping things chaste!
He went on to finish his college and became a teacher of electronics at the high school in our old original hometown, where I first loved him riding his bicycle and where he gave me a ride on it so long before.
PCs were just coming into wide use and he trained many a youngster who would later go on to blaze trails in the field in that small town.. The first e-mails I ever had - weren't really e-mails, but were letters written on his word-processor and snail-mailed.
We corresponded, chatted on the phone and visited back and forth a few times. He'd remarried his wife again and George and I visited them once. While we were there, he wanted us to see a tape he had of Doctor Zhivago, which we did. He had tears in his eyes and a break in his voice as he spoke of his empathy with "that poor old Russian" who never got what he wanted most in life.
He came to see me in early summer of 1984 and after he went back home, he was gone to his final rest within two months. A tremendous energy - gone. And an enormous place in my heart where lightning first struck and was never to strike again with the same velocity and intensity.