Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Gifts

The year was 1973. At the beginning of the year, gas was still cheap, and you could still buy a car for less than $4,000 fully loaded. Skylab was launched, the World Trade Center and the Sears Tower opened. There were no cell phones, there was no internet - which meant that when you met someone, you did it in person. In 1973, I fell head over heels in love.

I had been recruited by my friend Ernie Tidwell to play basketball for Bethesda Baptist Church. It was a church that I had gone to when I was little, but once we moved out in the country, that ended my church activity. But I loved to play basketball, so I agreed to give up a Sunday morning a month to have a chance to play.

When I came back home from UGA, I left most of my friends behind - still at school. Ernie and I had worked together the summer before I left and reconnected once I started Macon Junior. So when he asked me to come to his girlfriend's house to hang out and play board games, I readily accepted. Once there, I can remember being in the living room when through a swinging door from the kitchen came the most beautiful girl I had (and have) ever seen. Pick up a thesaurus and dump out all the adjectives.

Then look for some verbs to describe what I felt. Stunned, stupefied, gobsmacked - I'll run out of those too quickly. I honestly went home thinking I had made a fool out of myself, trying not to be noticed looking at her eyes, her smile, or listening too intently when she laughed. I tried to act normal, but I'd never ever felt that way before.

On the way home I kept replaying the evening. And yet she was Ernie's girl, so I did my best to be a good friend to him and to her. We rode to basketball games together for the next couple of months, and continued to hang out from time to time. For them it seemed nothing had changed, but for me, everything had - and I didn't know what to do about it.

Valentine's came along though, and of course I didn't have a girlfriend. And Bunny was still Ernie's girl. But I felt like I needed to give her a gift, as a friend of course. So I bought her a Beatles poster. I almost didn't give it to her - I was afraid she'd think I was weird. (By then, she'd have already picked up on that, but teenage emotions cloud your reasoning.) With everything I had in me, I wanted her to like that poster, and wrapped in it not so discretely, me.

It was the first time in my life that I knew that if I could have anything in this life, I wanted Bunny Clinard as my love forever, and my first action in hopes that my wish might come true.

This is our 42nd February. For me, it began right there.

And to this day, I have never forgotten that feeling, and I have never stopped thanking God for giving me my heart's desire.

Happy Valentine's day, my love.

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