1972: The Summer of ’72.

Let me stress that I am not trying to cause any embarrassment;  I am trying my best to “sanitize” this post so no one feels uncomfortable – but what I am about to write about was one of the most pivotal events of my life.

In these times metaphors involving vinyl records are lost on most readers but some of you can remember cassette tapes well enough to understand a point I am trying to make: “ghost tracks.” Voices from recordings t you’ve taped over that managed to avoid total erasure. Cassette-tape manufacturers go to great lengths to assure us that taping over something or running a tape through the machine with everything set on “erase” will eliminate that first recording…but it doesn’t. Some recordings will survive and invariably will be revealed, usually when they can be the most embarrassing. With me it involved trying to whistle the instrumental accompaniment to “Here Comes my Baby” by the Tremeloes but I’m leaving that for another post….

First loves are like that too. No matter what imprints you gain on your heart later in life there is something about that first love that never completely lets go of you. Even though you love your spouse so much that you are two halves of the one whole, there are still times when hearing a particular song evokes a memory that turns back the clock in a heartbeat.

Years before I swept my beautiful Saxon princess off of her feet there was another young lady with whom I was very smitten. What made the relationship even more special was the fact that she just wasn’t my girl friend; she was also my best friend – my best friend for two of the most pivotal years of my life. At the time I wasn’t a bad kid   but I wasn’t necessarily a “good kid” either …but her interest (and that of her family) caused a very fundamental change in the nature of my life.

However, the nature of my life at the time was such that we were periodically separated. The reunions were wonderful, but one reunion was very different from all the others and I remember it like it happened last week. I had gone home to my job as a roustabout in the oil field but I had promised to return for a major event. While we were apart we both wrote every day and were both looking forward eagerly to our reunion, but it turned out to be much less romantic event than either one of us expected.

After a long flight following a long day at work I arrived at her home to a living room full of people. For moment I wondered if my Best Friend was even there, but then I saw her curled up on the couch across the room, having dozed off while reading so I gingerly made my way across the sea of people to kneel down by the side of the couch.

At that moment she woke up, looked me in the eyes, smiled – and reality changed.

I use the word “smile” because the word that accurately describes the action and emotion of that moment has yet to be written. The situation in the room was not conducive to any sort of PDA other than fingers curled around in a sort of hand-shake clasp. As I knelt across the end-cushion of that couch we just kept looking at each other and beaming…and then all of a sudden it was like the sun rose again. I was vaguely aware of noise around us but instead of looking into deep brown eyes I was looking simultaneously into the past, the present and the future, andcould feel a source radiating a fundamental “positivity’ just like the sun would be warming us at the beach.

I could feel joy rush all through my body from the top of my head down to the tips of my fingers and toes and it seemed as though my heart was going to burst. It didn’t feel like we were clasping hands as much as it felt like we were fundamentally connected in some way , the thought of it filling me with a joy and happiness that I cannot verbalize. Not “new Neil Young album happy”. Not “touchdown pass happy”.

Joy with a capital “J”.

….then just as quickly the spell was gone and the cacophony of the room full of happy people rose again. At the end of the weekend I flew back home and in the fall we went off to school and an emotional roller-coaster that lasted until we parted ways eighteen months later. . My Best Friend and I went on to find marvelous mates and build wonderful families – but there are still sometimes when I stop and think about the day her smile made the sun come up a second time and I learned a vital lesson: that love and joy can transcend these frail physical bodies and that some of the most desperately important things in our young life pale next to other less tangible but more eternal things.

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