I first fell in love when I was seven, with a nurse at East Orange General Hospital when I was there for a hernia operation. In those days a hernia required a five-day hospital stay, more than enough time for me to fall in love with Miss Whitman. Today I don’t remember anything about her except her name, and that she had brown hair and a beautiful smile. But I will never forget my feelings for her.
Then there was Sylvia. Sylvia etched herself indelibly into my heart in the summer when I was eight. She was a junior counselor at Brook Lake Farms Day camp that I attended that summer The only two things about the experience (other than that I enjoyed it) that I remember were the camp song: “Rah, rah for Brook Lake Farms we love to cheer! Always good campers year after year … “ and Sylvia!
She must have been about seventeen and drop dead gorgeous. She smiled at me like she would smile at everyone, but that didn’t matter I was in love! Toward the end of that summer, I believe I experienced my first miracle. Our family—Dad, Mom, my sister Rochelle and I—went “down the shore” for a day. The beach was crowded, as you would expect on a hot, sunny, summer Sunday. And suddenly, somehow, out of the mass of people–like magic–Sylvia appeared. Wow! She smiled, gave me a hug, chatted a bit with my parents and then my dad took a photo of the two of us sitting in the sand with her arm around me. I have long since lost the print, but the pose is forever engraved on my brain. Sitting in the sand—if only for a few seconds—with Sylvia’s arm touching my bare skin was my definition of paradise.
Sometimes I wonder if my first two loves—Miss Whitman (never knew her first name) who must be in her 80’s and Sylvia in her upper 70’s—are still alive. If so I wonder what they are doing now and of course, what they look like.
Since then I have fallen in and out of love many times! I admit I maintain curiosity about where these women are today and what they are doing. One of the advantages of Facebook is that it has unlocked many of these mysteries.
Of course, the one true and enduring love of my life has been Vickie with whom I share 40 and counting wonderful (most of the time) years of marriage! Because of her my life has been blessed beyond measure.
But still, I confess, my mind occasionally transports me back to places like East Orange General Hospital, that sandy beach down the shore, and to other stops along my life’s journey.
Many of the memories are very pleasant; some not so much, but they are all there. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about these flights of fantasy. When I do, I remind myself that all of these experiences have made me who I am. I have learned from all of them, so why should I deny them a place in my memory bank or a peek now and then on social media?
Yes, I think that is OK, as long as I know the difference between that which is real and enduring in my life and that which was fleeting and vain.