How old is one in the 2nd grade? 7? 8?
My second grade teacher was Mrs. Burducks (I have no idea if that's how you spell it).
At the end of the year we were all promoted, even Mrs. Burducks.
My father was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, outside of Chicago, IL.
The elementary school was in Waukegan, IL.
I fell in love for the first time in my life while in the 2nd grade.
Granted, it's been many years and many loves since, but George stands out for a few reasons.
He was lanky like me with blonde hair.
He was funny.
His goal for the school year was to buy me rings for every finger and toe.
Bubble gum rings.
I still swoon at the idea.
When you live on a Navy base, your life is pretty regulated. You play with Navy friends. You don't venture too far from home. If you were of dating age, you usually picked the son of a Navy family on the base. An officer's child. Enlisted men were not to considered.
George Couch was from Waukegan. Though I didn't know what it meant back then, I think he was from the "other" side of the tracks.
For reasons that have been as lost to me as the the yellow haired romeo my girlfriend and I decided to sneak George on the base. Granted it was long before homeland security but bases were still guarded by uniformed sailors who checked I.D. cards coming and going. Only 8 year olds would attempt sneak an un-ID'd civilian child on base and seriously think they'd pull it off. The details are sketchy. I don't have a clue how we did it. But for one Sat. afternoon George Couch, Lisa Schofield and I explored places on the base I'd never dared to go before. Towards the end of the day, at the top of what I remember to be a rather large grassy hill, George and Lisa decided to ditch me by running down the hill. I did what any girl would do when it looked like her best girlfriend was running off with her boyfriend. I took off after them. Halfway down the hill, I took a rather ungraceful tumble. I landed in a heap at the bottom of the hill. Beneath me my ankle began to swell at the same rate of speed I began to concoct believable stories. I limped off behind my friends to whatever adventures awaited us. I don't recall how the afternoon ended. I suppose George Couch walked through the gate with no more questions asked. I have no other memories of him, though I've often wondered what became of him. Did he go to Vietnam the way so many boys of my generation did? Did he do well in business and become a CEO? Did he fall in love for real and buy that person rings for every finger?
Getting back to the real point of that story - my ankle. By the time I got home for dinner, it had swelled to grapefruit size proportions. It was not to be ignored. Off to the medical dispensary we went. It was an odd time in our family life. Mom didn't drive. Thus she didn't shop or take kids for dental checkups or emergency room visits. Dad did it. It's strange to me even now. Perhaps Captain stripes got head of the line privileges.
In order for my ankle to be x-rayed and set I was instructed to take off my pants. I don't remember all the details of this day, but I recall vividly how embarrassed I felt at the very idea of stripping down to my white cotton underpants. Not just in front of not just my father, but a hospital corpsmen as well. No one in the room took note of my mortification. No towel to cover my modesty offered. No mother's soothing, it's-gonna-be-okay reassuring words. Fixing the sprained ankle was the order of business. The corpsman wrapped it in plaster. When it dried, I'm sure it weighed more than I did.
That should have been the end of the story. Girl sneaks boy onto Naval Base. Girl chases boy down a hill and sprains her ankle. Girl sits on a plastic covered table in her underpants. Corpsmen sets ankle. Girl goes home sticking to her story that never once mentioned the boy. Girl contracts the measles.
Yup. Measles. I lay on the bottom bunk in a dark room in what can only be called agony. After awhile the skin under a cast begins to itch. It begins to smell. There is little to do to ease the discomfort. I did the only thing I could think off. I began banging my foot on the floor which just happened to be the ceiling for the living room below. Like the constant beating of Poe's Tell Tale Heart, my banging came close to driving the rest of my family crazy. Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!
Thunk! No I could not stick a hangar down inside the cast to scratch.
Thunk! No the doctor would not remove the cast.
Thunk! I swear I'll never break a rule or tell a lie again.
Fast Forward 57 years.
I'm sitting in my den surrounded by old people paraphernalia - walker, bedside commode, medicine bottles. My leg is propped up on the end of my father's recliner. My purple polished nails poke out from the tip of a soft cast holding broken bones, titanium plates and screws in place. My heart beats in time with the thrumming of torn and jangled nerves. Tears trickle down my face.
I'm grateful for the good care I have received. Sweetie is at my beck and call. Johnson keeps a close eye on the puppy. Maizey returns frequently to check on me. Boy Cat takes full advantage of the fully available spot on my lap where he likes to doze. I'm in good hands. I have no reason to ask for more.
Yet, I can't help but return time and again to that cold, sterile Navy hospital room. A small, skinny girl, stripped to her Spanky pants. "I want my mommy," she cries.
This post was written under the influence of narcotics.