Randy Patterson sat to my right in Mr. Page’s sixth-grade classroom. In fact, we shared the same, elongated desk strategically placed in the middle of thirty students thus enabling our teacher to keep his eye on Randy, the class clown. I was excruciatingly shy. Looking back, I can see why our diminutively-statured, toupee-crowned instructor thought that placing us together might quell any humorous distraction.
Randy stood about five-feet, four-inches tall; I remember because we kept a wall chart of our collective heights during the school year. Though I was uncomfortably taller than most of my peers, Randy and I were the same height. My mom used to say I was all legs (I believe my legs are the best of my physical and athletic attributes). Randy had deep, ginger-colored hair and his face was dotted with beige freckles. When he laughed, if he became embarrassed or angry, his neck and face would light up like a frat house bonfire. Randy spoke with an engagingly slow, Southern drawl.
In the late 1960s, I was in the tweener stage of growing up, still relegated to wearing knee-socks with dresses because my mom wouldn’t let me shave my extremely hairy legs. So, nylons were definitely out of the question and the Cedarlane Junior High School dress code forbade girls from wearing pants (no kidding).
I was thrilled when my mom finally took me shopping in the lingerie department of Bullock’s as sort of a rite-of-passage. But, I voiciferously rebelled (right there in the dressing room) when she threw my first, lacy unmentionable over the door. GASP! What in the world was I supposed to do with this…this…elastic, beginner stuff donned with tiny hooks? Gone were the days of wearing girls' camisoles. My mom was ushering in the forever days of wearing A HARNESS, for bridle's sake! Hey! Aren't women burning these things, nowadays?
My natural hair color is dark brown. Back then, it was lustrously shiny and thick, with silky waves flowing over my shoulders, resting at the small of my back. Randy was enthralled with my well-kept mane. In class, he would frequently reach behind my chair, running his fingers through the velveteen ends. I willingly submitted.
While on the playground, the bully brothers, Bruce and Kevin, would occasionally incite a chasing match, creating a frenzy of high-pitched screams among fleeing girls. One of bullies would always tag me out by yanking a fistful of my airborne locks, bringing me to a sudden, tearful stop. After shooing them away, Randy would pull out a handkerchief from his back pocket for me to use and he’d straighten my hair. He always carried a clean, white hankie.
Of course, the other boys chided Randy as to his noticeable affection, but I really wasn’t equipped to discern if he especially liked me until the day he told me he was moving back to Tennessee with his family. We were sitting on a bench behind the classroom on our morning break, sharing a powdered sugar doughnut.
“Lynda…” Randy said, his neck and face igniting. All I could hear was the instantaneous pounding of my heart. To this day, hardly anyone ever uses my full name, so I knew his words were going to be serious. “I’m crazy about you, and I just can’t help it. Here’s a comb that my mom gave me to give to you. It’s antique," he stammered.
Randy still had the remnants of the powdered sugar doughnut on his upper lip. I don’t think either of us knew exactly what an antique was, but the comb was heavy and plated with unpolished silver, embossed with small flowers; indescribably beautiful. He had no sooner placed it in my hands when he kissed my cheek. Then he darted off across the school's back field, sprinting to who knows where.
He called me Lynda. He’s crazy about me? Where did he go? What does this mean? I can’t breathe! My palms are sweating! What are butterflies doing in my stomach? I’m hot! I’m dizzy! I’m spinning! I’m floating! I can’t think! I hear music! Everything around me is happening in slow motion…I’m going to faint…
The school bell rang, and when we went back to class, I quietly placed the comb away in my desk. Randy’s face was still ablaze and I didn’t know what to say or how to act. Both fidgeting this way and that, we drew the attention of Mr. Page who asked us if we wanted to share our secret with the other students. We burst out laughing, hysterically, but we didn’t yield, not even in lunch-time detention.
That was on a Friday. Randy never came back to school after that, but it was the first time I’d experienced pure, unadulterated, walking-on-air, elation. Though as rare a gift as the silver comb I’ve safely tucked away in a jewel case, I’ve since experienced and shared those giddy feelings. Together I recognize them as the jubilantly joyful, truly ticklish, buoyantly bubbling, infinitely inspirational, telltale signs of unabashed love brewing in the warm depths of my ecstatic heart and in the spiritual recesses of my welcoming soul.
I love Valentine’s Day, more so now because I’ve since learned to be a gracious recipient, likewise, a cheerful grantor of small gestures, simple tokens, sincere words and true kindness as part and parcel expressions of love and caring – a form of SUBTLE PASSION, for all intents and harmonious purposes.
My friend, Joseph, once asked me the meaning of love. You go ahead and fill in your personal blanks. There exists a referential Love Chapter (I Cor. 13:4-8; 13) when I need to refresh my memory AND my humility.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps NO RECORD of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always PERSEVERES. Love never fails. Now, these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE.
I’m always seeking to improve my approach in these things, however, I’m perfectly imperfect; patience and perseverance are the least of my virtues. No matter, love is swirling in the air, isn’t it? Hence, I wish you charmed, romantic, dreams-come-true; occasional, rich, chocolate fare and sincere gestures of love and caring, ALL YEAR LONG!