I used to walk to grade school in the snow. I would drop off my Partridge Family lunch box at Becky’s house and say hello to her sheepdog, Gretchen, while I waited for Becky to put on her coat. We walked the rest of the way together singing songs we knew from the radio: Annie’s Song by John Denver (You fill up my senses…), Lovin’ You by Minnie Riperton, Evergreen by Barbara Streisand. She explained the sexual subtext to me and told me dirty jokes she’d learned from her older sisters.
Becky was never my girlfriend, but we definitely loved each other which can be better. We practiced cussing and made snow angels whenever we got the urge. We acted out our favorite personalities and scenes from Sybil. We pretended to be royalty when the older kids in yellow vests stopped traffic with flags and metal whistles so we could safely cross Kellogg. We schemed to one day skip school to hang out in Cero’s, the fancy chocolate shop just one street away from Sunnyside Elementary, but we never gathered enough courage or money to pull it off.
At noon we would walk back to her house for lunch. Her grandmother toasted a grilled cheese sandwich for her on the ironing board in the cluttered dining room. I ate my peanut butter and jelly on Wonder Bread and my stack of Pringles, two at a time at first and then savoring the final ones in smaller and smaller nibbles.
One time, I invited Becky to spend the night. We were in second or third grade—when everyone else was having his or her best friend sleep over. My mother said it wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t understand. She couldn’t explain her reason.
“What do you think is going to happen?” I asked. “Do you think we’re going to have sex or something?”
She said Becky was welcome to sleep over if her parents said it was okay. They didn’t so she never did.
The summer before fifth grade, we sat on her porch swing deciding not to say good-bye just because she was moving to the far west side of town. Her sisters had already graduated from high school. Her father’s camera store was doing well. Gretchen had died. We said we would stay in touch and go roller skating and visit the zoo since it was so close to her new house.
She invited me to her birthday party the following year. I didn’t know any of her new friends. I didn’t understand what was funny about what made them all laugh. We didn’t seem to have the same taste in music anymore.
I never saw her again, but I find that I still love her.