Friday, December 23, 2016

Streaming From The Mental Netflix

The memory came unexpectedly.  Buried somewhere deeply in the stacks of significant but not often recalled life experiences.  My conversation with my son had dragged it up, pushed it forward, and blasted it out into my embarrassingly small space of wakeful consciousness.   And I remembered.

My son is in sixth grade and goes to the same middle school that I went to as a child.  On the few occasions I have visited, a wave of familiarity washes over me.  Feelings submersed for decades return with smoothness and clarity.  For a few moments, I remember what it feels like to be twelve years old again.

My son's interests are mainly confined to science and electronics.  I, of course, try to talk to him about subjects like politics, art, and the opposite sex.  Recently I asked him if boys are talking to girls? Dating? Holding hands?

While he immediately demurred and squirmed in discomfort,  an uninvited apparition suddenly streamed out of my mental Netflix. And her name was Christina.

Christina was in my sixth grade homeroom class.  Everyday we chatted, joked, and passed the time until the bell rang and we moved on to more serious academic endeavors.  I liked her.  She was kind, and pretty, and funny.  By the middle of the year, boys were beginning to ask girls to form more formal relationships.  They called it "going with".  It was basically equivalent to a childish version of dating.

I finally built up the courage to write Christina a note, and passed it to her during homeroom.  She opened it, read for a moment, and then put it down.  I glanced backed at her inquisitively, hoping to glean some indication of her feelings.  She folded it cleanly, and put it in her backpack.  At the end of the period she took me aside.  She explained that while she liked me, she wasn't ready to "go with" me, and that she preferred to remain friends.  She smiled affably, she laughed, and that was it.

Nothing changed.  She continued to chat with me before class.  We joked.  There was no awkwardness or unkindness.  And she never told another soul about the whole incident.

I can't remember when Christina and I parted ways.  Maybe it was the next year when we changed homerooms.  Or after middle school.  Who knows?

But I will always remember her kindness and maturity. She could have mocked me.  She could have avoided me.  She could have reacted in a thousand other possible hurtful ways which most likely would have marred my own self image as well as my future interactions with the opposite sex.

Instead she was gracious and sincere.

A sincerity that I cherish.

A sincerity that I now often contemplate as I continue the herculean effort of trying to form my daughter and son into compassionate, loving human beings.  

No comments: