How much changes after 35 years — and how much stays the same?
I never forgot my childhood crush. Over the years through dead-end relationships and dating disasters, I would go back to that comforting place in grade four and wonder about the cute boy who captured my attention and still held a special place in my memory.
The fantasy of reconnecting years later often presented itself in my mind. What was he doing now? Would he remember me?
Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure that we wouldn’t pass each other on the street and feel a twinge of familiarity but just keep walking. After all, grade four kids are only nine years old. How much connecting could we really do at that age, I thought.
But suddenly, there was a chance encounter at Tim Horton’s with my grade four teacher. There she was, timeless and preserved as if it were still 1977. As I said hello, the memories came flooding back to me and I immediately went home to fish out the class photo that was carefully protected behind a plastic sheet in an ancient photo album. My crush was as cute as ever, as he stood posing with the group. It was perfect for a Facebook post.
Although we weren’t children of technology, many of us born in the late 60s have adopted the habit of sitting behind a computer or phone to connect with our past. Many of my classmates from elementary school who were on my friend list flooded the photo with comments. Then suddenly, there he was. On someone else’s friend list.
I sent the friend request. Would he remember? Butterflies in my stomach. I attached a little note to ask.
The response was immediate. Are you kidding, he said. Of course I remember you! I always thought about you over the years.
It turned out that he lived in New York City and pictures indicated a lovely family of his own. He was doing well.
We exchanged the usual promises to meet up one day for a coffee. But we were hundreds of miles apart and we hadn’t talked for 35 years. They were nice thoughts and I filed them away.
One year later, a trip to New York City presented itself. So I contacted my grade four crush. The coffee meeting was possible. Was he up for it?
Yes indeed. An exchange of cell phone numbers and a promise to touch base was made. Truthfully, I still wasn’t sure it would happen. But from my hotel room in New York, I sent the text, proposing a time. A response suggested a place – Times Square. It was confirmed.
I walked through the busy streets of New York City on a cool spring day and suddenly, in the middle of Times Square, there he was – my grade four crush. We stood there for a minute among the hustle of the city and looked at each other and smiled.
Over Starbucks, we talked as if three decades hadn’t passed by. We reminisced about our grade four teacher and classmates, and we discussed his move to another school all too suddenly. He cried, he confessed. He was sad that he would not see me again.
I stared. You did? I asked.
He continued to reveal details of our friendship –details that I didn’t remember. We used to lay stomach down on the carpet side by side and read stories to one another, he recalled. He used to tell his mom about me.
I tried to recall those memories but my own told me that he was the cutest boy in the class and I had a crush on him, as did many of the other girls. 35 years later, I learn that I was the one he was most fond of. More importantly, I find out that nine year olds can make connections that last a lifetime.
We chatted for the afternoon and he walked me to a street that would take me to my hotel again. We promised to keep in touch and parted ways.
That was over a year ago and we continue to connect on Facebook. His emails make me smile and he checks up to see how I’m doing from time to time, with offers to talk when life throws a curve ball.
I’m happy that he’s found a love that keeps his heart full. He’s no longer my crush, but a bond that began in elementary school, lasted through decades of distance and came back, familiar and comforting as if we had shared stories on that carpet, in the second floor of that old school building, just a few weeks ago.