Like most kids, I want to fall in love some day and I have some idea about how it might feel. I think it will be a small wondering. I picture myself looking at that boy who makes my heart twinkle and wondering if we will ever hold hands.
I don’t need to know the time or date of my first love before it happens. I just want to be able to hear a little voice in my head saying, “This might be it.”
Most of what I know about love comes from books, so this Valentine’s Day I decided to ask five of my adult writer friends to think back and describe their first love. I know they can’t ever explain what mine may be like, but their stories will give me possibilities to imagine.
Brendan McCormack, 47, from Sierraville, is a builder and a published poet (and winner of Moonshine Ink’s most recent Tahoe Canvas contest). His family puts on the annual Magpie Festival in Sierraville in July, where poets and musicians perform. Brendan thinks it’s important for adults to remember their first loves, and to notice how profound it really was and see the good things that came from it.
My first love was a woman I knew as Mrs. Roof. I met her in the first grade classroom. She was the teacher, I was a student. I can’t really remember her face. All I recall is a tall, curly, brown-haired blur with a sweet voice that sounded like doves in a tree. The whole pale world turned a sunny amber when she entered the room. I remember the swan-like curve of her long leg hanging off the side of her chair juxtaposed with the cold, sharp corners of the rectangles and triangles she was teaching us to draw. It was a painful shock for me to learn that she was married to some guy, “Mr. Roof.” How could she? Love had abruptly and permanently become complicated. Thank god it was naptime.
Brendan’s love for Mrs. Roof made him feel he had a chance. Maybe first love will make me feel invincible too. Or sick, like Buzzy Jackson’s first love. Buzzy, 44, is a Truckee High graduate and an award-winning author who now lives in Boulder, Co.
The first time I fell in love I was 14 and I thought love might actually be making me sick. That’s because I lost my appetite, and I mean completely. This wasn’t a diet plan; for the first time in my life I just forgot to eat. I didn’t need to. I was sustained by first love, the kind where he loves you right back. I think I survived on love letters, to tell you the truth.
I would love to open my mailbox one day and find a letter from a boy who loves me. Kids text these days, but we could say so much more to each other in letters we’d cherish forever, like Buzzy. She still has hers.
Dreamy egg painter and poet Cathee St. Clair, 64, from Truckee says creating art is like first love: “It generates a surge, a charge of energy.” Her poem (right) describes the new independence some people feel with first love, and how love can be felt even without touching.
Meeting a Boy on a Train Across Country
We sneak away from parents
and dare each other to straddle
undulating links between cars.
We gather train pillows, blankets —
camp in the vista-dome.
Castanet tracks pull us through
lightning bleached deserts, charged canyons.
Power spikes. Electrifies. Our mouths
pucker against cold glass.
Rivulets of breath pool into metal sills.
The train’s surge makes us feel
Sometimes when I think about love I worry I might not find it. But my friend Laurel Lippert, 67, a pilot and published author from Truckee, explains through her writing that love chooses its time to come to each person. Laurel is still married to her first love.
If I imagined young love, it would look sparkly, feel cozy, and taste like a cupcake. When I was 14, I believed that love was for popular girls, not me. At 19, while working at a summer resort, I met a boy I liked, but then I had to return to college a thousand miles away. For a girl who didn’t find love until she was 28, I am the luckiest person in the world.
In a note to me that introduced her piece, Megan Lacy, 31, a songwriter from Truckee, wrote that she pushed away a twinge of cynicism to write about the bravery and tenderness of loving: “It is with the clarity of your sweet position on the other side of a lifetime of love that I was brought to an understanding. There is a beginning to everything.” She compares love to the first flight of a butterfly.
Indeed it would be difficult to evoke the feeling of flight in a caterpillar. Yet she will soon know! Her first track will be topsy-turvy, relentless, awkward, brave, yet she will come to know the world. It must be this way with love. One begins to look outside herself after a lifetime within. Her first love will be no more gentle, no less sacred, than those first fluttering moves of a butterfly’s wings. And so, the world awaits!
Megan’s piece teaches us that when we’re deep inside love, we will go through ups and downs but we must remember that it began with the courage to try something new.
I hope these writers inspired all of us to think forward or backward to our first loves. Maybe some of us will even try writing about them. I did.
~ by Frances Hamilton
I know that love knows
A place, a time, a feeling.
It goes from shattering walls of uncertainty
To a small understanding:
Teachers are wrong.
Does not equal two.
A bonus poem
~ by Brendan McCormack
I gave her my last pencil
and her friend told me she had a note
she wouldn’t let anyone read
she cried when her brother
hit me in the cheek with a cherry tomato
from across the cafeteria
we met in the baseball dugout
during a basketball game
and by the arc of our
we leaned all the way
into a terrifying bliss