Saturday, May 29, 2010

That "Another Story"

In my last post I referred to remembering the Shannon family as "another story". It was all about falling in love, and it twisted through my life for over six years.

Yep, twisted about covers it. But it started so easily, innocently, by pure chance.

I was eleven, making it late spring of 1960, as I would turn twelve in the fall. The setting was the school cafeteria, waiting to go through the line for refreshments being served after the spring concert. It would have been either band or choir, though I can't remember which, and I would have been in both. This amazingly cute boy I'd never seen before in our small town stood next to me in line, and actually talked to me like I was a real human being! In retrospect I guess he can be pardoned for doing that, since he was new to town and didn't know yet that this just wasn't something one did. But I'm sure somebody set him straight pretty quickly, since it never happened again. Not really.

In the meantime, I found out his name - David Shannon - the fact that his family had just moved into town, that his dad was the new preacher in - OMG! - my church, and that he liked classical music. I had in fact just discovered it myself, when Readers Digest sent me a set of all 9 Beethovan symphonies on vinyl, and I had been listening to and liking them. I was even able to answer when he asked which ones I liked best: the 2nd and 7th. I knew the fifth was best known, but thought then it was overrated. Of course, back then I knew nothing about it being a musical joke, and appreciate it so much more now when I hear it and enjoy the joke over and over again. But I responded to the second, and especially to the 2nd movement of the 7th, which to me is all about teenaged angst.

It was perhaps five minutes of my life, but at the end of it I was in love.

He wasn't, of course. We never spoke again, except as necessary when meeting in church and for choir, when he couldn't avoid me. Mostly he was polite, at least in front of adults. But alone, meaning when there were only other kids around, he picked up on a hated nickname, "Heather-Feather", and turned it into a sing-song chant designed only for taunting and humiliation.

Heather-Feather, giggle-wiggle, cha-cha-cha!

Everybody picked up on it. I think it lasted for two years, at least out loud. I have never forgotten it. And yet, I still wasn't out of love. My every emotion hung on seeing him, hearing him, even the possibility of seeing him. I knew his birthday, soaked up every detail I ever learned about him or any of his family, read books about the Biblical David because they shared the same name, but it never helped. Perhaps if I were smarter, or cuter, or had better hair (frizzy-curly when pageboys and flips were the style, replaced by Mary Travers style long), or didn't wear years-old hand-me-downs, or....

But there was nothing in the world, apparently, that would induce him to like me. And apparently the whole world knew it.

Quite possibly the best thing that happened to me in high school, though I couldn't see it at the time, was my family moving out of town to St. Paul at the end of my sophomore year. I absolutely hated, hated the city! And yet, here I had a fresh start, made friends, started dating people who seemed to actually like me.

David Shannon was nearly forgotten history. Of course I had learned several things over those years, like what I couldn't expect out of relationships. They wouldn't be mutual, supportive, equal, kind - or by any means frequent. Indifference, humiliation, cruelty - those would be normal. Romance was for other people, if in fact it even existed and wasn't just a fairy tale. That mindset lasted until well after my marriage ended, and explains a lot about my choices. I simply knew I didn't have many.

I did get over him, finally, the last time I saw him. He was in the student union at Hamline University, just barely recognizable to me by that time, and deeply in conversation with one of the deep social rejects at that time. Despite her very careless grooming (dirty messy hair for example) she had a reputation for sleeping around, something in those days that was the social kiss of death. These days I think you'd call her a skank, or worse if her reputation was in any way factual. (Mine wasn't, so, hard to tell.) Something about his fond acceptance of her compared to his treatment of me dealt me an instant cure. If that was who he was.... I hadn't known him at all, just been in love with the idea of being in love. It was remarkably freeing.

Do I hate him? Am I angry with him? No to both. We were both kids, and my feelings in no way obligated him to any sort of behavior towards me. In fact, I expect my constant-as-possible presence was a bit of a problem for him, and I am sorry about that. If I could change anything, it would be to have somebody I could actually talk to about what was going on, somebody who'd listen, not judge, and comfort and advise me when I needed it. It might have helped. Or perhaps nothing could have.

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