I recently went to a storytelling party where the theme was “Summer Lovin'” I didn’t tell the story I’m about to tell here because I had already told a version of it several months ago and since most of the same people were in attendance I assumed they’d be tired of my sappy shit. My blog readers, on the other hand, haven’t had to endure very much sappy shit. You guys have endured plenty of grossness, depression, and drug abuse and for that I thank you. I thought we’d try something a little bit more warm hearted this time around.
As a child I was a bit of a “schoolie”, a term my husband likes to use. I was placed in the Gifted and Talented Education program at the start of third grade. There were two teachers for the program at our school, one who taught a third/fourth grade class and one who taught a fifth/sixth. It was kind of cool to have the same kids in my class for all those four years. I became tight with a few of the girls, one of whom I am still very close friends with to this day. Our fifth grade teacher, Ms. J, was hated by many of the other teachers but we loved her. We were singled out as being the nerd class and we got picked on a lot by kids in the “normal” classes. I think other teachers resented Ms. J because she was actually trying. She worked so hard and even now stands out as the best teacher I ever had.
Fifth grade was a good school year. Life outside of school was not. My mom and stepdad had been married over four years but things had disintegrated. I had developed some sleeping problems sometime during the fourth grade and they had worsened to point that I literally wouldn’t sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning, which was the time when my stepdad would get home from his work shift. My mom didn’t work the whole time she was married to him and her drug and alcohol use had exploded. When my stepdad wasn’t at work, there were always people over our house, buying and using drugs and drinking. When he was home, they were usually fighting. I spent a lot of my time at home in my room with the door closed or zoned out on the couch watching television.
It turned out that one of my classmates, Brandon, was having a crappy year outside of school as well. Sometime in the spring of 1990, near the end of the school year, his mom brought him over to my house. She’d arranged with my mom to have him stay for the weekend. It seemed she was going through a rough time. I didn’t know what the details of everything were. All I knew was this boy I didn’t know all that well was about to stay the night at my house. I’d known him since the second grade but we weren’t close friends. Before he showed up at my house my only thoughts of him were that he was smart and nice.
When he got dropped off at my house that weekend he had a bad attitude about it. He was probably mad at his mom, but he tried to take it out on me. He was pouting. He was sitting like a lump on my couch so I began to make some suggestions about things we could do. He acted like he didn’t want to do anything with me. I typically wanted to get out of my house whenever I could and had recently taken up biking and rollerskating around my neighborhood. I lived across the street from what once was a high school campus (it later became an adult school) and there were plenty of areas to explore. I don’t remember exactly how I enticed him off my couch and got him to lighten up, I just know that I did. By the night of his first stay, we were up giggling into the wee hours, me on my daybed and him on my trundle.
I have a ton of memories from that spring and summer. They all sort of blend together, much like a montage in an 80’s movie. Feel free to imagine the late 80’s/early 90’s song of your choice playing over it (I’d suggest this classic, it was popular that summer). We did a lot of bike riding. We watched many movies and lots of MTV together. We played a ton of Nintendo, specifically Jaws and Mario Brothers. We also did odd things like shoot squirt guns at pages ripped out of Teen Beat and Heart Throb magazines. We took pictures of ourselves next to pictures of Johnny Depp. Once we tried to have a weenie roast in my backyard and almost set my house on fire. Sometimes we would stay over at his grandma’s house. We were left on our own most of the time. It was a special time. That summer is full of some of the fondest memories of my childhood.
There are two conversations I vividly remember having with Brandon. One happened in my garage. My garage was a clubhouse of sorts. I hung out in there a lot. The backyard was too small to do anything in and in the garage I had chairs, junk to dig through, and my cassette player. We were sitting around shooting the shit and somehow the subject of our parents came up. I don’t know if we’d talked about it much before then. I think we both avoided the topic because we both knew our parents were not doing a good job at that time. It was the whole reason we were together all the time; our moms were partying instead of taking care of us. I’m not sure who said it first, but we both told each other that our parents did drugs. For me it felt like a big deal. I had never discussed it with anyone before. I don’t think I’d even admitted it to myself in those terms. I’d had my suspicions about it for years and had seen a lot of substances laying around my house, here and there. Mirrors with white residue, little plastic baggies, etc. But the idea of drugs was still abstract to me. Also we’d started our D.A.R.E. program at school so I know I must have had some inner conflict going on about that. Was I supposed to turn my parents in? Or just keep lying to everyone about it? It was confusing. Sharing that information with Brandon was a relief. I felt bonded to him in a way that I’d never felt with any other friends. We were both only children and I think that finally having someone to commiserate with made the burden much less heavy to carry.
The other conversation that sticks out in my mind makes me cringe a bit. We were sitting on my mom’s bed, playing Nintendo. It was the evening. Brandon was going to be leaving for Denver to go visit his dad for a couple weeks before school started. He had something he wanted to tell me before he left. He wanted to tell me that he liked me. He wanted to go out with me. He wanted to be my boyfriend. It’s hard to imagine what I was thinking back then. Maybe we were too close. Maybe I felt more sisterly towards him. Or maybe I was just an idiot who even back then couldn’t see a good thing for what it was. I told him that I was sorry, I didn’t feel the same way. We carried on with our video games. If he was broken hearted, he never let it on. He took off to Colorado and I saw him when school started. We both went back to being friends as if we’d never had that conversation.
During the next school year, we were still good friends, but we spent less time with each other. I vaguely remember trying to get Brandon together with Melissa, my bestie at the time. He wasn’t into it. I’ve been told he only had eyes for me. We graduated sixth grade and we both moved on to different junior highs. I invited him to my birthday party a few months into seventh grade. He showed up and I proceeded to ignore him the entire time. He sat on my couch, completely miserable while I giggled and gossiped with my girlfriends. To add insult to injury, I had invited a ninth grade boy I had a huge crush on and was preoccupied with that most of the time. I barely noticed when Brandon’s mom came to pick him up because I was too busy wondering if Aaron, my big freshman almost boyfriend, was going to kiss me that night. It still hurts my heart thinking about how I made Brandon feel that night. What a fucking jerk I was.
I try not to let that night mar what a beautiful time we’d shared that one summer. Even though I didn’t want to date him then, I did love him. I knew that. He was one of the best friends I ever had and held a special place in my heart for the rest of my adolescence. I always regretted how I’d treated him and often hoped we would run into each other. I clung to the memories of that summer and hoped that he wouldn’t forget me.
Roughly fourteen years after that birthday party I would make contact with Brandon. I’m saving that story for another time.