I was driving home from Gibson train station last night, and noticed that all the houses’ Christmas lights seemed to have been put up overnight. I was exhausted from school, but the lights were so nice that I drove slowly and gave each house I passed a silent appreciation. It must have been those lights, those different but all beautiful houses, that put me in a pensive mood. As I drove slowly, I thought about the life I lived, and each house I passed retrieved a flash of memory. Not full, rich memories, but wisps and swirls of this and that. Only good things came to my mind, and I found myself relaxed, a sensation I sadly have not been very familiar with these days. Quasi-memories led to more, and something flashed through my consciousness, something interesting, and I quickly held onto it. Eating tuna fish sandwiches with a beautiful woman? There was more to it. I thought about it and stopped looking at the houses. By the time I reached home, the whole memory was playing back, and I laid in bed and relived it.
It was fourteen years ago, and I was a cute skinny 5 year old kid — and I mean really cute. I had big brown eyes and an infectious smile with dimples and all! Thick brown hair partially hid my little face, and in the summertime, light freckles were splashed on my nose and cheeks. I was also very, very shy and even more shy around Lisa, my neighbor two doors down on my left, with whom I fell deeply in love. Lisa, whose last name I’ll keep a mystery to spare her and her family any embarrassment, was beautiful. She was about 20 years old (she might have been 19, I can’t recall) and enjoyed a healthy modeling career. She made it onto the pages of countless magazines and catalogs, and was even the cover girl for one of the big mags (not Cosmo, one of the others). She was tall, brunette, and although I hate to make the comparison, picture Cindy Crawford with bigger hair (this was 1983, remember) and not as chunky. Well that’s her, and I was in love with her, and love to a 5 year old can never be matched in its sincerity.
Two days before Christmas, I did something that was totally out of my shy character; I decided to ask her out. It was a cold Christmas this year with tons of blizzards, and although it wasn’t snowing just then, it sure was freezing. So I bundled up, scarf, mittens, snow pants, earmuffs, everything! Now, even at that age, I wasn’t STUPID and I knew I was way too young for her, but I had an ace in the hole. I had my very own electric Big Wheels that was painted up to look like a motorcycle, and also a pair of dark sunglasses that my parents brought home from a wedding. I was certain that these things would make me look older. All bundled up, I called to my mom, “Mommy, I’m going on a date with Lisa!” OK, Oodoo, good luck!” My mom knew I had a Snoopy Sno-Cone’s chance in Hell that Lisa would take me seriously, but she was always very supportive. Or maybe she thought that making a fool out of myself was cute. (Oodoo was her nickname for me because that was the sound I made when I sucked on my pacifiers [which I still hadn’t outgrown at age 5] ).
I got my Big Wheels Motorcycle out of the garage, and couldn’t start it. Then I remembered it needed batteries, but really big ones that we didn’t have anywhere in the house. I got really sad and disappointed, but I decided to go through with it. After all, I didn’t want to waste the hour it took me to bundle up. So I carried the Big Wheels to their sidewalk. I rang her doorbell and ran to my motorcycle and sat on it, because I had to look cool when she opened the door. I waited about two minutes and the door didn’t open. I tried again: I rang the bell and ran back. Waited. Nothing. My little heart sank. “Oh no! What if she isn’t home!” I thought frantically. I’d try one more time. I got up, and this time I knocked. I started to run back to my bike, but the door immediately opened, catching me bike-less and very uncool. “Yes?” asked a groggy Lisa who looked like she just woke up. I didn’t feel so confident without my bike. “Umm… Hi Lisa… Will you go on a date with me?” I blurted out.
She didn’t hesitate a second. “Sure, where do you want to take me?” I stood there, silent. I didn’t know how to answer that. “Would you like me to come over tonight?” she prompted. I nodded.
“OK, great! I’ll be over around six.” I nodded again.
“OK, see you then!” She gave a little wave and gently closed the door. My little heart flew into my throat and I ran home with my Big Wheels. “So how did it go?” my mom asked when I walked through the door. She sounded quite amused, and I bet she called her friends to tell them how “cute” I was for asking out the supermodel next door. I hated when she told her friends “cute” things about me. It was very embarrassing. “She said she’s coming over at six. Can you make us dinner?” My mom was in shock. She immediately called Lisa who confirmed, yes, we definitely have a date at six tonight. My mom flipped out. “She’s going to be here in four hours and this house is a pig sty!” She spent the next two and a half hours cleaning at high-speed, going so far as to scrubbing the toilets and dusting the mirrors. I tried to help by cleaning out the dishwasher, but I was so nervous I dropped a bowl on the floor and it cracked into a few big pieces. My mom yelled at me, and I went to my room to cry. When I came out an hour later, I saw my mom set a blanket by the fireplace in the den, and she was in the kitchen hurriedly whipping something together. Soon the bell rang, and I flew through the hall to get it. “Ask who it is first!” my mom shouted after me, but I knew it was HER.
She came in and we said hi to each other. It was a little awkward, and I said “Umm, here, this way!” and I ran into the den. She was wearing jeans, a green turtleneck, and the leather jacket she wore everywhere. My mom came in and took her leather jacket and put it on a chair. The two of them talked a little bit, and I was getting upset so I said, “Maaa…”She was cool about it and said, “Oh right. Let me leave you two alone. But first, I’ll get you something to eat.” So Lisa and I are sitting on the blanket by the fireplace and my mom brings out tuna fish sandwiches on paper plates. I was MORTIFIED. I mean, I liked tuna, but everyone knows they smell bad! I was too shy to say anything. We sat there in quiet, munching our food, while I innocently stared at her huge chest.
“So, Adam,” Lisa started, “How do you like kindergarten?”
“S’okay. Today we made kites with paper. I made silly shapes and Mrs. Ruschin gave me a charm for making the best kite!”
“Wow,” Lisa said impressed. “And how was the rest of your day?”
“Fine. Oh, but I broke a bowl and Mommy yelled at me.” I felt like crying again. Suddenly, Lisa’s arms were around me, she squished me and I could smell her hair and her cleanliness. “I would never yell at you,” she said. “You’re too cute.”
“I’m not cute,” I sniffed, but I didn’t feel like arguing. And it didn’t sound so dumb when Lisa called me that. We finished our sandwiches, and Lisa stood up. “Well, Adam, I had a wonderful time. You are a perfect gentleman. I have to go home now, though, because I have a lot of work to do.” I led her to the door, and asked her if she wanted me to drive her home on my motorcycle. She said that was sweet of me, but she could walk it. I let out a big, shaky sigh and asked nervously, “Lisa, was our date good?”
She gave me a look of affection and said, “Adam, that was the best date I have ever been on.” And then she bent down and kissed me on the cheek.
Lisa moved to the City right after New Year’s. It’s almost fifteen years later and no one in my family has heard from her since. I was hurt at first, but time passed and she was forgotten over new crushes I had forged. Girls came and girls went, some stayed longer than I wanted, others not long enough. But right now I think of Lisa, that first girl, the woman who came over probably out of kindness and genuine affection, and I wonder where she is this Christmas and if she knows how much our date meant to me.