34: My First Crush

34: My First Crush

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

My First Crush

No, there’s nothing half so sweet in life as love’s young dream.

~Thomas Moore

The summer I was twelve, I vacationed at my Aunt Alice’s farm, an hour’s drive from home. Her house boasted a grand porch with comfortable wooden rocking chairs and an unspoiled view of the surrounding farms. I remember the air, so pure and country fresh, and Rex, her reliable rooster, crowing at the crack of dawn. A small but inviting apple orchard always beckoned me to zigzag in and out of its orderly rows.

On Sunday morning, I collected eggs from the freshly whitewashed henhouse. As I set the basket on the sideboard, Aunt Alice asked, “Could you pick some green beans and summer squash after breakfast? They’re for my vegetable casserole. We’re invited to the Lindsays’ next door for Sunday dinner.”

“I’d be happy to.” Thinking about all her country fare, fresh from vines, plants and trees that tasted so much better than city offerings, I donned a wide-brimmed straw hat and headed for the garden. The soft breeze offered relief from summer’s intense heat. I snapped the green beans easily and cut the sun-yellow squash from its thickening vine. A luscious tomato, heavy with its juicy meat, needed rescue before it rested on the ground. Aunt Alice’s grand flower garden, a kaleidoscope of bright color, was a stone’s throw away. Three long-stemmed gladiolas caught my eye. They would be perfect for the dining room table. I made a mental note to wear gloves after encountering two snakes slithering half concealed in the dirt.

Early that afternoon we arrived at the Lindsays’ farm to a warm reception. I was introduced to the family and quickly took note of a boy about my age and height, freshly scrubbed and lanky, with budding biceps and a hint of an Adam’s apple. A strand of light brown hair casually hugged his forehead. He had deep blue, widely set eyes hooded with long, curly lashes. His voice was velvety like a fine-tuned cello. The corners of his mouth curled up like a sliver of moon when he smiled. His name was Vincent. He was confident and comfortable. I was shy and smitten.

After dinner, Vincent, blushing, asked, “Would you like to see our farm?” I smiled and he reached for my chair. “We have a new litter of puppies.”

I thanked his mom for the delicious meal as we left the room to tour the outbuildings. He showed me the animals he fed, groomed and loved, talking enthusiastically about the workings of the family farm as we passed precious pups back and forth. I hoped he didn’t notice me hanging on his every word. The afternoon passed too quickly. Animals always dictated their keeper’s schedules. My aunt called out, ending our visit for the evening.

Vincent visited my aunt’s farm often, but only after he delivered papers and completed morning chores. I daydreamed in the rocking chair on the porch, reflecting on the stirrings in my heart, waiting for him ride up the driveway on his bike. When he did, we’d walk through the orchard and the flower gardens, then through the pasture, usually deep in conversation. We shared our interests, compared city to country life and discussed our families and school experiences. I loved listening to his stories. Occasionally Vincent brushed my arm or grabbed my elbow to direct me away from a gopher hole or cow pie.

Such was my introduction to puppy love. I was impressed with his unassuming presence and his attitude. Vincent was focused. He possessed a strong sense of himself. I felt safe. His visits were too short as his chores were always waiting.

On the last day of my vacation, Vincent handed me a wallet-size picture of himself. “I’m looking forward to seeing you next summer, Colette.” His eyes caught mine in a lingering, fond farewell. He gently took my hand in both of his, squeezing tenderly. He turned around, picked up his bike and pedaled down the gravel driveway.

I thought about Vincent often. I shared his picture with my best friend, but kept it in my nightstand away from my twin brother’s teasing eyes, and counted the days till next summer. School and good grades were important, since ninth grade was only a year away.

Summer finally arrived. I was eager to see Vincent again. We’d take long walks and catch up on our lives. Then maybe... possibly... hopefully... eventually... we’d experience our first kiss.

Aunt Alice welcomed me with a big hug and her home-baked cookies. We sat at her kitchen table and chatted easily about family and school. She seemed preoccupied. I asked about the Lindsays. There was an immediate change in her demeanor. She took my hand and took a deep, steadying breath. She looked directly into my eyes and spoke quietly, carefully measuring her words. “The Lindsay family is very sad these days. Vincent was delivering newspapers on Van Dyke, close to home. There was a horrible accident. A car hit him. He died — instantly. I’m so sorry dear.” She stood up and gathered me in a heartfelt hug.

Shock rushed in. Thank goodness. I responded with a barely audible one-syllable noise like air leaking from a tire. My brain fuzzed up, my heart imploded and my eyes brimmed wet. I stood, looked away and staggered to the guest room, burying my head in a pillow to muffle my wrenching sobs. It took a while to wrap my mind around Aunt Alice’s words.

I half-heartedly walked myself through life’s everyday motions, managed some chores and rocked aimlessly on the porch, where I replayed pieces of my conversations with Vincent.

At the end of the day, when the sun slipped over the horizon, I lost myself in the colors that splashed across the sky. I knew he was there. Over time, the pain of losing my dear friend Vincent became easier to bear. But that year, I learned about loss and how precious life is.

~Colette Sasina

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