I knew a boy in kindergarten. I never gave him much thought, except at Halloween. We made big black bats out of bulletin board paper and wrote our initials on them with chalk. We all laughed and commented as only sophisticated 5-year-olds could that his initials were like the cola: R.C. Later, he did the most valiant thing any boy ever did for me. He rescued me after the mean boys tied me to the fence by my coat's hoodie strings. Surely, there is a special place in heaven for the boy who ran all the way back from his place in the milk line to free me from the fear and shame that would surely have come. His name is Romondo Collins.
I knew a boy in elementary school who gave me one of the best compliments ever: a double-take! I was sick with chicken pox the week my new contact lenses came in, I returned to the playground with a brand new look the next week. I shouted and waved to my friend Dwayne Welsh as he ran full-out toward the basketball goal. He waved as he flew by, then stopped dead in his tracks and looked back. He smiled, and I was smitten forever.
I knew a girl in grade school who was on the really good basketball team. When it came time for my team--winless as we were--to take our licks on the court against them, all I wanted to do was show them that the Purple Panthers were nothing to snicker at. Taking seriously my role as captain and best player (that wasn't saying much), I found a fire in my belly that had never surfaced before. Disgusted at myself for a double-dribble (told you I wasn't that good), I stopped moving in preparation for the ref's shrieking whistle. It never came. And that no-good You-Know-Who-You-Are streaked past, stole the ball, and scored for her team. Like they needed it. And I hate her to this day.
I knew a girl in junior high who all the kids made fun of. She was slight and dark and quiet, and not particularly smart and not partiularly dumb. Once I took time to talk with her during Theater Arts class, and I found that she liked some of the same things as me! From then on, I would not allow anyone to speak ill of her in my presence. And I remember her name, but I won't post it here.
I knew a boy in high school who became my first true love. There really are no words for how I longed for him when we were away or for how my heart sang when we were together. He once brought me a beautiful rose he'd stolen from the neighbor's garden, and I thought it charming. Immaturity on both our parts sent us along our current courses, but he knows and I know that what we had was real. We cross paths every so often, and I can't help but wonder. Sure, I love my husband, but it's true what they say about your first love.
I knew a guy in college who taught me about art and English and how to be true to myself. He stood up for me when others treated me the same as that little girl from high school. He became one of my best friends. Together, we lamented his poor choices in women and English professors, and we tried our best to help him overcome his dyslexia. I adored him, even if he was an Aggie first. After graduation, he sent me postcards and Christmas cards and long letters from his posts all over the world. About 10 years ago, I wondered why the cards and letters stopped. A few months later, I found out: Lt. Paul Marion had been murdered in his home. I haven't recovered. TTOSBT, my friend.
All of these people shaped who I am today. Some for the good, some for the bad. But no matter what, they deserve my thanks. Who do you remember?