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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Son of a Preacher Man

Men have been on my mind lately. Men in my past. Something triggered the thought process and I've been reaching deep into my memories to tally up. More often than not, it's with a smile on my face.

There are a few topics of conversation which I avoid because they are full of opinions and nothing more. Religion is high on that list. I respect everyone's faith and belief system.  Mainly because mine has been roughly defined at best and cast aside at worst. I was not raised in a church, but because of regular visits to my friend Jenny's church and also to my aunt's church I was offered the exposure to the possibility of a higher power. Let's just say I got the basic idea and the main points stuck. Enough so that in the summer before 6th grade I went to church camp with my friend and another girl. It was a Baptist camp. Young people and adult people were being saved left and right. On day 3, I was one of them. It was offered. I felt obligated. It seemed rude to say no. This did two things : it gave me something to write home about other than complaining about the mosquitoes and it caught the serious attention of a boy named Jonathan.

Let me back up to days 1 and 2. (this part might sound a bit more like the Freya you all know) Day one was spent riding the bus to camp, shifting in my seat the whole way to unstick my thighs from the hot vinyl and staring holes in the back of the head of the cute older blond boy whom I did not recognize but felt immediate lust for in my little not-quite-11-year-old heart. Seriously. I vividly remember wanting. I don't know exactly what it was that I wanted, but it surely involved him.

After arriving at camp, making up our bunks, and walking around the site to check things out, I discovered that there was a miniature golf course included in this camp and guess who was already in the middle of a game by himself looking all blond, and tall, and cute? That's right. Dave. I know this is his name because that's what he told my friend after I drug her by the arm back to the cabin to get my camera and made her go take a picture of him. I was too chicken to do it myself. You see, I had the nerve to want things back in those days - just not the nerve to go get them. So I made my friend Jenny do it instead. She delivered the goods, alright. I even got his name. *smiles*  I was giddy with the excitement that once home, I would have a tangible reminder of him. At dinner that night I cast longing side-eye glances at him and willed him to notice me. He did not. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that he was a 7th grader and most likely was only aware of girls who'd already begun to show their feminine possibilities. My "possibilities" would take another two years to fill up my training bra. No matter. In my mind I still had a chance. I was cute. I was blonde. And I had dimples.

Day 2 gave me more opportunity to mingle with other kids as we were divided into age groups. On day two I met Jonathan. Blond, slight, quiet, and bespectacled. Exactly the same age as me. And the Youth Minister's son. For some reason that I can't put my finger on, Jonathan took to me like a squeak takes to clean. That's how I thought of him, too. Squeaky clean. He was friendly in a gentle, kind way and I remember his smile was a constant feature on his face. I had notions of what a preacher's son might be like and as the day wore on Jonathan was hinting at a promise of being more than my simple notions. He asked to sit by me at lunch. I said of course. I had awkward moments of being caught up in laughter filled conversation with him and still sneaking glances over to the "older" table at my beloved Dave. I was conflicted. I was aware of the possibility that Jonathan might like like me, but I was still drawn by the lure of an older man for now.

That night there was a bonfire and amongst all the singing and s'mores there was also smoldering. But not between me and Jonathan. Not even between me and Dave. I was horror stricken to find out from my friend Jenny that Dave was holding hands with some girl. Some 8th grade girl. Some 8th grade girl with boobs!!! I resorted to licking my wounds for, oh...about 5 minutes. And then I went to find my old friend Jenny and my new friend Jonathan. Add in Laura (the girl who attended camp with me and Jenny) and Jonathan's best friend (can't remember his name) and that's who I spent the remainder of my camp days with.

On day 3 there was morning worship, crafts, free time, lunch, swimming, youth group (where I felt the watchful eye of Jonathan's dad), and later that evening we trekked up Vesper Hill towards the church. After much singing, many sermons, and a calling of the Holy Spirit, I found myself sitting dumbly with a senior member of the congregation and taking vows and then BOOM! I was saved. As in : before I was nothing more than a heathen fumbling my way through life and now I was a blessed child of God. Funny thing that. I didn't feel different. Yet somehow I knew I was, because if Jonathan looked at me with veiled affection before, he downright glowed with adoration for me now. And his father had only big smiles for me. Where he might have questioned my suitability before, suddenly I was undoubtably good enough for a preacher's son. I'll never forget the thought of how hypocritical it all seemed, even then at the age of not-quite-eleven years old. Even more so considering the fact that within minutes Jonathan, who had grabbed my hand outside the chapel and briskly walked me down the trail, wrapped his arms around me and boldly pressed his lips to mine. A preacher's son! And at church camp!!!

Something changed in my affection for Jonathan that night. It was knowing that for all the goodness that was showing on the outside, there was some naughtiness on the inside too. It brought us together on a level playing field. I suppose the reverse was true of his feelings for me. For all my naughtiness in my every day actions (I had been, afterall, lusting in my heart for an older man) there was some goodness inside me now, too.

Our romance burned brightly, but faded fast. There were many letters written to one another for the next few weeks and he even sent me a pink stuffed lion for my birthday. How he even knew when my birthday was, I'll never know. But the sheer joy I received from his unexpected gesture sticks with me to this day. I know I wrote him back, thanking him profusely and then......... I don't know. School started and I never heard from him again. He was no more than a wonderful story to tell about how I spent my summer vacation. And if the small heartbreak I felt from Jonathan's abandonment ever got me down, I would pull out the shoebox stuffed full of developer's envelopes and after a few moments of flipping through photos to find just the right one, I would cling to that picture of a gorgeous thing named Dave and smile, and smile, and smile.