Make Her Laugh

Lessons learned from childhood love

by , posted on January 24th, 2010 in The Love Issue

There are 8mm movie reels of the day I met my first true love. Like a scene from Casablanca, you see a woman emerge from the plane, waving on the rollaway steps, then a man in safari-casual, and behind him, two small boys – one brunette, one blond.  The blond is maybe 18 months old, maybe 2.  The camera pans over to the spectators waving at the arriving passengers – it is an island airport, and the Arrivals hall is an open lanai.  Zoom in on the little blonde girl in a sailor dress:  that’s me, at two years old, waving so hard that my pigtails bounce.  My brother and I had clearly been told new friends were arriving in the mission field.

Ryan and I soon became inseparable:  we played in the rain gutters, we dressed up as doctors in our daddies’ white coats and old stethoscopes, and we invented a bizarre game called ‘Squishing Into Corners’ – self explanatory, except that it didn’t appear to be much fun to older siblings or mothers.  Our favorite game, however, involved taking turns sitting on top of one another at the bottom of the pool, and then bursting to the surface in paralytic giggles, just as our mothers were about to alert the lifeguards.

Me around the time I met Ryan...

My family moved back to the States when I was almost three, but our families stayed in touch.  We visited when they returned from their mission trip, we played after many church potlucks, and as we got older were allowed to stay weekends at each others’ houses.

These were magical weekends:  he shared his Easy-Bake Oven, I showed him how a guy can still play with a doll house.  We made up elaborate plays, we sometimes simply sat next to each other reading our own books. I remember a field of rolled hay bales in the field next to his house, and leaping with abandon into the blue sky – believing for half a second that we really might fly.

When I went through a box of old letters once at my parents’ house, I found a letter I’d written to him when I was seven, maybe eight.  I’d enclosed a Ziploc bag of French Burnt Peanuts – my favorite – and I’d told him how much I was looking forward to seeing him in the summer vacation.

It must have been about this time that a budding knowledge of what in love and boyfriends meant started to color our friendship – due in large part to older brothers who thought nothing of merciless teasing.  We’d moved to a different state, he’d moved to the country, and school started to jealously guard our days, weeks and months.

I haven’t thought about Ryan for years.  Our mothers of course keep us up to date:  did you know he married ‘X’? ‘Did you know she’s moved to ‘X’? The last time we saw each other we were awkward teenagers – I remember the bathing suit I wore, but I don’t remember a conversation we had.  In fact, I’m sure we didn’t speak.  But you never forget your first love:  especially when you find him before preschool.

All of the sudden, it seems, it’s my seven year old who is now proclaiming her true love for a boy in her class.  We asked her what was so special about this guy – “well Mommy, he’s very very kind.  And he even cries when he gets hurt.”  Her dad asks, half-joking, if this one is good enough for her, and in all seriousness she confirms that he does make her laugh, just like Daddy always told her a good man should.

It turns out that your first love may just point the way for the thing we look for in real love – someone who’s going to be your very best friend.

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5 Responses to “Make Her Laugh”

  1. Caroline Says:

    February 2nd, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    WOW – This is so sweet.


  2. agnes Says:

    February 2nd, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Wow, is right. The details are just as I remember them as well and my guess would be that your insights were spot on even then. Your seer-like commentary startled me often and that was before your writing skills caught up. Thanks for the vignette.


  3. John Reinsch Says:

    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:19 am

    You never cease to amaze! I am so besotted with my dear, dear niecelette!


  4. Cheryl Rosenberg Says:

    February 3rd, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I love both the picture and the sentiment!


  5. And Now It’s Time for the Top 5s of 2010 Says:

    December 28th, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    [...] the Polar Bear 3. Blackberries a poem by Cecilia Lebovitz 2. A Love Story by Janelle Diamond 1. Make her Laugh by Kirsten [...]

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