I spoke with one of my oldest friends today (C) for the first time in ages. It’s been so long since we’ve talked that I literally cannot remember the last time (maybe eight years*?), yet we “got on” famously as usual. This friend is special to me historically because he’s been there for a couple milestones in my life. He flew from Tennessee to Chicago for the surprise party that Jim, Julesie, and Kate threw for me when I turned thirty. He was one of the two people who accompanied me to the Knoxville airport–and quieted my nerves by reminiscing about “back in the day”–when I left Tennessee to join my new husband (Jim, duh!) in Virginia back in the spring of 1987. He was a part of the German interchange program I did in 1982-83 (though he could only participate in the first half). And finally, he was my first real “crush”, in eighth grade.

I sent him an e-mail today because I am starting to research our family trip to Munich, and I wanted some tips from him, because he has expertise in international travel. When he called me instead of replying by e-mail, I wish I had thought to contact him earlier, for many reasons. We had a great conversation about the elements of my trip, and then talk turned to our spouses and kids. He laughed at the fact that I have a “kid” going off to college this fall and his oldest is starting kindergarten at the same time. We talked about the teenage years and how scared he is of that part of his future. I told him that my biggest tip for surviving the teenage years is to keep the communication going from the time they’re little. I believe that once walls are built, it’s hard to break through: best not let them go up in the first place!

He expressed his concern because teens are subjected to so many things that we weren’t at that age, in the early 80s when we knew and acted upon–well–pretty much nothing. I laughed in agreement, my mind going straight back to my 13th birthday.

My plans for celebrating my 13th included bowling with three of my girlfriends (and my mom and sister), and then heading over to the restaurant at the hotel my dad was managing at the time, to eat dinner. At the time, I was in the middle of my raging crush on C; I was all googly-eyed over every mention of him and, though I wasn’t following him around–these were my pre-stalker days–I nearly melted whenever he walked by me.

About 15 minutes into the bowling part of my birthday extravaganza, I noticed that my very good friend was eyeing the door like she was waiting for a delivery. A few minutes later she walked over to the door to look out into the parking lot. I kept asking her what she was looking for but she wouldn’t tell me.

About 30 minutes in, she finally spilled. She had done the unthinkable: invited C to come and bowl in the lane next to us. And he was coming.

I was HORRIFIED.

and a little excited.

But mostly HORRIFIED.

She finally called his house (this was the 80’s; average folks didn’t have mobile phones) and was told that his dad took him to the wrong bowling alley but they were on their way.

A few minutes later, they arrived. He was looking resplendent in his jeans and his blue plaid flannel shirt (I obviously remember this as though it were yesterday and not nearly twenty-cough-cough-nine years ago). He and his dad greeted us and set up to bowl. I couldn’t concentrate at all.

To make matters worse, my mother was embarrassing me by taking pictures every time she could get the two of us in the viewfinder at the same time!! (Thanks, mom! Still have the pics!) C’s dad, bless his heart, was so patient with the situation, his son being a total heartthrob (and a favorite “present”) to this silly little birthday girl and all. My girlfriends adjusted the pace of their bowling accordingly so that I would coincidentally end up having to get my bowling ball at the same time that C did, and the alternating feelings of excitement and embarrassment kept my heart rate up way too high to bowl much better than straight gutter balls. Other than my googly eyes, there was no suggestive flirting, we girls were not wearing too-short skirts or low-cut tops, nobody was cursing, and there were definitely no double entendres. There was just…bowling.

When we were finished with our respective games and got set to go our separate ways, my friends and I said goodbye to C in the same way we did when we saw him at school; there was no further fuss made. As the school year went on, I continued to try to attract his attention and he continued to be interested in me only as a friend**. There was no drama, there was no…nothing.

These days, teens are so different; C is definitely right about that. We have to educate our kids years earlier nowadays about drugs, alcohol, sex, and so much more. Instant access to just about everything on the internet as well as ratings systems in movies and television that have loosened immensely over the years can work against parents who aren’t talking to their kids on a constant basis. Though the 21st century is an exciting time, it’s a little bittersweet for us adults who are nostalgic for another decade. It’s something that every generation goes through as our kids are exposed to more and more, earlier and earlier.

It makes me wonder what my grandkids*** will have access to, what they will know, and what they will struggle with. One thing I know for sure is that my boys will, like me, look back on their age of innocence and wonder where it went.

*We exchange cards each year at the holidays, so we keep up with each other a wee bit.
**I’m glad about that; had there been any boyfriend/girlfriend drama, I’m not sure if we’d still be friends as adults!
***the ones that I’m NOT in a hurry for but will hopefully arrive at some point way, way down the road.

©2010 Suburban Scrawl