Web writes: "After 40 years of experience as a newspaper reporter, awkward childhood memories can still haunt me."
Still Star Struck
It was a moment that I – Leo Liebewicz – was unprepared for.
She was sitting at a desk just across from me.
That first time I laid eyes on her was in that (ahem) second grade. To say the least, I was stunned. I am sure my eyes got big, and my heart certainly was beating wildly.
Be that as it may have been, I can barely remember it. Nevertheless, it must have made an impression on me, because I am recalling it right now today (some 70 years later) plus other stuff connected with it:
Her comely face. Beautiful. And what shapely legs. (Classy). Although I was too young to appreciate the latter. She was so charming that I was beginning to have a pounding heart and levitate some. For a gangly, rail-thin guy in the second grade that was really something.
Her friend, Bonnie Jean, who sat but a few desks away leaned over to chat with Karen, and then over to me, to tell me that she (Karen) wasn't really going steady with Mitchell Polansky, who lived out Y Street, a couple of houses down from her.
I said something cool like, “Huh?”
It might have been laughable to Karen and Bonnie Jean, or anyone else who might have been listening. But it didn't matter, because I was flabbergasted. Moreover, I could not concentrate on anything. Especially on what the teacher was saying, Oooh.
When I started to become really interested in girls (In my case about two years later), I wasn't even vaguely interested in her, because every boy in town even remotely close to my age, was gazwa over her.
Oh, she was a beauty. Chatty. Intelligent (and the best grades in class, or nearly so). And the years went by. We all changed to another building (junior high school), and then high school. She continued to be popular (more dates than one could count).
I remember one rainy day when we were sophomores, one of my oldest friends (Stan Steinhager) arranged a clam-dig outing so we could pluck a few mollusk bivalves from the sand, and appear in biology class on Monday with large, splendid specimens. 'Twas a rainy, blustery day and we were on the Harbor's huge north spit near Oyhut.
The girls (Karen and friend with almost the same name) mostly stayed in the car while Stan and I went seaward a few hundred yards in quest of the noble sea clam.
Oh, there were plenty! Clams as far as the eye could see. Now – some 65 years later – I can still vaguely remember having trouble with one huge clam. It was diving fiercely into the wet sand, and I had a hold of its neck… I was determined. And It wouldn't budge. The struggle lasted for about 3-4 minutes. Finally, I yelled at Stan, “Throw me that clam gun” (an angled shovel, designed especially for digging razor clams on that Point Brown stretch of beach on the Washington coast).
He was accommodating, tossing it to me. But it bounced off the wet-and-hard sand once, and hit me in the frozen shins
“Ow!” I hollered. Oh, what pain! It didn't break my frozen left leg, but I thought it almost did.
I vaguely remember winning the battle with the big clam, thanks to the clam gun.
A few minutes later Stan and I returned to his car with a couple of buckets of clams – many of them good sized. We were half frozen stiff. My left shin hurting like a bear paw in a trap.
I leaned over the seat and placed my bucket of clams on the car floor. One of the girls – I don't think it was Karen but the other one – said, “Oooh, look at that one… it may be too big.”
She was referring, of course, to that huge clam with which I had that mortal struggle that won me the clam gun and the aching shin.
I was a little incensed. But as I was setting the bucket of clams on the back seat floor, I caught a glorious glimpse of one of Karen's shapely, smooth, well-tanned legs, and my heart started beating faster. She looked at me with comely face and grinned. I forgot my aching shin.
It dawned on me on the 30-mile trip home from the beach, that I was with the No. 1 sex symbol from the rain-soaked hills, Once the boys found out, they'd be jealous beyond all reason. But somehow it didn't matter to me – one way or another. Ho hum.
Years later – and I mean years after stints in the Marine Corps and the Army – I found myself in Philadelphia, visiting my daughter.
I was retired, but daughter Moonbeam was still working. One day I had to myself, so I sat back in her living room and scoured the Philadelphia Enquirer. My wife of 30 years had died 3-4 years earlier, and for some reason – still unknown to this day – I decided to peruse the personals. A lark?.
I wasn't thinking of remarrying. That was the farthest thing from my mind. But I was curious. I wanted to see if the Enquirer was keeping up with the Seattle Times and the Vancouver (B.C.) Sun in these kinds of interpersonal exercises. I saw an ad that looked attractive, and it included an e-mail address, and I foolishly answered it. Why I did this I do not know.
Using my daughter's computer, I and the Enquirer respondent sent e-mails back and forth. Finally, we agreed to meet… at the Rusty Pelican in Broomall, one of Phily's western suburbs.
I had an address and soon learned that the public transit ran but a block away. So I changed clothes and trundled my bundle. I had told my her that I would be wearing my blue t-shirt. When I entered, I looked around, couldn't see the clothing she described that she would be wearing. So I found a corner booth and sat down.
Almost immediately, this finely turned out female approached me. She got about 5 yards away, and I said to myself, “What a comely lass...I can't believe this, but I think I might know her!”
She got closer, and I almost fell out of the booth… and my guest started to collapse. The waitress caught her before she hit the floor and eased her into the booth opposite me. The waitress saw what was happening and grooved to the kitchen, saying she'd return shortly.
My guest and I just stared at one another.
She said, “Leo?” And I said, “What the… Karen?”
Her face – still beautiful as I remembered it – turned red. I am sure I turned pale.
We just continued to stare at one another. And after a few minutes (well, okay seconds), a strong feeling came over me, (I was levitating)…
God works in mysterious ways.
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