Learning about boys


Seems to me I never had a boyfriend in grade school or high school. Crushes, yes indeed, but I was never flirty or cute, was never asked to “go steady” or even date. How could a country girl go out on a date anyhow? We couldn’t drive cars and, of course, couldn’t go out with boys old enough to drive.

We lived in the country, about three miles from Shaull’s Consolidated School, and were picked up by a big yellow school bus about a tenth of a mile from home. Grades 1 through 8 met there, two grades and one teacher in each of the four classrooms, girls’ bathroom at one end of the hall, boys’ at the other. Principal’s office: across the hall from one of the bathrooms. I should remember that. I was called into her office and reprimanded for throwing gravel at a window. And I was mortified.

I attribute my boredom to the fact that I was smart, read every “library” book or scrap of paper I could put my hands on, having transferred from a Harrisburg school when my parents built their dream house across the Susquehanna River. I was so ridiculously far ahead of the Cumberland County school fourth grade that they skipped me into 5th.

When the teacher was working with one grade or subject she knew I had finished, she set me to tutoring those poor kids who didn’t have a clue. They missed school when they were needed at home to help their parents bring in a crop. First day of hunting season was also a day off – wouldn’t be any boys in school that day anyhow – and of course several times a year for snow and flooding. The Conodoguinit Creek was broad and serpentine, and was responsible for the destruction of several covered bridges on our 9-mile route to high school.

I’m rambling here; bear with me.

I think I was in high school when Clifford N. broke my mother’s favorite umbrella (the one she made me promise I’d take good care of, after losing my own). Cliff was sitting behind me and during a scuffle for the umbrella, he broke it over my head. Before the driver could pull over to settle the melee, I had an opening to shove my hand into Cliff’s face, pushing him away and allowing me to retrieve the damaged parasol.

Ohmygosh, did I do that? Did I resort to violence, did I touch Cliff’s face? His Jeff Chandler-like face with full lips and a really cute smile?

Three thoughts started chasing themselves around in my skull, fighting for predominance:

Mom is going to be furious, and who could blame her?

I’ll get a reprimand in school tomorrow, but who cares? They can’t make kids who ride the school bus stay after school. Who was going to take them home?

But the keenest memory I took from that scuffle was how soft Cliff’s face was when I pushed him back to his seat. I’d never touched a boy’s face before, and I didn’t know they were soft.

I don’t remember Cliff in high school. And I have no idea how he turned out. There were plenty more unrequited crushes, usually on the school bus. There was George Gelsinger, a tall freckled farm kid with blue eyes, a goofy smile, red hair – and a red face when I tried to stir him into conversation. He died before our 40-year class reunion.

And when I rode the school bus to 9th grade in Mechanicsburg, I met Linn Satterthwaite. His parents’ home was on a narrow strip of lane between the road and the creek. He was devilishly good looking, slim as a reed, and courteous to a dreamy girl who “fell in love with anyone wearing pants,” to quote my mother.

Linn graduated a year before I did, went off to the Air Force in 1952, and met a short, scrappy French-Canadian woman in Colorado whom he married in 1956.

The reason I remember Linn so well was that I later met and married his older brother. Both marriages lasted beyond the magic of 50 years, when age began to take its toll. Linn is not doing well, Dave is good for 80, and I still have enough memories of the boys on the school bus to rouse a tiny throb of nostalgia.