The family vacation of 1977 took us to visit Dad’s alma mater in Baton Rouge (and the school mascot, Mike the Tiger!). As great and memorable as it was to help Dad turn back the clock to his formidable years, that first stop on the LSU campus paled in comparison to the anticipation of sandy beaches, amusement park rides and inexpensive t-shirts that filled my mind as we journeyed east to our ultimate destination – Pensacola, Florida. Ahhh, the joys of summer break. What a great trip for a twelve-year-old!
How was a boy to comprehend that it could all change in an instant?
While the lure of the beach served as the ephemeral bait, the hook was quite a different matter altogether. The hostess checked the chart, smiled and said politely yet firmly, “Your table is ready. Please follow me.” As we made our way to the table I’m sure there was some complaining and arguing – “I don’t like seafood!” or “No, I get to sit next to Mom!” – among the three kids. Honestly, how do parents cope?
Like the sand castles built earlier that afternoon, the inanity of the moment would soon be washed away, at least for me, by a tidal wave of… what? I knew not, but it was powerful. There she was – a vision to behold – our waitress for the evening. At that very instant I became transfixed and, more permanently, transformed. Mesmerized by her delicate features, flowing locks of auburn hair, and a soft twenty-something voice, I longed to be a grownup. Not soon – now! At once my heart rejoiced, filled with lust, but also ached, filled with sorrow, for I realized the hopelessness of my predicament. Indeed, both the highlight of my summer journey and the saddest part was the remainder of that dinner service.
I saw her only once, but the memories remain, forever etched into my mind by the self-indulgent imagery of strolling hand-in-hand with her on the beach, kissing under the moonlight, and dancing to the rhythm of Johnny Rivers’ “Slow Dancing (Swayin’ to the Music).” Today – nearly thirty-one years later – no vial of beach sand, no family picture, no worn out t-shirt survives from that trip. What remains is a fragment of a fading memory that takes me back to my first turn-on, and perhaps more precisely, my first taste of love. I still think of her every time I hear that song and I don’t even know her name.
Email your story (click here)