I was in love. True love. He was TDH—tall, dark, handsome. It was the summer between third and fourth grade. I was a mature eight years of age. Almost into the double digits after all. I admit he was a little older. But what is age? Forty-two years was nothing in the big scheme of things. He was so debonair. He could carry a lit cigarette and a glass of scotch in the same hand. He made it look effortless. He could sing. He could dance. He could make me laugh. The perfect combination. I was sure my parents would think him the ideal son-in-law even if he could be their father. But how to snag him was the question.
That summer, as with most summers, we trekked to Cavalier for a family vacation. Well most of the family. The dads never came. It was just Mom, my brother John, Aunt Karen, cousins Brad and Kelli, and me converging on Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Jim. Poor Uncle Jim. Seriously though who in their right mind would want to vacation in a house with only one bathroom for nine people. If you added dads to the mix it would be loco crazy.
There was the marriage saver half bath by the back door but that was Grandpa’s. Very utilitarian. Outfitted with only the basics and lots and lots of magazines. Anyone could use it but Grandpa had priority. Probably because he was the pharmacist and he had to open the store. Or he had an aversion to the pepto pink tiles that adorned the walls in the main bath. Whatever. Those bathrooms were night and day. Grandpa’s had stacks of magazines and pink pepto had a hard copy of Homer’s The Odyssey. Either way you were entertained I suppose. Although I have to admit The Odyssey was an odd choice for the bathroom. Even if I was a mature eight year old, that was way over my head. I digress. This was to be about my boyfriend, my soon to be husband. I just needed those stars to align.
As always the boys ganged up together and Kelli and I hung out together. Although she and I were different. She was a little more tomboy. I was a little more into Barbie (and by then I had a Ken too). That was the summer the boys proclaimed themselves members of the FBI—female body inspectors. Yes, really. They found Uncle Jim’s stack of Playboy magazines and carefully used their pocketknives to carve out pictures for their wallets.
I admit I was a little moony over my true love. I talked about him all the time. I would comb through the magazines at the store looking for even a glimpse of my honey. I wasn’t too successful. If I had been successful I would have borrowed a pocketknife to carve out his picture and put it under my pillow for sweeter dreams. After the latest batch of magazines had come in and were searched thoroughly, I was quite dejected when I found nothing. Grandma suggested that Kelli and I could write letters to our idols. (Let’s get this straight — mine was her future grandson but I let it ride. Idol was fine.) Grandma gave us stationary and envelopes and sent us home to write our letters.
We sat at the kitchen table with Kool Aid and freshly baked sugar cookies and wrote our letters. I carefully penned that letter in my most adult handwriting (cursive, of course). I wanted to impress him. I professed my love and requested a picture. When we were done, Kelli and I exchanged letters for a final review.
Dear Red, I read. Red? I looked at Kelli reading my letter. I didn’t say anything but I really questioned her choice of men. Red Skelton? She handed my letter back to me and I looked at it with pride and hope. Dear Dino ….
You’ll never know how ecstatic I was the day I got a signed postcard from Dean Martin in the mail. My true love.