The First Girl I Ever Loved

When we all get older there will be many memories and moments that captured our hearts from the past. Regardless of the present state, those moments will bring us joy, sadness and pain just with the thought of that memory. The reason being is that we wouldn’t be who we are if it wasn’t for it. The memory that I have that is so unforgettable, is of a girl who showed me what love was for the first time. Her name was Leslie.

It was 1987 and I was six years old attending Lewis elementary school in Carbondale, Illinois. It was the first day of class in a brand new school and I was expectedly nervous. I didn’t know anyone and I was very shy at the time, so I just grab the first seat I could at an empty desk. As the kids started to fill up the class room little by little, I looked down at my folder and pulled out a piece of paper and began to draw. I would always draw on paper when I got nervous as a kid and I was very nervous at interacting with people I didn’t know, so I just looked down at the paper and avoided eye contact.

I heard the teacher calling out the names of students and ask them to say they were present. As she called out the names, I continued to draw and scribble on the paper to avoid looking up. I heard her say William Harris and I raised my hand to notify I was present and she called my name again, “Is William Harris here?” I then said, “Here” with a quiet voice as if I was whispering something to a friend. She continued until she finished the names and begins to speak in front of the class about the first day of school. The teacher then asked everyone to come up in front of class and introduce themselves. One by one, kids went up excitingly and introduce themselves to the class, as I mourned at the idea of speaking in front of people. As the kids continued to speak, a woman appeared in the doorway and interrupted our class with an announcement. She told the teacher that she would have one more student in her class and introduced her to the class. “Class this is Leslie Gamble”, she said and the students in the class said, “Hi Leslie”.

From the moment I saw her I was in awe of her beauty. She was a pretty girl with very long hair, green eyes and she was wearing a sky blue flower dress the first time I saw her. The teacher asked Leslie to find a desk and have a seat, so she walked to the back of the room and sat down in an empty desk right next to me. She seemed like a very nervous girl herself from what I first noticed. She started drawing on a piece of paper and looking down the same way I did and I was shocked, because I thought I was the only person who did that. Right from the beginning, me and Leslie had a connection before we ever spoke.

As weeks past, the kids in the class begin to start their own clicks outside for recess and I was the odd man out , so I played by myself most of the time until I noticed one day Leslie sitting alone. She looked sad and frustrated and that’s when I spoke to her for the first time. I asked her what was wrong and she told me that no one in the class liked her or wanted to play with her. I told her I felt the same way and she looked at me and said, “Why wouldn’t anyone want to play with you? You are the same color as everyone else, I am different.” In fact, she was different. Leslie was a white kid in a predominantly black school and she also was one of the first white kids I ever interacted with, as I was one of the first black kids she ever interacted with. Leslie and her family had moved to Carbondale from Iowa, because of a job opportunity her mother received with the university. She was definitely in a different element and it was bothering her because she felt the kids didn’t like her because she was white. I assured her that other kids would warm up to her if she talked more. She agreed and a friendship was made.

Leslie and I began to hang around each other every day at recess while the other kids did their own thing. We talked about life, cartoons, music and movies, something very mature for first graders to be doing at the time. I talked to her about the absent father in my life and she talked about her older brother who always picked on her. I laugh at it now, because I use to tell her I would beat her brother up if he picked on her, but I didn’t know he was in the 7th grade until I saw him one day after school when her mom came to pick her up. She was a real life Barbie doll and always looked the part when it came to clothes. Her mom looked like she was a former model and made sure Leslie looked the best.

One day our teacher asked us to partner up for a class project and I and Leslie chose to stay a unified couple. The project was to draw all the planets of the solar system and color them. I thought it was a cool project being that I was into space and all, but there was just one problem, I didn’t have any crayons. I had one box of crayons that I got at the beginning of the year, but I had destroyed those and couldn‘t afford more, so I just hoped for this situation to never happen and it did. I told Leslie that I didn’t have any crayons and she looked at me and said I could use hers. She had the double decker box of crayons that I thought only rich people could afford. She never cared about sharing, she was so nice about everything and I could tell she was raised right. There were many times I didn’t have paper or a pencil and I would ask a kid and they would tell me no, but Leslie was always there for me.

As more group projects were assigned, Leslie and I always stuck together even when paired with other kids. She would continue to let me use her things and I would show her my appreciation at recess by performing songs from the movie the Labyrinth, a 1980’s movie made by Jim Henson, the puppet master. I would sing these songs and perform them every day to her and another girl name Alisha that she befriended after a while. They would sit and giggle as I sung and sung making a fool of myself, but I never cared because I knew she was a good friend. Times were never dull with us, we’d play tether ball together and would make each other laugh hysterically by spinning ourselves on the swings until we were dizzy and try to walk it off. We did that every single day and it never got bored. What we had was special and I haven’t felt like that since about another girl.

It was around March when I received the worst news of my life up until that point. Leslie came to school one day and told me she was moving because her mother got another job. I was devastated because she was the only reason why I got up in the morning to go to school. She was my world at the time and she knew it, but it wasn’t anything she could do about it, so I had to swallow it and deal with it. She told me that she expressed her sadness to her mother and her mom assured that we would stay in contact. It was like someone taking all my happiness and flushing down the drain, I couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen once she left.

The last day of class for Leslie was on a Friday and we were told that a class party was going to happen last period for Leslie. Her mother brought cake, cookies, soda and chips for the class and we ate like it was our own birthdays. We all had a good time and expressed how much we were going to miss her and then the teacher let us go play outside for the last 15 minutes of class.As I was about to go run outside to play, Leslie leaned into me and said don’t leave the class I want to give you a present. I was wondering why she would give me a present after all she has done for me; I should be giving her one.

 As the kids darted out the class and preceded to the playground, I stayed back like she asked me and she looked around until no one was in the class and pulled out a present. She told me to open it and said that she bought it with her own money. It was a big box, so I had no clue what it could be, but I began to open the present anyway. When I tore apart the paper, there stood a brand new box of double decker crayons (You know the ones only rich kids get) just for me. She told me that she saved her money up just to buy me the same crayons she has. As I stood there in shock, she leaned in and kisses me. It was the first kiss I had ever gotten and it was from a girl who just bought me the best gift ever. I was in love.

 As class ended and the bell rung, I walked Leslie to her car with her mom caring the leftover cake and snacks and felt very sad. Her mom gave me a hug and Leslie gave me one to and she got into the car and said that she would miss me. She drove off waving and I stood there like I had just lost my home in a hurricane. I had just received my first lesson in heartbreak and disappointment and knew it wouldn’t be the last.I never saw or heard from Leslie again. The memories that I have of the first grade are all of her and that box of crayons. She was truly something special and has had a place in my heart ever since. I just hope one day that I can feel that same way about a woman that I did about a girl name Leslie, who bought me a box of crayons and loved me for me.TRUE STORY…

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