My first crush was on a little red-haired boy named Tommy, an ‘older man’ of four.
I’ve confessed before to bopping his sister on the head with a toy truck when she got in the way of my ‘pursuit’ of him. Over the years, I carried a torch, no matter how briefly, for other boys until I met the one who made me hope the flame would never be extinguished.
Many factors shape who we become as adults, including previous loves, likes, and the more than occasional passing fancy.
What prompted this introspection was a good friend’s musing about her child’s upcoming first date. She wasn’t sure whether to be proud or cry, knowing the first heartbreak is the natural next step.
As parents we want desperately to shield our children from heartbreak, while at the same time being keenly aware that love and loss is an integral part of the growing up process.
My favorite scene in the movie Jaws, which in 1975 was my first official date, takes place at night aboard Robert Shaw’s boat. Roy Scheider listens as an inebriated Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss swap fish stories and compare shark bites.
One upmanship takes over and Dreyfuss shrugs out of his shirt, indicating his chest and the greatest wound of all:
As Hooper, he says: “There. Right there. Mary Ellen Moffit broke my heart.
Not long after, the Great White chomps Robert Shaw’s Quint in half. Somehow I think a broken heart is more easily mended.
Sure, sometimes whether you’re a teenager or an octogenarian not even diving into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s can cure what ails you.
But we can take something valuable away from each time we’ve loved and lost. Even though I didn’t marry one, I gained a life-long affinity for redheads from my pre-schooler crush on Tommy F. in that Detroit suburb back in the 60s.
If you don’t open your heart to the possibility of loss, how can you know love?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning