Summer After Ninth Grade

I’m looking at all the junk on my bulletin board. It’s got all manner of things tacked to it and is organized and messy—yes, both. It’s nailed to the knotty pine wall of my bedroom, between the doors to the walk-in closet and the bathroom, it’s above an open-flame gas wall heater, and it is a wonder that all the paper tacked to the board does not catch on fire.

My friends have bulletin boards two feet by two feet, but my mama always does things in a big way, so when I mentioned needing a corkboard to put my mementos on, she went to the lumber company downtown and had a piece cut that was about five feet long and three feet tall. I figured I’d have trouble filling that thing up, but there it is—a testament to a girl’s social life. Corsages from dances, now stiff and dried out. Ticket stubs. A strip of pictures from Lakeland with two friends. A Phillies pennant—my cousin plays ball for them, and scorecards from a baseball game we went to in Cincinnati. Napkins from places I went with a boy. A CHS Wildcats pennant. Yellow construction paper footballs with Go Wildcats and the name CHARLES on them—a bunch of them lined up in a row. The cheerleaders made them before every football game and girls could ask the boys to wear their football and then they got to walk the boy off the field after the game.

It’s 1964, I just finished ninth grade, I have a steady boyfriend, and I just two-timed him when I went on a church trip to a camp in New Mexico and met a boy from Texas. I have an excuse, though, because our chaperone got all the girls in a huddle and said, “I want you girls to take off those boys’ class rings and ID bracelets and meet boys and have a good time here.” We were glad to comply, and I took off my ID bracelet, and when this cute boy came up to me and said, “May I accompany you to church tonight?” I said yes, even though I had never had anyone use the word “accompany” before and wondered if he might be one of those smart types that didn’t know how to have fun.

Glorieta, New Mexico

Now tacked to my bulletin board I have postcards from Glorieta Baptist Assembly in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of New Mexico and Santa Fe where I bought a turquoise ring and Six Flags over Texas where I rode the roller coaster with my eyes closed. The big card with the scene of mountains and the campground covers up part of Richard Chamberlain as Dr. Kildare. I think he is the handsomest man in the world and have such a crush on him I didn’t think anything could nudge him out. I lie on my bed and think back to those cold mountain nights and that boy, who was sixteen and two years older, and the last morning when our group left at dawn and he came down to my room to say good bye and we walked to the side of the building out of sight. It was cold that August morning and I had a blanket wrapped around me and leaned into the brick wall and he stood in front of me, close. He took my chin in his hand and kissed me. It was a short kiss and I wanted it to be longer and harder, and I kissed him back like I would never see him again.

Glorieta Prayer Gardens

This afternoon I will go to the VFW pool out on Highway 61 with Gerri who already has her drivers license because she is six months older than I am and we will take sunbaths and listen to Chad and Jeremy on the jukebox sing about trees swayin in the summer breeze … soft kisses on a summer’s day … sweet sleepy walks on summer nights. I will close my eyes and be back there at Glorieta in the cool mountains, and he and I are holding hands as we walk over the grounds, climb Old Baldy, eat ice cream at the Chuck Wagon, go to meals in the Dining Hall, walk through the prayer gardens, sing “I Love the Mountains,” sit close, touching, him always holding my hand tightly, and I am so helplessly and desperately in love. But “all good things must end some day, autumn leaves must fall” and I am now at home in my own familiar room and school will start a few weeks after Labor Day and I will go to the real high school. And I do have a boyfriend here that I talk to on the phone every night at seven and go to the movies with on the weekends.

And I know that at the bottom left of my bulletin board, under the Varsity cup tacked to it, there are tiny X’s marked with a pencil on the white cork. Nobody knows what these mean, not even my little sister who shares the room with me and has to look at the junk on the board all day. The first time my boyfriend kissed me, I put an X there to mark it—my first real kiss. Then I put a second and a third and so on until it got routine. I didn’t think he’d ever kiss me. We’d gone out to the movies, walked home from school together, him carrying my books, for two months and he never even tried. Then one night we were sitting in the Piano Room in my house—it had a sitting area, a record player, and a piano in it—and we were playing songs like “Sugar Shack” and “Surfer Girl” and “And Then He Kissed Me,” he asked if he could kiss me. Asked. I didn’t think that was romantic and it was a short kiss. Why do I only get short kisses?

My mother comes to the door and says, “Pick up your clothes.” I don’t jump up instantly. “I’m not going to tell you again,” she says. I look at dresses covering my desk and shorts tossed on top of my cedar chest that has an 8 x 10 football picture of my boyfriend that I have hidden behind my Pep Squad megaphone. I’m in a mood right now.

I don’t know what to do about my boyfriend here and the boy there. I do know that “when the rain beats against my window pane I’ll think of summer days again and dream” of the boy there, in Texas, far away, that I’ll never see again. There was a rain shower every afternoon in the mountains at Glorieta. Thunder crackled down, echoed through the valleys, filled every nook and cranny in the campground, and we always watched the clouds come, then held hands and dashed for cover. I was only with him five days. Why do I miss him so?

My mother sticks her head in door and her eyes are big and her forehead has long thick rows in it and she says in her mean voice, “I don’t see you moving.”


2 Comments on “Summer After Ninth Grade”

  1. I had one of those bulletin boards. Courtesy of my mother. And I used to go to Glorieta, too. Oh. Last time was 1991 and I cried bc I knew I might never go back there after six years in a row.

  2. Neil Dennis says:

    I like the active tense throughout.

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