I had a lot of sweethearts when I was a kid. Well, maybe not lots, but I did have one. Her name was Katherine Case, and she sat in the first row in Grade 4. In fact, she sat in the front seat of the first row, which signified she was the brightest kid in the class. That's how things were in those days, at least at the school I attended. First seat, first row for the smartest. Second seat, first row for the next smartest and so on. There were five rows with five kids in each row. Sitting in the first row was a badge of honour. Sitting in the second row also had prestige for a nine or 10 year old. At least, that is what I was led to believe by those who sat there.
I sat in the last seat in the fifth row. That too held a certain prestige, but one I would sooner forget about. (I'm humble that way!) Katherine, who was called Katherine and who I secretly thought of as "Kathy," occupied much if not most of my daytime dreams. I don't know how many times I saved her from certain death. How I beat off pirates single-handedly, who sought to kidnap her, or the wild beasts of Africa that sought to devour her. She was so beautiful, my Kathy was - auburn hair in quiet ringlets cascading down to her shoulders. Bright blue eyes that smiled a mini-second before her lips did. Pink cheeks and white teeth that looked like little Chiclets.
Near Valentine's Day, my mother would buy my sister and I a large book of partly cut-out Valentines on each page. We were to give them out to all the kids in our classes. I wanted to give all of mine to Kathy, but my mom wouldn't allow it. She said I had to give one to each kid in my class. "Even Stinky Carbeneau?" I asked. "Even Stinky Carbeneau!" she said. Stinky's real name was Vic, but I didn't like him much. That's why I called him Stinky. He was the most popular and smartest boy in the class. Often when she thought no one was looking, "Kathy" would sneak glances at him, which made me mad. I don't know how many times, in my daydreams, I destroyed him, but he always seemed to pop up again. Stinky wasn't only the best looking, most popular, smartest boy in our class, he was the toughest too. He wasn't a bully or anything, but no one messed with him. Not even Pee Wee Wise, who wasn't very tall but could flip taller kids over his shoulder. I beat up Vic lots of times causing Kathy to almost swoon in admiration for me - in my daydreams of course, so there was no blood.
She was my Valentine 24 times over. Sometimes she was all I could think about. When I was apart from her, my heart ached and when I was in the same room with her, my heart still ached. She was so lovely, so pristine, so angelic - so distant. It is hard to long for your sweetheart when your sweetheart doesn't know she's your sweetheart. Once, I got up the nerve to mumble hello to her in the hall on the way to recess, but she brushed by me without so much as a glance. I wanted to hide! I wanted to die! I wanted to run! Instead I escaped into my daydream and beat the stuffing out of Stinky. Young love is truly wonderful because it is built more on thought than on action. I knew one day I would marry Kathy; I just didn't know how to go about it.
Years have the tendency to sweep out old daydreams to make room for new ones. I don't remember when Kathy got swept out, probably in Grade 7 at another school, when a whole bunch of Kathys started running across my vision. The mind is fickle in its search for lasting love. I don't know what became of Kathy. Some years later, I heard different stories. One said she married a doctor and had three girls who looked just like her. It was probably Stinky she married. He was smart enough to become a doctor. (I can't stand a show-off.) Another rumour was that she became a nun; I didn't even know she was Catholic. Still another tale was that she married and divorced three times and became grossly overweight. (I always knew we had much in common.) Whatever happened to her is a mystery.
But one thing remains, the memory of my first sweetheart, my first Valentine, my first love no matter how one-sided it might have been. And wherever she is and whoever she is, I know she's happy. She won't remember me, but I sure remember her!