Ten year-old Jimmy was an unusual kid. To other boys he seemed just plain lucky. Things that made him unusual were that firstly, he was a lightning quick study, a mental terrier of sorts. Some teacher or adult mentioned something in passing and Jimmy’s mind grabbed it and would not let go. He could recite the point in his brain and on his test papers months afterward with the seeming ease of breathing because he simply remembered things so well.
He was a cute kid. All kids are cute in one way or another, but Jimmy was ginger-haired, blue-eyed, freckled, well-proportioned, athletic, coordinated, strong and he tried to be polite. Put together with his razor-sharp mind, he was a complete package. Cute.
Another thing that made Jimmy unusual however was that he was emotionally warped. He didn’t share, with other kids his age, the feeling of the simple joy in being a kid. Oh, he played ball on the playground with enthusiasm and skill. He ran and jumped and tried to balance himself walking on the top of the railing beside the sloped walkway at his school. He acted kid-like, but when it came to relationships with girls, he knew by age ten that he could be nothing but serious about it because since age five, Jimmy had been looking for a wife, and he felt he had to choose wisely!
At age four, Jimmy had been ceremoniously brought before both his parents and told that all physical affections would stop because he had to learn to be a man and men did not go to mommy or daddy for hugs and kisses. The only relief from this sentence of emotionally cold neglect would be when he grew older and got married, then he would get all the affection he might need from his wife. His parents were unaware that in denying him affection in childhood, they were creating a feeling of need that no woman could ever fully assuage. By age ten, Jimmy had been absent physical affections for six years, more than half his little life. So, ten year-old Jimmy was on the prowl, not to have fun, but to find a wife. He needed a girl he could count on for affection. He was ready to commit. He thought he had committed to Margaret, but then his family moved too far away to make that viable.
His little heart ached when he had flirtations with pretty girl classmates. Susan showed some interest in him. Joanne did too. Pretty, dimple-faced Anita smiled at him engagingly, but she kept herself more removed. Both Susan and Joanne were smart, pretty girls. He was keenly interested in both of them but he knew he should not venture into a dead-end relationship with either of them. They weren’t eligible. Rather it was that he was not eligible for them.
Both Susan and Joanne came from parents who were either professionals or were in that class of people who fit easily among professionals. Jimmy’s dad was a milkman. His mom was a diner waitress. Their apartment was still heated by a coal-fired furnace at a time when a teacher took pains to describe to her class what a coal-fired furnace had been, back when people used them. He sometimes listened to rats scurrying through his bedroom walls at night. Joanne’s dad was a dentist. The common wisdom in Jimmy’s neighbourhood was that one should have all teeth extracted because they were only an expensive nuisance. Most of his neighbours either wore dentures or went around toothless.
There was no “fit” between Jimmy and those wonderful girls. He could not encourage either one of the devastatingly pretty girls, even though he felt crushed by the necessity of ignoring their flirtatious entreaties. He knew it just wouldn’t work in the long run. They may have been in the same class room each day, but they went home to worlds apart from each other. There would be no point in trying to make those worlds connect for any long-term relationship. Jimmy knew that it just wouldn’t work. He felt that he was somehow undeserving of them, that he and his family would never fit with her and her family.
Pretty, engaging Mary, from his own neighbourhood, might have made a better choice for him, but by that time he was feeling so undeserving that he felt he would somehow contaminate her if he came too close or allowed her to come too close to him.
Time passed. Jimmy’s academic achievements followed the pattern of his convoluted emotional upheavals. He went ‘bad’ for awhile, then recovered and enjoyed the benefits of being ‘good’ for awhile, then slipped back into ‘bad’ mode as adolescent rebellion took its toll. Then something amazing happened!
Jimmy had grown and his parents had also grown. His parents, who had denied him physical affections, suddenly insisted that he “try” to go to school beyond high school. Neither of them had even finished high school, but somehow they knew their boy had some, something that needed further development. They made their case with true love for their son.
Jimmy had found a degree of emotional peace within the loving embrace of Lucille whom he ‘married,’ (in a high school way). It was a ‘marriage’ that lasted three years. They were good years for Jimmy’s nagging need, but not for his academic performance. He didn’t think it mattered. He knew he’d finish high school easily enough. That was all the education he’d need.
Cutting to the chase, Jimmy went to college and excelled there. After college he was forced to consider what his life would be like if he allowed himself to become part of the mis-guided war effort in Vietnam. He realized that if he ever aimed through a rifle site, pulled a trigger and watched a man fall that he’d end up killing himself afterward. Then he knew that he could not do his country’s bidding in this matter.
Canada accepted him. He taught art, he produced television shows, he won awards, he returned to teaching and taught English as a Second Language, he retired, began playing snooker recreationally and started a blog to record some of his memories. And what were his often recurring memories? Margaret, Susan, Joanne, Mary, Joyce, Karen, Barbara, Paulette, Bonnie, Carol, Shelly, Betty, another Barbara, Lucille, Evelyn, Phyliss, Joan, Janina, Janice, Louise, Linda, Dayle, Jennifer, Gail, Donna, another Carol, a third Barbara, another Mary, Antonella, another Sue, Kathy, Marilyn, Judy, Connie and another Marilyn. He didn’t have an eidetic memory, but it was fairly complete when it came to remembering women, less complete, less focussed, when it came to remembering men. (Read last story in blog posting: https://jjacobik.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/three-amazing-but-true-tales/ )
Until Oct,2016, he had a fine, accomplished, pretty, intelligent, witty woman in his life. When he extolled her virtues to her, she always waited for him to say a certain phrase and if he left it off, she cited it for him, “and a good cook.” Which was true. Jim’s a lucky man!