He looks at the picture from the HS reunion. She looks much the same as the girl in freshman biology, his first memories of her. His role in class is the observer in the back of the room. She argues with the teacher for more points on the test, often winning. He is in awe of a person who challenges the teacher successfully.
He knows she is another farm kid. Town kids are sophisticated and greatly different from the country kids. Town kids feel sorry for country kids and vice versa. She is slim and deceptively frail looking for a country kid; with cats eye glasses, a sweater and skirt; earnest in everything she does, yet quick with a smile that lights up everyone around her.
He only knows only about brothers and other boys. Girls are wonderful, strange, scary and have lately seem unapproachable. Over the year he observes her and sees someone driven to excel in everything. His initial irritation at her single-minded drive for “more points” develops into a grudging admiration for her persistence and success.
She is lost in the mass of clarinets but rises to first chair . Occasional “hi’s” and smiles make her seem safe to talk to even though she has started on the Cheerleader path. She is accepted by the town girls into the “popular group” and works tirelessly to become A team in all that she does. She goes steady with the popular athlete, a year older.
Mr. Z gives the Algebra II assignment. The rustle of turned pages is gradually replaced by the murmurs of neighbors helping each other solve problems. He has stationed himself directly behind her intentionally although he is not sure why. She often turns to him for help. He likes that. She is his friend now.
It is his first dance even though he is 17. His religion is no dance, and he doesn’t understand that anymore. He stands on the sidelines watching Glenn put on 45 after 45, rock and roll, the Bunny Hop and slow dances where couples glide around the floor. He has never danced but wishes he could, too shy to try.
She comes over and asks him why he isn’t dancing. He doesn’t know how, he says. “Come on,” she says, putting her soft warm hand into his, leading him onto the floor as Bobby Vinton fills the room with his new hit, “Blue Velvet.”
He puts his hand on the small of her back and feels the warmth beneath her dark blue sweater as she guides him through some steps. There is the faint odor of her perfume and of a woman. Hands clasped, separated modestly, yet feeling her willowy body, she opens a new world for the shy young man. Too soon, Bobby is finished, he thanks her and returns to observing, forever changed by her kindness.
The memory will be just as strong a lifetime later as he puts his worn 45 on the turntable and Bobby brings it all back.
Close your eyes and let your mind sway to the music and remember the thrill of your first dance.
Click hear for Bobby Vinton singing "Blue Velvet"
Are you curious who the girl was? Ritchie Havens song will give you a clue