When did you first learn about love?
I first learned about love the spring of my junior year in High School. It was a sudden lesson that came without warning. I had already known George for almost four years when I fell in love with him all in a weekend. George was always Patty’s younger brother. Patty was my best friend I spent a lot of time with her and I was her house almost every weekend. George was always just around. He was there, I was there that was all. He was a friend, he was Patty’s little brother. I thought he would always just be around just as Michael Jackson and Thriller was always playing on the radio. George was a constant.
Then in March of 1984 our church youth group traveled from Indiana to the big town of Chicago for a weekend get away. Our youth pastor was leaving his job at the church so this was one of his last activities with the youth group. All of us piled into random cars to make the trip. I ended up in Patty & George’s 1978 Toyota Celica. Patty & I would both ride shotgun in the front seat while George would drive. There was not quite enough space for my left arm, for some reason Patty always got the pole position by the door and I was in the middle. My arm would rest on the plastic drawer between the driver’s and passengers side. Some times George’s arm would brush against mine while he shifted the car. This car had special value in their family; it was their fathers mid life crisis car. After the crisis was over the kids inherited the car. We were the fortunate recipients of a successful mid life frivolous purchase.
Something happened on I-65 traveling north bound to Chicago. We were driving fast with the windows down and the nighttime spring air filled the car with an intoxicating fragrance. We were singing to Cyndi Lauper “Girls just want to have fun,” laughing over nothing, making the car “fly” with wings hanging our arms out of the driver’s and passenger side and “flying” as we drove through the night, screaming with delight and driving through the toll booths, and paying for the person behind us just for fun. At one point I looked over at George and he was smiling, his brown eyes glowed and I feel in love. That fast he went from Patty’s kid brother to a person I wanted to be with all of the time. Suddenly just being in his presence was enough. I didn’t care if we ever got to Chicago.
That weekend the activities were a lot of fun. I attended my first major league baseball game and shopped on Michigan Avenue. But what I remember most and what made me the most happy was being around him. When he walked into the room I was filled with a peace and a giddy feeling swept over my stomach. After the crash course lesson in love songs on the radio had more meaning. The Beetles “All you need is love” became something I could understand on a whole new level. I always sang the words, now I snag the words and they had a completely different translation than before.
Since I had already known George for almost four years by this time and we had been just friends I did not have the words to express the sudden love cross over. So, I did what any mature 16-year-old would do. I kept silent. He dated other women. I graduated from High School the following year went to Indiana University where there were approximately 15,000 eligible single young men. I dated none of them. I faithfully sat in my dorm room writing long letters to George about my college days. He was in Glasgow, Scotland in the Navy. Every day after classes I would go to my mailbox in the dorm and look through the little window that kept my mail. When there was a letter from him it felt like Christmas morning and the last day of school all at the same time.
Sophomore year in college he came home for Christmas. The other women were finally gone. We finally enjoyed being boyfriend and girlfriend for the three weeks he was home. It was nothing short of amazing just to be with him. To be in his presence filled me with a peace and happiness that I in no way manufactured. My parents were getting divorced that Christmas we were moving from our big home in the country that I had grown up in to a small city home. The people we bought the house from had been heavy chain smokers. Before we could paint the walls we had to scrub almost an inch of tar off the walls and windows. There I was scrubbing tar off walls from the Jimmy Carter era on Christmas Eve, and I was happy. Really happy. This is how I knew I was in love. With him the worst tasks were manageable, not only manageable but fun.
Two years later he left me and began dating my best friend of eight years, they eventually married. I was beyond leveled, and learned about real live betrayal for the first time.
But I choose not to remember how it ended. I like to remember the way it began, driving with the windows down singing, “Oh mamma dear were not the fortunate ones. Oh girls they want to have fun. Oh girls just wanna have fun.”
Julie Federico lives with her two daughters in Denver. Last Christmas she bought her youngest daughter a Barbie guitar that she had been begging for, for exactly two years. When her daughter began strumming the guitar Christmas morning Cyndi Lauper sang from the guitar. Julie began singing the familiar song after hearing the first note. Her girls asked, “Mom how do you know this song?” “Oh, this has always been one of my favorites she said with a smile.”