Thursday, February 16
The Boy Next Door
I'm going to tell you about the boy I didn't marry. My first crush/love.
Like a lot of these stories, it begins the say way. He was the boy next-door. Well, technically, the boy across the street. But, you get the idea.
In the summer of 1972, after a freak tornado decimated a part of town, the Hanson family moved across the street. Their family had six kids--five boys and a girl. The girl, Louise, was sandwiched between me and my sister. One of the boys, Russ, was my age. But my story isn't about him, although through the years, I did majorly crush on him from time to time.
My story begins almost two years later when our sixth grade class attended outdoor school. In those days, Vancouver sent it's sixth graders for five days and four nights to Camp Bonneville. For me, coming from a economically struggling family, it would be my only sleep-away camp experience.
Two school buses trekked us up into the mountains and deposited us at Camp Bonneville. Stepping off the bus we were greeted by the counseling staff--high schoolers looking for an easy credit. And one of those was Grant Hanson. Yep. One of the boys from across the street.
Up until this moment, Grant had simply been Louise's older brother.
But, that didn't stop him from immediately harassing me at Camp Bonneville.
It started at a meal. I don't remember if it was lunch or dinner. I simply remember how it began.
Seeing as Camp Bonneville was a former military establishment--meals were taken on long tables with benches on either side.
Grant was at the table behind me when he started calling, "Maa-aar-gie," in this echoey voice. He repeated it a few times while I tried to ignore him, sliding as low as I could and ducking my face down toward the food.
The more I ignored him, the harder he tried to get my attention. Finally he tapped my shoulder and said, "Hey, Margie, someone's calling you."
Here's the part where I try to explain how shy I was and how mortified I was that he was drawing attention to me. Basically I just wanted to slide under the table and crawl out of the barracks.
But, the more I ignored Grant, the harder he tried to get a reaction out of me. There wasn't a meal or function where, "Maaa-aar-gie." wasn't called a few dozen times.
One lunch we were at the same table and got into a kicking fight under the table--begun by me in a fruitless attempt to shut him up.
On the last day of camp, there weren't many activities planned as we had to pack, gather autographs--remember autograph books?--and say our goodbyes.
My friend, Shelly, and I had gone up to one of the favorite female counselors--let's call her Bunny, as we all had animal names at that time--to get her autograph when Grant showed up and started in.
Bunny looked from him to me. "Are you two related?"
"No!" I'm not sure who objected the loudest.
"We're neighbors." I think that was me. But I'm not sure because memories are tricksters that way.
"Yeah, it was her family's fault that we had to get rid of our dog,"Grant said.
*Backstory: My dad was a frustrated suburban farmer who kept chickens on our barely a quarter acre*
"It was not!" I exclaimed--because when you're a 12-year-old girl, everything is done in exclamation points.
"Your dog got into the chicken coop."
"You shouldn't have had chickens."
"You shoulda kept your dog chained up."
This fury-filled back and forth went on for a few more intense moments and ended with me stalking away with brimming eyes.
I fumed for the rest of the day because that's the second thing that 12yo girls are really good at.
A street dance started up as we waited for the buses to arrive. I stood on the sidelines, still seething when Grant came up to me. For the first time since arriving at camp, he didn't echo my name. "Hey," he said, touching my arm to get my attention.
"What?" I was still ticked off.
"I just came over to say you're right."
"It was our fault that the dog got out and into the chicken coop."
And as he walked away, I thought, "That's the boy I'm going to marry."
Only I didn't. But, that's another story for another time.
Over the years, Grant and I became good friends--we worked together my senior year of high school at a deli. He was always someone I was thrilled to bump into at the softball field, county fair, and just in a line at a grocery store.
On January 29, 2012, Grant Hanson passed away after a heroic battle with cancer.
Saturday night, my husband and I attended his Celebration of Life service and as people got up and shared their memories and stories, I realized that I was mourning the boy I once knew and how much I regretted not getting to know the man he became.
Rest in peace, my friend. A piece of my 12 yo heart goes with you.