Monday, September 1, 2008

First Love

The aisles are crowded and the air is slightly musty...but still I love to come to these places. Today, it's a new place...one I've never been to before. Though I've driven past it dozens of times, it remained hidden in the corner of the small strip mall. I'm not looking for anything in particular...just wandering, looking, picking items up for a closer inspection.

I find myself needing to sneeze from the dust motes hanging in the air, tickling my nose. I turn another corner and peer into the crowded shelf. There are items of colorful glass and cut crystal. Old tobacco tins and sewing kits. Even an orange juicer and measuring cup. And back in the corner I see the glimmer of silver. I go and find the clerk with her ring of keys and she comes and opens the case.

"The small bundle of silver ware in the back", I say, pointing in the general direction of the four spoons, tied together with a small piece of pink ribbon.

I take the spoons and look them over carefully. I notice they are marked "silver plate" which is fine. Sterling is too expensive and I'm not really looking for anything in particular anyway. I look closer at the back, noticing that the spoon handles are engraved with very small writing. I take my glasses off, hoping for a clearer look...hoping to be able to read what's written in small, italic script.

First Love

I look again and find that my eyes didn't deceive me...the two simple words "First Love" were engraved on the back of each of the spoon handles. My mind immediately began to think on those words. My ex-wife Paula came to mind first. Not that she is the first woman that I told that I was in love with, but she is the one that I can say that I was truly in love with.

I purchased the spoons and began the drive home, thinking of my "first love". My mind wandered back to fourth grade...and Shirla Cunnington. She was the first girl that I had a crush on...the most beautiful girl at Farmin Elementary School. Dark, curly hair. A smile that made my heart race. Eyes that twinkled. And dimples that made her whole face shine. She was my first date...a trip to a matinee at the Panida Theater. I held her hand...at least I think I did...or I might have...or...I know I definitely wanted to! In reality, I was just a little too scared to be that bold...we were only 10 and confidence was not my strong suit.

Over the course of the next several days, as I would look at the spoons, I would think about my first love, but every time I would think of a specific woman, there would seem to be a hesitation in my spirit. Something telling me that she wasn't the one. I continued to mine my memory, searching for that first love. Who could it be? Shirla? Mary? Lynn? Marla? Debbie? Darla? Paula? Something just didn't seem to fit.

It's amazing to me how simple life is sometimes and how complicated I/we try to make it. While I was expending my energies over that week, wracking my brains for the answer, a new realization was coming to me. My 'first love' wasn't not going to be found in the deep recesses of my memory. I wasn't going to find "her" in the pages of my school year books. In fact, it wasn't a "she" at all.

I don't even remember when it finally struck me, but when it did, it was as clear as some of the crystal I would look at in the antique stores I love so much. My first love has become God! In hindsight, it makes complete sense to me now. And it also helps me to see why it has been so difficult for me my entire life to love anyone the way they deserve to be loved. I didn't know how to love because I hadn't discovered the true source of all love that exists.

I spent yesterday with my older brother Frank. We've had a pretty strained relationship for the past eight years and it is slowly healing. We are both coming to know each other as we really are instead of as the men who hid behind masks of who we thought we were for most of our lives. As we sat on his boat...a dream of his for as long as I can remember...a dream not yet realized with workmen still coming on board each day to move a little closer to completion, he pointed to a buoy with the name of his boat on it..."Our Third Love". I didn't have to ask him what it meant. If you know Frank, you know he's going to tell you anyway...and he did. He explained that he and his new wife named it "Our Third Love" because in their lives, God is first, family is second and then comes the boat. His dream...but third on his list of priorities.

I found irony in his story as he shared...my own thoughts resting on that package of four little spoons that I had purchased several months before. He had it right, although it took him nearly as long as it took me. And I realize that I've figured it out as well. I hope to one day have a beautiful woman return to spend the rest of our lives together...it is a constant dream of mine. Not a boat. Not a big house. Just a happy marriage. And I realize that it is possible now because I've learned that to love my wife as I should, I must know who my first love truly is.

1 comment:

Deb said...

Beautiful writing! Beautiful insight! I love the connections you're making with love and getting to know Frank again - and yourself - through God's love. I pray that you have a woman to love and a marriage and a home that reflect the human version of that love.

And the spoon is gorgeous! Wow.