My First Love
With Valentine’s Day this Sunday, I thought I would tell you about my first love. If you see Mary don’t say anything about our little secret. You see, my first love was an older woman. She had dark hair, big smiling eyes, and talent. Let me tell you about her talent. She could sing and dance as good as Ginger Rogers, only prettier. There was one more thing about her you should know… she had two big ears, nearly four inches across. I still can see her smiling with her ears standing high. She taught me the first song I ever sang. Let me see if I remember how it went, “M-I-C-K-E-Y- M-O-U-S-E, Mickey Mouse.”
The older women that was my first love? Annette Funicello. I was all of six and she was going on 15 at the time. I sat close to the television set so she could hear me sing when the Mickey Mouse Club came on the air. I think Mouseketeer Cubby O’Brien had eyes for Annette, but I could tell the way she looked at me through the television screen, she was thinking about me. Of course, I realized she knew, I needed to grow up a few more years before true love could come along.
What happened? Well, time passed and she left the Mickey Mouse Club. She found some guy named Tommy Sands and made her first movie, Babes in Toyland. After that I knew she would never think of me again. She went on to make another dozen movies. But, she never wore those big ears again.
Like most kids growing up in the fifties, the Mickey Mouse Show was part of my life. Most people will tell you that it wasn’t until Sesame Street came along that kids began to learn from television. Well, I’ll have to disagree. I learned my ABC’s or should I say MICKEYMOUSE’s from the Disney show song.
At six years old, I knew very little about the world and even less about love. It is true I had a passing case of puppy love for Annette, but I am glad we broke it off. I would have just held her back in her career.
Most people probably had a first love they remember. It is not unusual that first exposure to love is someone older and maybe even someone we never really knew in life, much like my first love. But, somehow our first understanding that someone could be important in our lives is something that helps when love does come along.
The fact is, love is so important in our lives that someone decided to invent Valentine’s Day. I decided to find the origin of the holiday. The first thing I discovered was that it is really not a holiday, merely a day of celebration. It is said in ancient Rome, Saint Valentine was arrested for performing marriages for Roman soldiers who were not permitted to marry. He also was found to be ministering to Christians, at least that is how the legend goes. He also healed his female jailer’s daughter of an affliction before his own death. He left the female jailer a letter which is said to have been signed, “Your Valentine.” At least that is how the legend goes of Saint Valentine.
The more legends are told, the more romantic they often become. I am guessing Valentine’s Day is the same. Who knows, maybe some start-up card company in Rome made up the story to increase sales of cards and flowers… whisper a story of love, throw in a few cupid arrows, and you have love remembered forever.
For me, there were other girls along the way, but none had big mouse ears. By the time I began noticing girls for real, I would have run if she had ears the size of Mickey’s. When I was young, I did not know what love was for sure. At the time I thought I did, but more important things came along in my life. You know… the guys wanted to play tackle football in the park. Catfish were biting at the old dam. The first day of squirrel season was just a few days away. All these were real important things in my early days of looking for love.
Then one day I saw someone who looked as pretty in real life as she did in her yearbook picture. It was Mary. Somehow I knew I liked this girl the first time I saw her walking down the hallway… away from me. And then she turned and smiled. I guess that’s what I remember as my true first love. No Mickey Mouse ears. No song and dance. Not a glass television screen between us. Just me and her standing in front of the old high school library.
That was 47 years ago by my estimate. Back then I thought I knew what love was – someone that I would give up going fishing for on a Friday night or someone I could take flowers I swept up at the end of the workday at Barth’s Florists. She always said she liked them no matter how bad they looked. She was someone who smiled back even when I had a pimple.
Since that first contact, we have shared many Valentine Days. I still buy her flowers, a romantic card and containers of fresh fruit. It’s not as romantic as a box of candy, but much better for her and me.
Valentine’s Day is the one day of the year when it is okay to be a little mushy with your wife or special one. I learned a long time ago that puppy love can bring smiles. Annette and her Mouseketeer ears will always hold a special place in my heart when I hear someone sing, M-I-C-K-E-Y – M-O-U-S-E, Mickey Mouse. But, I know what true love is when I see my Mary smile, even when I forget to bring home the mail. This Valentine’s Day don’t forget the flowers, card, and box of candy or fruit. But, most of all don’t forget to say “I Love You.” After all, Saint Valentine cured the daughter of his jailer in the dungeon of Rome. You know, she could not have been good looking down there in the dark. For his efforts they named Valentine’s Day after him. Well, at least that’s how the legend goes as we look Through the Lens.