I met Polly in church. I was fifteen and her first boyfriend, and she was thirteen and my first girlfriend. It was in church (and during a sermon) that I asked her to go steady with me. I was a little surprised - and pleased, of course - by the enthusiasm with which she said yes. We held hands during the rest of the sermon, at the end of which half the congregation was looking at us and smiling.
Our relationship lasted about three years, and let me say right up front that it was entirely innocent, never going beyond hugging and kissing.
Our families were friends, also due to the church connection. Things were a little rocky for me at home because my mother considered Polly "boy crazy," and was afraid that I might get her "in trouble." I suppose this was natural, but the fact is that our relationship was entirely chaste. However, my mother's attitude was so extreme that I had to decline to have a family-hosted sixteenth birthday party, as I had been told that Polly could not be invited.
It occurs to me now that I don't know whether Polly or her family were aware of this problem. It was certainly not anything we ever discussed.
A month or two after we became a couple I carved her name into my left arm with a jackknife. I don't know, don't ask, it's just something that some of us did back then. There are only traces of it visible now, as a stove did a number on that area several years later.
I went into the Army at seventeen and was sent to Germany ten days after my eighteenth birthday. I really liked it and before long I knew that I would reenlist and spend the maximum allowable time over there, which was then five years. Within the year I had written Polly to tell her this and to say that I thought she would be better off with someone else.
Thirty or so years later, I saw her (and her two daughters, twenty and eighteen) at my maternal grandmother's funeral. That was a trip!
A number of us went back to the church from the cemetery, and early on Polly and I naturally migrated toward each other. My favorite line: "You know, Don, I think of you every day. A girl's first relationship is important to her all her life, even if it's a bad one."
Thirty years later I find out I was in a bad relationship! Well, to be fair, I suppose she was referring to the ending.
I met and chatted with her daughters, whose names I no longer recall. They were bright, funny, and cute. Most amusing was the complaint that every time "Little Darling" by the Diamonds was played on the radio, Polly would remind them, "That was our song."
The older daughter told me there were only two things she wanted when her mother died - an opal ring and Elvis Presley's autograph, both items that I had sent Polly from Germany.
Years later I learned that my mother was miffed that I hadn't sent her an Elvis autograph too, but I'd had no idea she would be interested. I am of that generation that fought the battle with parents during the transition from big band to rock and roll. I do recall that she liked Elvis' ballads, but I don't know whether this was something I knew when I met Elvis or something I learned after I got out of the Army.