My Childhood Crush
Part 1: The Birthday Card
So I had this giant crush on Jonathan from kindergarten to 8th grade. And I still have the birthday card he made me! It was one of my most treasured possessions in 2nd grade.
Jonathan’s sweet birthday message (along with the other cards I received for my various birthdays, including cute cards from my parents) have made me love writing letters. It’s like, the best way to send a pocket message of love.
But this isn’t about appreciating my loved ones. This is about crushes.
Boy was I awkward around crushes. My crush on Jonathan made me fiercely loyal, too. He was the coolest boy. He played basketball. He had brown eyes and brown hair. He wasn’t short. You know, the whole package.
I was very shy as a kid and never spoke to Jonathan. This was a harder task than it sounds because there were only eight kids in our elementary and middle school class. I just enjoyed watching him from afar. Having him acknowledge my existence set my heart racing.
I have still kept Jonathan’s birthday card because it was the first letter I had received from someone that wasn’t my parents. Computer programs were new and Jonathan had this cool letter editor program and he clearly didn’t know how to use it. He had written my name as Alan and that’s how it stayed. I treasured it. Here is a picture of it:
Part 2: Contact
The teachers in our small elementary school knew what was going on. I personally haven’t really worked in an elementary school, so I have yet to notice kids and their crushes. But I remember once in 4th grade we had an in-class dance for one of the Jewish holidays, Purim. Purim is kind of like Jewish Halloween: you dress up, you give people candy, and you get lots of school time dedicated to the holiday. Anyway, our choreographed dance was to this silly kid song about clowns. We had to dance in step to the beat. And we had dance partners.
I myself would’ve never chosen to dance with Jonathan. But boy did my 4th grade teacher pair us up! Our first rehearsal I could barely walk straight. How was I supposed to hold hands with this boy that I’ve only dreamed about talking to? The teacher turned on the music. We took our positions.
“Little nice clown
Come join us!
He will dance with everybody!”
The music from the CD player blasted. We took our first steps. We touched hands.
Jonathan and I jumped apart like we were on fire.
“Switch partners please! Alana, can you be with Adrienne?”
Adrienne, in 4th grade, was the only other girl in the class. She was wincing. Apparently some boy she had been paired with had stomped on her feet.
That was the one and only time Jonathan and I had danced together. At the school performance, I was paired with Adrienne.
I still remember that skin tingly feeling when my hands touched Jonathan’s for the first time.
Things didn’t really go well for me as the years went on. I don’t think I had any more heart-racing moments until 6th grade. The first grade in middle school. Hormones were wild. The stakes were raised. One glance between a crush could mean hours of overanalyzing at the next sleepover.
One time Jonathan called me. On the phone. This was pre-cell phone times, so we called each other at home and had to speak to one another’s parents and ask to pass the phone to our friend. I remember my mom telling me to pick up the phone because Jonathan had called. I was so excited. And confused. Apparently, he had called me to ask what the homework was. “Why didn’t you call Bracha?” I asked. I remember I was downstairs, in my dad’s “office,” clutching the house phone like my life depended on it.
“She didn’t remember what pages it was on,” Jonathan said.
My mind was racing. Bracha definitely knew what the homework was. Why was Jonathan calling me?
I said, “hang on” and went to get my homework planner that my mom had bought me. Homework planners were the best way to organize your assignments. What do kids use now? We need to bring homework planners back.
Anyway, I returned, told him the homework, and hung up.
Whether or not Bracha was trying to get Jonathan to talk me or not, I never found out.
Then we all graduated in 8th grade and went off the various high schools and never saw each other again.
Part 3: The Valentine
But I wasn’t done with letters. 9th grade happened. I attended an all-girl’s high school and was always desperate to see boys. I had a crush on my friend’s older brother, Ethyn.
He was a year older than me and was everything a girl wanted: brown hair. brown eyes. not short. Lived in the neighborhood.
Boy did I have a type.
During my pre-teen and teen years, “The Princess Diaries” books were being published. The main character, Mia, wrote in a journal just like me, and was awkward and had no skills with talking to boys, also just like me. She had a crush on her friend Lilly’s older brother. The first book is just a subtle crush, and it embarrassingly comes out that she likes him, but the second book she actually gets a confession of love from her crush Michael (brown hair, brown eyes, obviously) in this super cool way of writing a computer game just for her and as she beats the level there is this very inventive poem that says:
“Roses are red
Violets are blue
You may not know it
But I love you too.”
So I set my plan in motion.
I waited for Valentine’s Day and wrote a letter and copied down that exact poem. I think I left off the word “too” because I was no way going to imagine that Ethyn had a crush on me.
I used my left hand and made sure my handwriting was unrecognizable. I looked up Ethyn’s address in the phone book. I put it in an unaddressed stamped envelope, out on my family’s mailbox, and waited.
There’s no way Ethyn will know it’s me, I thought to myself. My plan was foolproof.
That’s when the next day my mother asked at breakfast, “Did any of you send a letter to the Katz’s? I saw an unaddressed envelope to them and I put our address on it.”
What have I done??
Later on, Ethyn had showed the card to his family. They began to speculate which of the girls in my family had written the note.
“Perhaps all three of them,” mused his father, “since all the handwriting is different.”
I never confessed. Maybe Ethyn figured it out. But he never treated me differently, thank god. I guess I didn’t really want a Michael and Mia relationship like in Princess Diaries. I liked being single.
I still have a love for writing letters. My botched Valentine didn’t spoil that. My Grandmother (on my mom’s side) was so good at sending delicately decorated cards for my birthday. I still have a few. Here is one she sent for my bat mitzvah:
I think she enlisted a friend of hers to help decorate it, and she would tell her what message to write. Isn’t it gorgeous?
I haven’t sent any more letters to my crushes. Not that I haven’t written them. But they’re kept secret, in my diary. Something about letter writing just releases the awkwardness that I have when speaking one-on-one and I’m able to get my real, passionate feelings out.
But now, I’m careful of who I share those feelings with. Some letters are meant to just stay in my diary. And I’m happy that the friends to whom I write letters can trust and accept my feelings. I’m not embarrassed anymore about what I send out in the world.