Thanksgiving Past

I met David when I was 19 and a Sophomore at Whitman College in Eastern Washington State.  Back then, Walla Walla wasn’t the hip gathering place for vintners that it is today.  An exciting weekend involved walking downtown for a bad hamburger at the Red Apple with M (the one who reminded me of this story, for which I’ll pinch her later).

David was a transfer student, a musician, and an avid cyclist –the wheat fields around Walla Walla were stunning and unpopulated and ideal for riding.  He was, to my 19 year old eye, gorgeous.  Gorgeous.  Semi-hippie, long-ish hair, and smart smart smart.  He charmed me with poetry, feminist theory (ack!), and his deepening love for me.   I held back, arguing that my position of important authority (I was a Sophomore living in a Freshman dorm serving as an academic advisor), precluded any romantic entanglement.  That this piqued his interest and determination should have set off numerous alarm bells.  But alas, part of that first freefall into love is the open-heartedness and trusting ignorance of innocence. 

I remember going home with him for Thanksgiving to meet his parents. His was a lovely house full of books and classical music in an old section of town with grand trees and lush lawns and old but well-maintained sports cars.  His family was welcoming and intelligent and they didn’t seem to mind at all when David and I went upstairs and disappeared for a few hours to "talk about our relationship."  I remember the talking well…

That evening after dinner, I looked over at him and realized I was in love.  It was dark outside and we walked along a quiet road, and I watched his face as he moved in and out of streetlamp light.  In and out of shadows, he would turn to me then away as we discussed books we loved, life at college, and other unnumerable things.  His loveliness was like a golden thread weaving us together and my heart, not easily lost, was released then to him.  Fully and openly.

A few weeks later, after he realized that his two month pursuit of me had finally reaped the reward of my returned affection, he began acting strangely and withdrawing.  And because you know how this ends, I’ll skip the harrowing slow decline.

David broke my heart.

I headed home that Summer after Sophomore year, wrecked, broken, and disconsolate.  I missed many days of my overachieving internship, cut my hair short, sobbed and sobbed to my parents, called friends, slept and slept.  By August, I managed to recover enough to start running again.  I started making lists of things to do each day…. reasons to get out of bed.  One day it was to see a new gallery down from my office.  Another day it was to eat a candy bar.  Little by little, I returned to myself and to the world I remembered before David.

As Junior year began and my new gig for Whitman’s women’s dormitory commenced, I saw him across campus.  As the electric shock coursed through my body and I steeled myself for that first meeting, I realized if I could put one foot in front of the other and keep walking, I’d get on…and get over.

And I did.


11 Responses to “Thanksgiving Past”

  1. May 20, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    Ah, growing up. Replace a few pronouns and names and I could tell the same story. Sigh.


    P.S. Cool that you went to Whitman… three of my former students are there now!

  2. May 20, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how we persevere?

  3. 3 karrie
    May 21, 2007 at 4:50 am

    Ugh. Been there. Just remember to tell your girls to never, ever trust the ones that spout feminist theory and poetry. Sleep with them once or twice and then run away as fast as you can.

  4. May 21, 2007 at 7:39 am

    We learn to get good at that getting on and getting over, don’t we?!

  5. May 21, 2007 at 10:42 am

    I had one of those boys in my past. Sometimes, I still wonder about him. Where he is. What he is doing. How his life has gone. And I know that without all that heartache, I would not have defined what I needed from a partner, from someone committed and present and just as into me as I was into him. And for that, I am grateful for where the ache led me, once I found my way through. Crazy ain’t it?

  6. May 21, 2007 at 10:44 am

    The getting over part is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. As you know, I’ve had my “David” and there are days when one foot, instead of going forward, steps backward into that hazy, fuzzy world that comes before your heart is blasted to smithereens.

    And then I slap myself, and scream “Onward, goddamnit.”

  7. May 21, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Sorry doll, you can pinch me later. This kills me– It is just about how I remember it. He was such a feminist spouting, “sensitive”, manipulative slimeball, but he pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes for awhile.

    A girl’s gotta get her heart broken once–hopefully just once–to learn how to protect herself and know where to look for the signs going forward. But oh, that’s a hard lesson…

  8. May 21, 2007 at 11:35 am

    I’m not good at the getting over part. People think I am, but it’s just a front.

  9. May 21, 2007 at 11:49 am

    I actually know someone who went to Whitman, the boyfriend of my good friend.

    The heart thing. Sucks. Except that once I was finally all okay and had crawled out the fetal position I had been in, they’d reappear and want to do that dance all over again. It took me a few times of this to realize what I really needed was to run.the.other.way.

  10. 10 Jill
    May 21, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Oh my, I forgot about that. That happened just before we began our tenure as shepherds to the young women of Prentiss Hall, correct?

    Definitely beware the feminist-theory-spouting male. You know my story with that one–he who talked the talk but could not walk the walk.

  11. May 22, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    What a great blog… ahh… I think every woman must experience heart ache (as tough as it is at the time) to truly appreciate love when it comes for the final time! I remember my experience of this type of situation – and I remember actually worrying about every seeing “him” again b/c I never thought I could see “him” without the ache and pain. Well.. here I am – 12 years later. Married. 3 children. It’s amazing how strong we are… and when we do fall for the final time… it’s absolutely heaven sent!
    Great blog… you have a regular visitor in me!
    – Audrey

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