Out of no where just now I suddenly remembered my 6th grade crush. His name was Josh. For the life of me I have been unable to come up with his last name (or I'd have to do some kind of internet power search to dredge up a photo of him too), except that I know it started with a W, had about 11 letters, and something like 3 syllables.
He had curly brown hair, and was the less glamorous Josh in our class. There was another one in our class too, you see. All the girls had crushes on the other Josh. He was classically handsome (in the way a 6th grader could ever approach being classically handsome) with glowing blond hair, bright blue eyes, and an athletic, fast build. That Josh also dated the most obviously attractive girl in our class at the time, Kristen. Kristen dressed just like she was one of the singers from the duo Heart, and somehow managed to get a hold of more lace gloves and ankle boots to wear then I'd ever seen anywhere.
My Josh though was totally different. He wasn't all that comfortable socially, though I wouldn't call him shy either. He just wasn't dashing, nor overly talkative. His favorite tv-shows were He-man, and then later She-Ra too (She-Ra came out a few years after He-man, you see), and he'd race home after school everyday to make sure he got there in time to see them. He could recount the story line for either series if you asked him, and I admired his dedication to and clarity on what it was he liked. He was also kind, even if a little in his own world, and that was the combo that meant the most to me. The thing about Josh though was he never did realize I had a crush on him.
Somehow during rearranging school desks, I secured a seat next to him, and as a result, Josh and I were able to sit next to each other in class for part of the year. It was this little bit of torturous heaven to be in such close proximity to the person I had such affection for. Even so, it's a stretch to come up with what I even thought having a crush on someone meant at the time. I remember that I'd kind of keep an eye on how the other Josh and Kristen interacted to have some sense of what it even meant to have a boyfriend at that point. From what I could tell it just meant they SAID he was her boyfriend, and not much more happened than that until appropriate card and gift giving holidays came around.
As for me, I know a lot of the wiggling discomfort I felt was simply about wanting to be near him, and to run around the playground with him at recess. I wanted to hear about things he liked, and to have him pay attention when I liked something too. At recess I wanted to climb monkey bars, and make up otherworldly outer space tag games, or go on adventures to figure out what kinds of frogs might be in the small bit of woods at the back of the school grounds. Mostly I just wanted to feel connected to someone.
After sixth grade ended I went off to the middle of nowhere in Western Alaska, as I always did in the summers, and then on to a different junior high school than my elementary school was zoned for. As a result, I mostly just lost track of kids from my elementary school until a lot of us ended up more or less together again in high school.
After reconnecting with kids from my elementary school I got to see how they'd changed. In the meantime Kristen had become what looked like a completely different person. She had always been a sweetheart, and certainly still was. But her glamorous, just-like-the-singers-from-the-band-Heart look had calmed into a you-won't-much-notice-me girl without hair spray, lace, or fingerless gloves. She wasn't that well known any more either, even though in elementary school she'd been the coolest girl anywhere. Still, she seemed happy. The blond Josh had disappeared by high school, apparently having moved out of Alaska with his family to somewhere else. This other boy Leon that would pretend to give me hell throughout sixth grade by punching me in the arm every time I mentioned a swirl of hair on his neck (I had no sense of crush on Leon. I just liked that he so reliably got worked up about the mention of just a little swirl of hair on his neck.) went on to become a high school star of sorts that actually dated by best friend during our sophomore year, and then lost all his hair to baldness by his senior year. His senior year graduation wish in the high school newspaper was to have hair again "just for one more day of his life." In high school he wore either a baseball hat, or his football helmet all the time.
No one ever told me what happened to my He-man and She-Ra loving Josh. From what I could tell, after sixth grade he just faded out of the school narrative. Apparently none of the other kids had as much attention to give to his whereabouts as I'd had during sixth grade, so I not only can't recall his last name, I also have no idea whatever happened to him.
I was wondering though how much our elementary school crushes tell us anything about who we are as adults, or how much the change we may undergo from 6th grade to high school might say much of anything about our life story. I laugh that of course I had a hankering for the unexpected guy with a bit of a dork side. I think I've always had a thing for the underdog. My mom commented one time that I've always had a tendency to love the ugly duckling, be they friend or otherwise. I think that's true--I tend to be drawn to people I see some not-yet-quite-shown wonder within. It's a lovely thing really to be lucky enough to get to know a person in ways not just anyone gets to be a part of. I've gotta be careful too though to discern the difference between really seeing that swan nature inside a person, and wishing for swanness when it isn't actually going to be lived out by a person. This seems to be even more especially true as I get older, and so my various acquaintances do too. Even if I believe in the great possibility for people to step into and embrace their potential throughout their lives, many people live as though their lives and personalities are kind of set pretty early on.
Josh, I imagine, went on to become a fantasy fiction writer, with a couple of kids, and a lovely wife, living in some medium sized town in liberal, but not radical, America. In other words, he's got a simple life that comes from being a solidly good, kind person, even if a bit in his own world. Okay, obviously, that's a story I just made up for him. Still, it's a pleasant one even if a life I could never turn out to live, and wouldn't exactly want.
As for myself, I don't think I've even figured out my own story yet. Turns out its direction keeps changing. I think some of my feathers haven't even started to show, so we're still figuring out what kind of bird I'll turn out to be. My great grandparents lived well into their 90's, so I've always assumed aspects of youth go on for quite a long time. As for how I now want to spend my time at recess--I still mostly just want to feel connected to someone I can run around and climb stuff with while making up otherworldly games of tag, and then go off to explore the woods. Turns out I've somehow cultivated something like this in friendships, and am glad for that, even if I'm not here sitting next to my Josh.