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  • If you’re traveling
    In the north country fair
    Where the winds hit heavy
    On the borderline
    Remember me to one who lives there
    For she once was a true love of mine...

    Bob Dylan

    My first love. She was the first girl I met in the north country fair, the north country being Windsor, Connecticut. She was the other girl that I have only mentioned in passing in my previous tales from the north. The younger girl, the raven-haired natural beauty with the stunning, “knowing” eyes that could see into my soul.

    I’d moved into the house in which she was raised. She broke my heart just by being herself, being true to herself, and caring. Would that I had shown the same cautionary approach with her as I had shown the other one I’d met that same day, Mary; perhaps the heartbreak might never have occurred.

    Ah, but the thunder had not struck my heart with Mary as it did with Martha. Mary was pretty and smart and played guitar and sang like Joni Mitchell and seemed interested in me. I wanted her, but it did not crush me when I couldn’t have her. Just threw my ego for a little tizzy.

    Martha, on the other hand, snuck up on me. She was in the background, on the far periphery of my strange New England experience those first 6 months or so. I would remember her knowing sense of my tripping turmoil at that graduation party. She would cross my mind, in very brief passing. But, I still thought of her as a little girl, only 15 when we met, now turned 16. I was an “old” 17, entering college while she was just going into her junior year of high school. Then, suddenly, like thunder, she struck my heart and exploded into my very soul when I wasn’t even looking. But I jump ahead of myself now, as I did then. First love can do that to you, they say.

    I’d spent the summer working at the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge Restaurant near Hartford, waiting tables, making decent bread. The summer of my first bad depression, my first suicide attempts. They’re all another story. The psychotherapy had helped more than I realized, along with the medication, and I was slowly climbing out of my shell of hopelessness as Summer ended and Autumn approached. I was just starting college in Hartford.

    I hadn’t been in touch with any of the kids from the Pilgrim Fellowship all summer. Everyone had kind of gone their own ways, to their normal summer patterns of life, whereas I’d had no summer pattern in this strange new place. So, I worked, came home, listened to music, and contemplated my death.

    When it all came to a head, Mom got me to the shrink, the beautiful and wise Scandinavian doctor who got me in touch with things I’d never known existed, and helped me dig my way out of the hell-hole I found myself in. The medicine seemed to help a lot, as well. I began to feel hope. I was taking baby steps. I was out riding my 10-speed through the rich farmland of the tobacco valley around Windsor, tending to my physical well-being , enjoying the solitude and beauty of the fields on the back country road, when I was suddenly struck by a vision of beauty.

    I saw a beautiful Irish-looking woman peddling her bike on the road across one of the fields, heading in the direction of the same fork in the road that I was peddling towards. The beauty of her motion struck me. Then, as we both moved closer to the crossroad, I was dumbstruck to realize it was Martha Collins! When did this happen? How had that little girl I’d seen just 3 months before at a party, turn into this beautiful young woman? Wow! I didn’t know what I could possibly say to her, but she saw me, smiled and waved, and we pulled up at the fork to talk.

    Those eyes! Good lord, they held me spell-bound. They saw right into me. Warm and knowing. She asked if I was going to be going to the PF meetings that were starting back up on Sunday nights. I hadn’t been planning to, but she said she’d hope to see me there, so I definitely planned to be there. I asked if she missed her old house, and she told me all about how the historic place they’d moved into was being all torn up while her father worked to restore it. I expressed my interest in historical structures, and she invited me over to look at it.

    It was maybe a 5 minute conversation, but I peddled away with a bright new hope within my heart. It literally felt like my heart was fluttering. I was so taken by her charm, her sweetness, her wholesomeness, her knowingness. She seemed like a throwback to another age and time, to me, and I felt an open invitation to become a part of her life. I was really tunderstruck, like the Al Pacino character in the movie “Godfather” was by the girl in Sicily.

    I could not stop thinking about Martha.
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