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  • Growing up in the big family, as the youngest for the first five and a half years, this family of introverts with such a tension running through it, I had always felt the need to entertain. Compelled to perform, as Dad would put it. It was my unofficial job, in that family, to loosen things up, try to be the life of the party. I wasn’t very good at it, but I did my best to keep things light and laughing. It was always far too serious for me.

    As older brothers and sister moved out to go to college, and the younger sister came along, becoming the apple of Dad’s eye and the life of the party in her own right, I got lost for awhile within the family, eventually trying to find my place in sports, then in the restaurant crowd, where booze and drugs were prevalent, when the five year sports experiment had failed. I needed a place, a place to fit, a place to be something or somebody. I was always compelled to be a part of something. That was just the way I was wired.

    Within the new dynamics of the family, and the new world we had ventured into, I felt like a part of the family in a way I never had before. We were all in it together, and we came to depend on one another, as we made this strange new journey together. I felt like they depended on me, and I tried to step up to that role. I felt important within, and to, the family, maybe for the first time. I liked the feeling.

    A couple months in, it didn’t seem strange to me at all that I had not been drinking or doing any drugs since we’d moved, even though that had been my lifestyle for the previous two years. I had never done it just for the sake of doing it – it was what my friends did, and it was what got me through those years, but now I felt like it had been a phase, and I had grown out of it. I didn’t need that stuff anymore. I was becoming responsible now, and it just didn’t fit my new lifestyle.

    It had never seemed like a problem to me when I was doing all of that drinking and drugging. It had all been good times, as far as I was concerned - life over those two years had been so much better than it had been prior to that. But now, life was good without it, in fact better than it had ever been. I felt like an important part of the family, I was engaged and doing well in school – there was actually beginning to be some hope that I might even be able to graduate in June, without needing extra course work over the summer. This would truly be a miracle! But, my attitude towards school, towards all my classes, had been noted, and the school administrators were doing their best to accommodate my successful and timely graduation.
  • I’d gotten a job at a Howard Johnson’s Restaurant down near Hartford, my first waiter job. I’d made some friends at the Pilgrim Fellowship (PF) youth group that Mary had turned me on to, that met on Sunday nights at the Congregational Church. I had not been too crazy about the idea of joining that group – I was never into those kinds of things, and the idea of it struck me as pretty damned hokey, but I really liked Mary, and I just wanted to be around her more, get to know her, and maybe find out what it was like to actually have a regular girl friend. I was open to anything she suggested.

    I wound up loving PF. They were a bunch of teens just having fun, not too hokey, actually pretty cool - they’d sit around and talk, and sometimes do some skits, play games, talk about school, plans for the summer, and they accepted me right into the group. Most of them had known each other for a long time, and I was the new kid from Pennsylvania, so they found me fascinating, different, and I kind of dug the attention I got from the group. I was determined to play it all real cool, not be a doofus and act like I was really into it - but I really was. I went up there every Sunday night, whether or not Mary was going. It quickly became more about that group, and less about Mary.

    I immediately hit it off with one kid there named Reed, who at first struck me as a real hippie type, with long hair halfway down his back, but I quickly learned he wasn’t a hippie type at all, just a regular kid with really long hair. There was something really solid about him - he had an inner strength that I was drawn to. Another kid, David, was a musician, pretty mysterious but interesting, who I thought put on some airs, but quickly learned was actually quite genuine – the airs weren’t airs at all, it was just the way he carried himself. There was a whole cast of characters there, and I was delighted that they accepted me right into their group, and made me feel like a welcomed addition. They were definitely cool. I’d never known New Englanders before, they were a different kind of breed, in my mind, and I was fascinated by them all.
  • Mary continued to be my escort, to and from school every day, and she showed me all around the area. We would drive up into the forests of Massachussetts after school – she took me to her favorite swimming hole up there, and we went swimming together, and we talked about everything under the sun. I remembered, early on, there had been talk about a boyfriend, but from what she said, I had the distinct impression that they had split up. How else would she be spending all this time with me? He was never around, but she sure was. At the same time, I didn’t want to rush into anything with her. I liked the pace that it was taking. I was determined to play it cool. That seemed to be the way to go.

    At one point, driving back from swimming at her spot in the forest, she asked me if I was interested in girls. “Whoa!”, I thought. “Maybe I’ve been playing it too cool!" I thought for sure she had picked up on how interested in her I was. It probably would have been a good spot to say, “Well, I’m certainly interested in you!”, but that would not have been cool. Instead, I just shrugged and said, “Sure, I am.” But, I was beginning to be nervous that I might be blowing it, here. She had been talking about the upcoming senior prom, and I had made it clear that I was not into such things. Youth groups were one thing, but proms? A guy had to draw a line somewhere! That was just a little too school spirity for my tastes. But, now that she was questioning my interest, I figured I better do something. So, I brought up the prom. “You know, you’ve gotten me thinking about the prom. I’ve decided that maybe I’ll go, after all…” I was just getting ready, working myself up to asking her if she’d go with me. But, before I could get the words out, she lit up, and bubbled, “Oh, great! I know just the girl for you to go with! She’s really great, I just know you will like her!”

    What??? No, no, no, that’s not what I had in mind at all. Damn it, I had totally misread her. I really thought she was hinting around at it, trying to get me to ask her to the prom. I really didn’t want to go to a damned prom, but if it meant getting a step closer to winning Mary over, I was willing to take her. But, not a “fix-up”! No!!! This was all going horribly wrong! But, I had to play it cool. I had opened the door, and now I was going to have to walk through it. I agreed to go with Mary to meet Judy, the girl she wanted to set me up with for the prom. Oh, brother!
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