Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Zip Codes, True Love, and My Baby Sister

     There is nothing like being a ten-year-old in love.  People might try to tell you it is just “puppy love” or a “crush,” but don’t believe them.  Your first love is always true love.  Take me and Shaun Cassidy, for example. 
     My dad has always been a Hardy Boys fan.  I never knew that about my dad until my tenth summer.  That summer, a new series started that was loosely based on the book series.  My dad wanted to share this piece of his childhood with us, so he called Tammy and me in to watch it with him.  I didn’t know what a Hardy Boy was, but I knew better than to question my dad.  I stopped playing outside and dutifully came in and sat down in front of the tv.  On the inside I was sulkily biding my time until I could escape from watching TV. 
     The credits ended and the most beautiful face I had ever seen appeared larger than life on my TV screen.  I fell completely, madly, and totally in love with this man.  I stared in rapt attention at the TV for an hour.  I didn’t breathe or blink during the show.  My body patiently waited until commercials to waste time on such trivial interests.
     When he smiled, I felt myself melting inside, like the center of a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie.  I knew that smile was a special one meant only for me.  That beautiful woman might think his smile was for her, but she was far from good enough for this perfect man.  After she died, I felt guilty, but also vindicated.  I wasn’t the only one who felt she wasn’t good enough for him, even the writers had to kill her off.    
     After Joe Hardy found out she died, he took out his guitar and sang the most beautiful song I had ever heard.  I wept…for her…and for him…and for the loss of love my ten-year-old-heart had never known, but somehow knew all great love stories must end tragically. 
     At the end of the show, I scanned the credits to find this beautiful man’s real name.  Not just the character’s name, but a real name.  Shaun Cassidy.  Even his name was perfection.
     The station went to a commercial for Shaun Cassidy’s new album Da Doo Ron Ron, out in stores everywhere.  Every waking thought went to Shaun Cassidy and the album I had to own.  I counted down the days until Sunday, when I could see Shaun and his special smiles and winks that he saved just for me.
     Santa Claus has a special place in his heart for me and granted my only wish – the new Shaun Cassidy album.  Just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, I pulled out the album and discovered two posters tucked inside.  I grabbed the tape out of the kitchen and ran up the stairs.  I climbed up on my bed and hung the poster of his face with my special smile over my bed so I could see it when I fell asleep at night.  I got down and climbed up on Tammy’s bed.  This was the perfect wall for the full length body shot.  You couldn’t see his face as well, or his beautiful smile, but it would still be fun to look at when I looked over from Tammy’s side of the room.  I didn’t even ask Tammy if that was okay.  It just needed to be done. 
     Now that the decorations were complete, I could get down to business.  I pulled out the album and turned on the record player.  I carefully set the needle down and lay on my bed letting the music surround me.  That album never left my record player.  My dad warned me that leaving it on the record player would scratch it, but I didn’t care.  There was no way his album would be removed from my record player to be replaced by someone else.  Every minute that I was home was filled with Shaun Cassidy singing me the soundtrack of my life.  I knew every song by heart and sang along with him as loudly as I dared to sing without getting grounded from the record player for being annoying.  I danced all over the room and across our twin beds, over to the poster for a quick kiss and back around the room. 
     When he sang
“Hey, there lonely girl, lonely girl,
Let me make your broken heart like new
Oh, my lonely girl, lonely girl,
Don’t you know this lonely boy loves you?”
I just knew he was singing just to me.  Somehow he had opened up my heart and peered inside my soul.  He could tell how lonely I was and he loved me anyway.  I just knew that if we ever had the chance to meet, he would come swoop me out of my fragile world and take me to a world of love and happiness and beaches and sunshine and all the other things true love brings to the ones who fight for their love.
     We went to California often, but I didn’t know if my mom and dad would take me to Shaun’s house.  Sometimes they seemed to think I was too young to be in love.  I didn’t know how often he came to Utah, but it seemed silly to wait.  After all, fate helps the ones who fight for their dreams.  Well, if fighting is what it took, a fight it would be.  I decided the only sensible thing to do was to write him a letter and introduce myself.  Once he read my letter, he would feel the powerful connection we had, and he would go to the edge of the Earth to find me, or at least use my return address on the envelope.  Depending on the day, I would take my sister with me or I would leave her behind begging me to let her come with us.  Sometimes I would relent and allow her to come and clean my new mansion. 
     Love letters call for special materials, so I pulled out my best stationary.  I grabbed a brand new pencil and sharpened it to the fine point required for writing my fanciest cursive letters.  I remembered to use big words and my best handwriting.  Boys like that in the women they date.  Showing him I was wise beyond my years was an important part of showing him how much we had in common. 
     I snuck the letter into the bathroom and pulled out my mom’s favorite perfume.  This stuff must be good.  It was expensive, and it seemed to work on my dad.  I pulled off the lid and spritzed two sprays of perfume on my letter.  I turned it over and added an extra spritz to the envelope to show how serious I was about our love.  As the perfume hit the paper, the words smudged.  I should rewrite the letter, but the intoxicating smell of my perfume was more important than the mere words on the page.  I carefully wrote my address so he would know where to find me.
     I waited until my babysitter came over and poured my heart out to her.  She was wise beyond her fourteen years, and she knew everything there was to know about true love.  I begged her to help me send this token of love to the man I was meant to love forever.  She agreed. 
     That night I was so happy, I couldn’t sleep.  I stared at the poster of my true love and whispered, “It won’t be long now, love.”
     The next morning I set my time scale.  After accounting for the day it was mailed and the amount of time it probably took a love letter to get to California, the time it would take for him to read my letter and fly his plane to Utah, I marked the date on my calendar.  Do love letters travel faster than the other mail, knowing they have people anxiously awaiting their arrival?  If not, it should be about two weeks.  That didn’t seem so bad.  I circled a heart around the date on the calendar so no one would miss this momentous occasion.
     Boy, was I wrong.  It was two weeks of torture.  Every time the mail arrived, I was right there ready to greet the mailman.  If the doorbell rang, I rushed to answer it.  Every time the phone rang, my heart skipped a beat.  Every car that passed me as I walked to school was going to be Shaun’s limo coming to sweep me off my feet and off to the magical world of California. 
     I learned the power of symbolism when my brother stepped on my Shaun Cassidy record and broke it into pieces.  A smarter girl would have realized my love was unrequited, but I was always a sucker for love.
     Two weeks of that kind of anticipation can quickly destroy you.  I hadn’t slept or eaten in two weeks.  It made me turn mean.  When my babysitter returned for another night with us, I turned on her and snarled, “Did you mail my letter?  Why didn’t he answer me back?  Why didn’t he come to my house?  You didn’t send it, did you?  You want him for yourself.  You were always jealous of me.  I hate you!!!” 
     After my tirade was over, she looked at me and said, “You didn’t put your zip code on it, so the mailman couldn’t deliver it.”
     I was crushed.  How could true love be defeated by a zip code?  Didn’t the mailman know how much this letter meant to me?  This was the biggest moment of my life and it was ruined by five numbers.  I ran upstairs and cried myself to sleep.
     The next day I sulked in my room, trying to hold out hope that Shaun didn’t need a zip code to find me.  Our love was so true, the connection would lead him to my house.  He would knock on the door and say, “Excuse me, you don’t know me yet, but we are meant to be together.”   I would fall into his arms and off we would walk into the sunset.  He would literally walk, with me in his arms, into the sunset.  The vision ended there.  My ten-year-old life experience couldn’t fathom what real life would be like, only the romantic illusions.
     As I sat trying to create a mental connection with my missing true love, Tammy came in and sat on the windowsill, bouncing against the screen in the window.
     “Doink, doink, doink, doink.”
     “Tammy, shut up!”
     “I’m not saying anything.”
     “Doink.  Doink.  Doink.”  Each bounce pushed the screen farther out the window.
     “Tammy, stop it!  You are going to fall out the window!”
     “You’re not the boss of me!”
     “Doink!  Doink!  Doink!”
     Silence.  Silence.  Silence. 
     I looked over and saw an empty window.  No screen.  No sister.
     I ran to the window and peered over the edge.  Twenty-feet below lay my sister in the bushes.  The tams.  My Tam.  My baby sister needed me.  All I could think about was how selfish I had been to get so caught up in my own love and now my sister was dead.  I had killed my sister.  Love was SO not what it was cracked up to be. 
     I ran downstairs and out the front door.  I rushed over to the tams and held my hand over her mouth to see if she was breathing.  She opened her eyes and looked at me and mumbled, “I’m not dead.”  It was the best moment of my life.  Who needed Shaun Cassidy when I had my little sister back.  I helped her up and brushed the broken bushes from her back.  I put my arm around her and walked her back inside.   I made a promise that no boy would ever be as important to me as my sister.  Not even Shaun Cassidy. 
     Luckily he must have picked up my psychic message because he respected my wishes and never rang my doorbell or pulled up alongside me in his limousine.  It is a good thing, too, because my love for my sister is rock solid, but riding in a limo would be a pretty cool way to get back at my nemesis, Martha.    


  1. Tiff, I really enjoy reading these posts. I wish I had more memories like these! For some reason, after I read them, I feel a sense of happiness, with just a tad bit of sadness and envy added to the mix. I hope these are REAL memories! Take care.

    Peace, Nico

  2. Nico,these actually are true stories of my childhood - the good parts anyway. It is fun to remember the good times with my sister and brothers. I am writing them for my sister for her birthday present, but I am glad you like them too.


Thanks for your comments and feedback.