Love in 1971

BACK IN THE DAY

Author’s note: The year was 1971; it was a period of growth, and it was a revolution. The 26th Amendment allowed people to vote at 18. Disney World opened for business, and Apollo 14 launched to the moon. It was a busy period in time, when we were advancing as a nation. For as long as I can remember she was always there, close to me, my grandmother. She’s always been a bit of a mystery. She would tell me stories late at night about her family, and growing up, and how it was a headache being one of seven children. I love listening to her stories, learning more about her as our days go by. I know that her days are numbered, and I will miss her deeply when that times comes. However, that doesn’t mean her memory of her first love won’t live on. As will the rest of her memories. My grandmother lives forever, in my heart, and the heart of everyone who has crossed her path.

It was so bright, the sun with its sweltering rays and carefree attitude. Lorraine sat on the grass watching her brother, Joe, who was in the yard yelling about how bored he was and throwing rocks into the street. He turned to her, with his deep brown eyes, and sent a glare her way. He tilted his head, raising his eyebrows in the process, “Lori, you’re the worst babysitter. I thought this was supposed to be fun!” he yelled.

Lorraine blinked at him, “Joe, Mom told me I had to watch you. She never said I had to entertain you.” She paused. “Why don’t you go play with Robin?”

“Robin told me to leave her alone. She wanted to play with Mary and Sharon,” Joe huffed. He turned back to the house. “And John isn’t here to play with me, not that he’d want to.” Joe paused. “Why couldn’t mom have a boy closer to my age? I hate being the little brother!” With that he stormed off into the house.

Lorraine watched him as the screen door slammed shut behind him, and shook her head. “That kid is something else entirely,” she muttered to herself.

Lorraine looked up to the sky. The clouds floated amidst one another without a care in the world, drifting against the azure blue of the sky. She took a deep breath in and let it out. Lorraine smiled to herself, before she bent down and grabbed her cup of ice water and headed inside.

It was only slightly cooler inside because of the fan running on high in the living room. Mary, Robin, Cathy and Sharon sat on the floor chatting about dinner tonight. “Mom’s having a friend and her son come over tonight,” Sharon told Lorraine who had just sat down on the couch with a sigh. She looked over to Sharon and nodded. “Mom planned on making fried chicken, and most likely potatoes and corn. That’s what she normally makes.”

Lorraine nodded and took a sip of the melted ice water. “Yeah, she should be getting home soon, so your rooms better be cleaned up,” Lori warned her younger sisters with her eyebrows raised and a serious look on her face.

Sharon chuckled. “Don’t worry, I’ll help you and Mary out,” she told Robin, who smiled and then waved her hand in a nonchalant manner. “Yeah, yeah.” She looked back to Lori. “I know.”

Lori rolled her eyes at her sisters and picked up her book that she left discarded on the coffee table, opened the book up to the page she stopped at, and went back to reading.

It was about 5:30 by the time their mother had arrived carrying a large bag of groceries. “Children of mine!” Marilyn called.

Lori was already in the kitchen by the time the rest of the children arrived. Marilyn smiled at her children, “So, how was your day?”

Joe was the first to answer, “Awful, no one would play with me, and I was bored all day!” He then pointed at Lori, “And she wouldn’t play with me either! Why did you have girls and no boys closer to my age?”

Sharon snorted, “Joe, You’re such a drama queen.”

Joe sent a sneer at her, “I’m not!” he hissed.

Sharon went to retort something back to Joe and his sassy attitude, but their mother cut in.

“Enough!” Marilyn looked to Joe first. “Joe, I know it stinks that you and John are so far apart in years, but you’re old enough to entertain yourself. Go make some friends; that sounds fun.”

Joe huffed and crossed his arms, “Not when nobody likes you.”

Sharon rolled her eyes, “That’s when you make them like you, show them what you like to do. Duh.”

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Joe muttered.

“That’s the point, take the challenge,” their mother hummed as she pulled a deep frying pan from the hanging rack and some oil from the pantry. “Now, I want all five of you to go around and make sure the house is nice and clean; we’re having guests.”

“What’s Robin and Mary going to do?” Lori asked as she looked at her baby sisters who were playing with the can of corn.

“They’re going to help me set the table, and John is going to clean up the outside when he gets home. Now run along. I’m checking.”

Lori went off to the living room and set about the task of cleaning up the toys from Robin and Mary’s Barbie extravaganza. She placed the dolls on the steps, making a mental note to bring them up to their room. Then she fixed the throw pillows on the couch, cleaned up Mom’s cigarette ashtray, and did little things about the room to set it back in order.

When dinner was close to being ready, there was a knock on the door. Their mom yelled for someone to answer the door. Joe was the first to jump up from the couch he was lounging on. Lori stood up and shot Joe a look, “I’ll get the door. You, Mary, Robin, Cathy, and John go to the table.”

The four remaining children ran off to the dining room. Sharon was helping mom finish up dinner, so that left Lori to get the door.

Lori opened the door with a smile. “Hi Linda.” She smiled at the older woman.

“Hi, Lori! You look cute!” Linda gushed. Lori didn’t think she looked that cute. She was just wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

Lori smiled, nonetheless. “Thanks, you look pretty nice yourself.”

Linda smiled, “Aw, you’re such a sweetheart.” Linda then gestured to the tall male who just stood there silently with a smile on his face. “This is my son, Nels.”

Lori looked over and gave him a slow glance over taking in his features. Nels was tall, blond, and had the most dazzling ocean blue eyes. He smiled, showing off his pearly whites.

“Hello, you must be …?” He trailed off waiting for Lori’s name.

Lori blushed slightly, “Lorraine, but you can call me Lori.”

Nels smiled, “It’s a pleasure meeting you.”

Lori returned the smile, “It’s nice meeting you too, Nels.”

Over the course of a few months, things seemed like they were going too fast. Dating, it was a big word, especially for Lori. It made the butterflies in her stomach go on overdrive, at 200 miles per hour on a hot summer day. Her cheeks were flushed just thinking about Nels, and how he asked her to be his girlfriend. It was sweet, and all too embarrassing. She had to ask her mother for permission to date Nels. Marilyn had a rule; nobody was allowed to date until they were 16. Lorraine was fifteen.

Lori sat on the other side of the coffee table, where her mom sat watching the telly, with a bored look on her face. “Ma?”

Marilyn looked over to Lori, “Yeah?”

“So, I was with Nels, and he asked me to be his girlfriend.”

Marilyn wanted to smile, but kept a straight face. “Did he now?”

“Yeah, and I know you have the rule about how we’re not allowed to date until we’re 16, but I really, really like him.”

Marilyn smiled, “I think there can be an exception.”

It was a Monday. It was hot and sticky outside. Lori was wearing a blue T-shirt, knickers and no shoes. Nels was beside her wearing a green T-shirt, blue jeans and brown work boots. Nels smiled over at Lori. She loved his smile. “Hey, Lori? How about we go out sometime?”

Her cheeks immediately were tinted pink, “Like a date?”

Nels nodded, “Yeah, a date. That’s what couples go on.”

She smiled over at him, “Sounds like fun.”

The first date was fun. They walked along the beach, no shoes, and they let the waves kiss their feet. They went for a picnic afterwards; it was nice. Just two people getting to know each other, watching how they reacted to certain things. They were a mystery waiting to be solved.

It wasn’t until a year and a half later that they broke up. It wasn’t because they didn’t like each other anymore, or they found someone else. Nels was diagnosed with leukemia. The hardest part was hearing it from Linda, who was crying and a mess. Hearing that someone you cared about had cancer, which had no cure, was the hardest thing in the world. To anyone … a mother, a father, and most definitely to yourself. Lori could only imagine how Nels felt. He was probably beside himself, trying to come to terms that he was dying.

Lori saw Nels a few days after the news, both having had the same conversation with their mothers. They sat beside each other on the beach, watching the waves say hello to each other. No one spoke for a while; they sat there and enjoyed each other’s presence. Nels was the first to break the silence.

“I didn’t want to, but my mom said it would be easier on both of us.”

Lori looked over to him, a sad smile gracing her lips, “I didn’t want to break up either.”

Nels sighed, “I’m sorry, it has to be like this.”

Lori shook her head, “Don’t be sorry, you can’t help it.”

“I just feel like it’s my fault you’re sad.”

She put her hand on his shoulder, “It’s not your fault; we can still be friends.”

That made Nels smile. “Thank you.” He paused, and looked back out to the ocean. “You’ll find love again. It might not be tomorrow, but you will.”

Lori chuckled, “I know I will. Now, stop being depressing and let’s go get some pizza.”

A few months had passed, and Nels was looking grimmer with each passing day. But he still smiled, even when the Florence family was packing their bags to move away, and when Lori hugged Nels goodbye. They never saw each other after that, and yet, they both knew they would never forget each other, leaving footprints in the sand of time, within each other’s memories.

Nels died a few months later. Death took him in his arms and carried him off into the unknown of the afterworld. Although Nels’s life was short, he left his footprints in the sand, untouched by the waves.

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