The Men in my Life - part 1
1950 - Jackie Braun - aged 6
I remember that he was good looking and that I very much wanted him to like me. He asked me why my hands hung down from my wrists, sort of like rabbit paws. I was offended by this so I chased him across the school playground which was covered with rough gravel. I fell and badly cut my right
knee requiring stitches. To this day I have a scar there, and I think about Jackie whenever I look at it.
1953 and 1956 - Billy and Jerry - aged 9
Hardly men, but certainly the first males to give me a present. Billy Schlosser was tall, blond and had freckles. Jerry Hager was very slim and had a red crewcut. (You will be aware after awhile that most of my friends had German sounding names. Bismarck was settled by Germans, and Baron von Bismarck paid for the railway to go through so the town was named after him. I had Dutch, Norwegian and Polish ancestry, but my last name was Dutch - originally Wijngaarden - but changed to Wyngarden at Ellis Island. Most of the people in the town were defined by their ancestry - rather than being considered Americans. ) Jerry was by no stretch of the imagination good looking, but was full of mischief with a delightful gleam in his eye. The boys were cousins.
The present, for Valentine’s Day, was a box of chocolate covered cherries, and they chucked them at me as we walked home from school (not to be mean but because they were too embarrassed to do the job properly.) Most of the centers broke, and I got very sticky eating them. I rather doubt that I shared them.
They both moved out of the area before high school. Another abiding memory was playing catch with Jerry after school, when we were aged about 12. The ball hit me in the chest, and of course I fumbled it. He looked at me most concerned, and said, “I expect your breasts are very sensitive, now. I hope I didn’t hurt you.” I was so embarrassed that he should mention THAT word, but I liked the idea that he didn’t jump to the obvious conclusion, that I was hopeless at sports.
1954 Billy Mitzel- aged 10
Billy was tall and very good looking. I fancied him a lot, and he seemed to like me too. I invited him around to help him with his arithmetic homework one day after school. He came and I took him into my bedroom and shut the door. It was perfectly innocent, I can assure you, and he probably had a much better homework grade as a result. My mother was very upset and angry with me. “Never ever again do you take a boy into your bedroom and shut the door,” she shouted. I really couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
Bill is now the Sports Editor for the Bismarck Tribune and has his picture in
a sporting magazine for catching the biggest whitefish.
Shortly after that my life changed for the worst. My Dad found out, by virtue of the fact that I couldn’t read the scoreboard at a basketball game, that I needed glasses. From then on I became ugly in my own mind, and was sure that I would never again get a boy to give me chocolates or make me want to shut my bedroom door.
1960 Jimmy Wald - aged 16
Conrad and Dorothy Wald were my parents’ best friends and they regularly came around to our house to play bridge. Dorothy was also one of the 8th grade teachers at my school and had been my very favourite grade school teacher. (My mother taught one of the 6th grades.) Jimmy was very good fun but his most outstanding characteristic was his size. Everyone called him Jumbo.
I had had a very lacking social life in high school, but there were always a few opportunities in the year when the girls asked the boys to an event. One of these was the school hayride, followed by a dance at the school. There were all sorts of boys in my class that I really thought were wonderful, but none of them had the slightest interest in me, and they all had established girlfriends. So I had to pick someone unattached to ask out and decided Jimmy would be the best of
the bunch of losers that were left. I know that sounds awful, but that is how I thought, and no doubt the boys clumped me in that category too.
Jimmy, unfortunately, didn’t realise that he was my last choice, and was thrilled with the idea that we were going out on a date. He immediately started becoming friendly, putting his arm around me while we sat on the hay rack. The other couples were all doing the same, so it wasn’t really out of order. But I didn’t want him touching me. I got up and moved to the other side of the cart. Poor Jimmy. I treated him like dirt for the rest of the night, and he didn’t know why. He obviously told his mother how I had treated him, and she told my mother.
So my mother sat me down. “Jeanie,” she said, looking very embarrassed, “you know that it is okay to kiss boys. That isn’t what makes you pregnant.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Why should she say these things to me? I hadn’t wanted Jimmy to touch me, much less kiss me - not because I was afraid of anything but because I wanted to be touched and kissed by Tommy Rausch, and Johnnie Doppler and Chuck McGurren. But I suppose it helped Jimmy’s ego a bit to think that he had been rejected because of my innocence and ignorance, rather than by my selfish dreams.
Jimmy married a girl who was as large as he. I don’t know anything more about their lives. Tommy Rausch married his childhood sweetheart. I have seen
recent pictures of him, and he is now old looking and balding and not in the least fanciable.
But I have always felt guilty at the way I treated Jimmy.