I watched The Sandlot again the other day. I don’t know why I decided to land on the channel, amidst all the other channels; but I did. And as I sat there, watching the movie for the thousandth time, I found there was a certain freshness to it. I hadn’t watched it since I was a kid, when I was younger or the same age as the boys. Then, it made perfect sense to me. Then, that was my reality. I understood their speech. I emulated their mannerisms perfectly. I wanted to be Benny Rodriguez. I wanted to out pickle the dog.
My own childhood, however, was nowhere near as fantastic.
I had a lot of good memories, though, and all of them went towards shaping me into the person I am today. The people that I came across helped to shape me.
I remember how innocent that time was. I can feel the wind as I was swinging every now and then, almost as if I was reliving it in a different universe. My memories shine up at me, oftentimes when I’m riding on a bus, and I find myself reflecting on them. And I find myself also thinking of him, sometimes.
He was older than I was - maybe by two years. He had lived in the area before but moved away, only to move back. I hadn’t ever seen him before, so when I did, it was like the world opened up before me. I realized how pretty the other girls were becoming, realized how I had stayed the same in the years of middle school. I saw myself in the mirror, like I had just put glasses on: I saw my thin arms and legs, the overbite I revealed when I smiled. And I knew he wouldn’t look at me; not when there was Michelle, with her blonde ponytails and cute eyelashes, not when Abigail wore dresses and skirts, and surely not when Sarah laughed at his jokes, her pearly laugh matching her pearly white teeth.
But I was convinced that I should tell him about my feelings for him, even if it killed me. I was honest. I was blunt. And at this time, I didn’t care about laughter aimed at my back.
And that’s why I was okay with it when he told the school I had told him I loved him. That’s why I was okay with the looks, the laughter, the jokes hurled at me. I was the weird girl. I was the awkward girl. I was helplessly in love with him. I was strong. I was fearless.
I will admit that he did hurt me, on several occasions. Like the time when he put the Christmas gift I had given him back in my locker, attached with a, “Sorry, can’t accept this” note. Or the times when he let friends steal his phone to text me back, saying, “I love you, please say you love me back.”
But I knew that I was right, in some ways.
And he was the one who convinced me that I had to be blunt with people, regardless of the outcome. I learned very quickly that not everyone is going to like me. Sometimes, people that I have feelings for won’t like me, either, and I should learn to accept and roll with the punches.
By the time I fell in love again, it was when I was two years older. I fell in love with a boy with blue eyes and a charming smile. For a bit there, he seemed to love me back, and then we drifted our own ways.
None of the lessons I’ve learned since the first have made much of an impact on me. The others are small stuff. Be supportive, learn how to listen, compromise, kiss each other. They were small lessons, things I would have learned on my own if I was given enough time. He had been the only one to make it clear that I should be honest, straightforward, fearless.
I’ve gone out on a limb a few times. I’ve been embarrassed a lot.
But it’s all worked out.
I will admit that I’m not the best at relationships. I get angry more often than I should. I get jealous easily, over past relationships and flings. I don’t always want to do what he wants to do. I don’t always want to admit that I’m wrong. I cry when he’s upset at something or upset at me.
But I can say that I think I’m the smartest I’ve ever been in a relationship before. I credit our success to that fact. I think I’m the bravest, the kindest, the strongest in this relationship.
And while I wish I knew all of this back then, at the very beginning; I’m glad for the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’m glad for the heartbreak, the tears that fell onto my pillow. I’m glad for the humiliation. I’m glad he didn’t care for me.
Eleven-year-old me fell in love with all of her heart and gave it all away.
Luckily, he gave it back.