July 25, 2011

The greatest summer of my life...

Everybody has one..a summer that is more special than all of the others. That summer for me was the Summer of '72. I was a teenager, my voice was changing, I was a tall, skinny kid with a major complexion problem, but life was very, very good that summer.

I had two or three jobs during that summer. I put time in for my dad in the repair shop, I loaded and unloaded produce at the Thrift Mart, I was running the projectors at the movie theater and sometimes on Friday and Saturday nights, me and a few high school buddies would go pull an all nighter at the turkey farm, herding turkeys into the big rigs. They were bound to the processing plant in Wichita Falls and from there on to someones dinner table.

I had a fast car, money in my pocket and I wore my heart on my sleeve. I was what most would call a "geek", for lack of a better term. I had glasses that I never wore outside the house, I spent hours washing my face hoping that the blemishes  I had would somehow just go away after the fifteenth time I washed my face.

But that summer, my life would change forever. I would meet the first girl that would make my heart go crazy. She was from Lubbock she was beautiful and she was partially deaf. She was down for the summer visiting her grandmother and grandfather.She had this amazing strawberry blonde hair and her skin had that beautiful, tan complexion that was the color of a fine saddle after only minutes of being in the sun.

Along with being a skinny, pimple-headed geek, I was painfully shy. Girls scared me, I was a complete moron around them and usually something stupid forced its way out of my mouth that I had absolutely no control over before I knew what I said.

Her name was Mandy Owens. The first time I saw her, she rode by on a bicycle and I was covered from head to toe with lawn mower grease and sweat. I stood there like an idiot with my mouth open and she smiled a wry little smile as she passed by. I actually have to thank my little sister for getting us together. I made an offhanded comment to my little sister after she rode by, "Wow, I'd like to meet her". My little sister immediately replied "Ok", in that wicked, "oh you shouldn't have told me that" attitude. You'd just have to know my little sister. She jumped on her bike and sped off after her and a few minutes later, she and Mandy were parked in front of me. My sister said "this is Mandy, Steve, Mandy, this is Steve, my big brother...ok, I'll see you guys later" and like that, my little sister disappeared, leaving me there to do... what?

So there I was, standing in front of the prettiest girl I had ever known, not knowing what the heck to say or do and the first thing out of my mouth was "What are you doing here?" I could see the confusion in her face and before she could answer I said, "I mean, are you here for the summer or did you move here"? Relief filled her eyes and she replied "Yes, I'm here for the summer and my grandparents live right down the street. They are the Owens'". I didn't pay attention to a word she said, I was hopelessly lost in those green eyes, the gorgeous tan and the strawberry blonde hair.

We made small talk for a bit and I asked her if she'd like to get a coke after I got off of work and to my surprise, she said "Yes, I'd love that"! I was blown away, my very first, ever, with a real-live girl, date was happening that night! I don't remember the rest of the afternoon, my mind was on Mandy and getting to spend more time with her.

I picked her up at her grandparents house at 6:30. They knew me well, since I had grown up right down the block from them and after a quick conversation with them, Mandy and I were gone.

We went to Dairy Queen, the only place in town to eat and we sat and talked for hours. She told me about her life in Lubbock and that she was born almost totally deaf, but she could read lips and her speech was actually very good with her level of hearing loss. Before I knew it, her curfew of 11:00 was there. It seemed like it was only a half hour or so. I took her home and floated back to my house on cloud nine.

I was totally enthralled with Mandy. Every day of that summer we saw each other. During the day, the afternoon but mostly after I got off of work. We would go cruising the drag, go to the movies, go for pizza or just sit at the lake and watch the sun go down. Life was awesome.

But we both knew those short two months would be over soon, so we spent as much time together as we could before she had to leave. The night before she left to go back to Lubbock, we sat in my car in front of her grandparents house just making small talk and remembering the summer. We laughed and remembered those things that had made us laugh and the memories we made in the Summer of '72. During the entire two months we were together, I was a perfect gentleman. The most I ever did was hold her hand..I didn't want to do anything to embarrass myself or to the beautiful lady that had came quite by accident into my life. She was a lady and the time we shared was the time of my life.

By the time she had to go, we both were crying, not wanting to leave each other, but we knew it couldn't be any other way. I walked her to the door and I held her hand knowing this was probably the last time I'd ever see her. I told her goodbye and as she started for the door, she turned around quickly and kissed me full on the mouth and she signed, "I love you" over her heart as she mouthed the words silently. I was floored and for the first time in my life, I couldn't make my mouth work to force out a reply, so I just watched, speechless, as she disappeared into the house.

We wrote each other every day for two weeks, but the letters got fewer and fewer, with the distance, school starting and leading totally separate lives and in different towns. And soon, the letters totally stopped. But I don't regret one minute of my time with her. I grew up a lot during that summer. I believe I took one more step toward being a man from knowing her.

It's been thirty nine summers since I met Mandy Owens, but that summer is the one I'll never forget. I sometimes wonder if Mandy remembers me. I wrote a song about that experience about 15 years ago and maybe one day I'll get it put down and see what it sounds like. Or maybe I won't, maybe I'll just keep it right here in my head.

As I said as I opened this writing, everyone has a summer that's more memorable than any other. And mine was the Summer of '72. As a songwriter, I relate a lot life's experiences to music, but what's strange is that the song that I relate most to that summer, didn't come out until years later. This song is the "Summer of '69" made famous by Bryan Adams. I've added it below for your enjoyment. Feel free to insert your most memorable year.

I hope everyone remembers fondly, their Summer of '72. This video and song is dedicated to summer and to Mandy Owens.