March 12, 2012: Annette (Birthday Triumvirate 2)

            A very long time ago, I was briefly engaged to the most beautiful girl on my block.

            I was nine and she was six. She lived across the street and was a total knockout. There were cute girls on our block—Kathy Elmore; the Neis twins—but Annette was pretty and sophisticated. She read grown-up books (Little House in the Big Woods) and had an artist easel and her own ceramics kiln. The rest of us kids had backyard birthday parties once a year—Pin the Tail on the Donkey; apple-bobbing; Mom-made cakes. On Annette’s sixth birthday, she took a bunch of us Goofy Golfing, then back to her place for ice cream cake. Ice cream cake! It was like knowing someone who’d grown up at a country club. It was her birthday, and she took us golfing!

            I knew I had to marry her the day I found out she was smarter than me. Annette’s dachshund, Ginger, used to freak out whenever the family would leave her home alone; she’d chew holes in the backyard fence, trying to escape.

            “Why does she do that?” I asked Annette one afternoon.

            She shrugged. “I think she’s neurotic.”

            Oh my god, I remember thinking. She knows words I’ve never heard before! I have to spend the rest of my life with this girl!

            Some days, I would gather up all my Archies cereal box records and head to Annette’s. We would turn her parents’ front room into a make-believe disco, dancing to “Sugar, Sugar” and “Jingle Jangle” and trying to work the words “groovy” and “outasite!” into every sentence.

            One day, while I was setting up Annette’s portable hi-fi (the speakers clipped onto the sides of the turntable, which was housed in a clever little suitcase), her mother called for her.

            “Now, listen,” I heard Martha saying. “It’s fine for you two to dance and play like you’re hippies. But I don’t want to hear another word out of either of you about getting married. Okay?”

            Bummer, man.

            Later, after we’d hopped around for awhile, Annette walked me to the door.

            “I guess we should just be friends,” she said.

            “I suppose,” I replied. We shook hands, and I headed home.

She moved to Illinois a couple of years later, and we lost touch. But I’ve thought of Annette every year on her birthday, which is March 12. And not just because she was smart and pretty and introduced me to the idea of off-site, catered entertaining. Annette was special.

            Happy Birthday, Annette.

I took this photograph of Annette's house today. Why haven't the new owners repaired the holes Ginger made in the fence, 40 years ago?

Thing I Hate Today: T-Shirts printed with slogans or advertisements.