Step by Step

By: Dennis Bates

The first picture I remember seeing of myself was a movie, and I was in bed with a girl. Okay, so it was more like a crib and I was less than a year old. I don’t even know her name or recall if I ever did know it. All I know is that we were at my grandmother’s house in the west end of Davenport, Iowa, and we were both smiling.

The first time I showed off to get a girl’s attention was also recorded on film. I was two and my mother thought it would be cute if my cousin and I had a double birthday celebration complete with cakes. Mine was chocolate; my cousins was a white cake. The movie of the infamous event shows my cousin motioned at me, and I responded. I kicked my cake. Put my foot right in the center, as a matter of fact. She laughed and pointed at me. Knowing that I now had center stage, I proceeded to destroy that cake, much to her delight. The last pictures on the small movie reel shows me with chocolate cake in my hair, up and down my arms, on my shoes, of course, and who knows, I may have even got a little in my mouth.

The first kiss I remember was from a girl who split a chocolate malt with me that we bought at a Dairy Queen on the way home from school. It cost a quarter and we went Dutch. Since I was the guy I paid the extra penny. We found a space between my garage and the neighbors, took out  two straws, put our foreheads together and giggled our way to the bottom of the malt. When we were finished, she said, “Thanks for paying the extra penny,” and kissed me quickly on the cheek. We were in second grade, and I remember that kiss like it was yesterday.

When I was in sixth grade I asked a girl to “go steady” for the first time and gave her a ring that I paid a whole dollar for. Going steady was the thing back then, and it really only gave us bragging rights more than anything and a chance to copy the junior high and high school kids. Sometimes we held hands, but only briefly when nobody was looking.

In eight grade I kissed a girl on the lips for the first time. It had been carefully planned and orchestrated for weeks by our best friends who acted as agents of a sort, establishing whether we each wanted to kiss each other and what the ground rules were. Trust me, they were very tame. Obviously, those three brief kisses were something I still remember since it was almost 50 years ago and I could tell you the girl’s name, the place, the date and close to the actual time it occurred, but I won’t.

In ninth grade, I went to my first dance with a girl after taking ball room dancing lessons all year long. In tenth grade I had my first one on one date. We went to a high school dance. My father drove and we both sat in the front seat next to him. My parents insisted. In eleventh grade I actually got to take the car on a date, but we had to take another couple.

Discretion, good taste, and a healthy fear of my wife’s wrath dictate that I go no further with my trip down memory lane.  Suffice it to say that my life moved on after  eleventh grade.

I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t like girls, or later, women. I never went through a phase when I thought girls were icky or stupid. They never were to me and it didn’t take a bolt of lightning or a near death experience to convince me. I learned in one small step after another so when I met my wife more than 40 years ago, I knew she was “The One,” and getting married just seemed like the natural thing to do.

And you wondered why I write love stories. By the way, the same step by step process works for God, but then, that’s another love story.

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