It was a sticky hot August day the first time I saw Anna. I was seven. She had just turned six and even then was quite a beauty with her curly dark hair and olive skin. Her family was moving in right next door. Great, a girl next door. That’s all I needed.
The morning the Campbells moved in, I was just beginning to enjoy my new bike. It was shiny blue with a horn. I picked it out of the Sears catalog and Dad ordered it for my birthday the week before. Back and forth, back and forth; up and down the driveway. I was too scared to try it out on the street in front of our house. I had visions of shredded knees and a bloody nose every time I thought about my bike and me on that gravel road.
And then the moving van came that morning. It was the biggest truck I’d ever seen. Well, maybe not quite as big as some of the grain trucks that passed through town, but Dad was pretty impressed.
“Those folks must be bringin’ a lot of stuff with ‘em,” he had said.
“Well, honey, he is the new banker in town. He’s probably got money.” Mom’s comment sent Dad into a depression.
Even at my age, I picked up that money was tight. I looked at my new bike and then up again at my dad.
I watched Anna play in the Campbell’s front yard. She smiled and waved, but I didn’t talk to Anna that day.
Junior High was awkward. In our little town, 7th & 8th grade was simply glorified elementary school. I was thirteen and spoke like some opera singer I’d seen on the Ed Sullivan Show. Some of my buddies watched the metamorphosis with wonder. Dad kept saying it would be their turn soon. It was the fate of all guys. I was mortified.
Bobby Abernathy & I couldn’t seem to keep our eyes off of Anna Campbell. Heck, she was my neighbor and yet all the guys in 8th grade seemed to catch her attention more than me. I was invisible.
Her dark brown eyes made me feel like I was falling headlong into a vat of melted chocolate.
“Anna, you wanna go to the 8th grade dance with me?” How many times that Spring had I imagined myself saying those words to her and hearing her demure reply, “Why, of course, Kevin. I couldn’t imagine going with anyone else.”
And, then my mind would snap back to reality.
Anna Campbell matured into the 1959 Homecoming Queen. The epitome of beauty, a date with her became the pinnacle for all the senior guys.
Then the unthinkable happened. A week before the Senior Prom, I watched from my bedroom window as Charles Farrington’s shiny blue Mustang pulled into the driveway next door and Anna flew out of the passenger side, running to the front door. Charles was yelling obscenities and Anna seemed hysterical.
The only thing I could think about was that maybe now Anna Campbell could accompany the math geek to Prom, not that snooty Charles Farrington. Now would be my chance to win her over.
Before I could stumble down the stairs and rush to her side, Anna’s friend, Cindy, drove up to the Campbells and honked.
It never seemed to work out for Anna and me.
1966 came in with a whimper. It went out with fireworks and a new life for me. You see, I’d finally traded in that shiny blue bike for a slightly used Chevrolet Camaro. I’d moved from small town Iowa to St. Louis and I’d met Maribeth.
Her luminescent blue eyes inspired me. As we exchanged glances across our singles Sunday School class, it wasn’t long before we both knew something special was about to happen.
Despite my new found confidence, something still gnawed a hole in my heart. Gosh, I was 25 years old and never had a date. Could I win her friendship? Dare I even hope for more? The quiet spirit and genuine faith drew me in like no other could—not even Anna Campbell.
I’ll never forget that Sunday morning when my feet found wings and my heart found a voice.
“Hi, Maribeth. Would you like to go to dinner tonight?”
I watched as those eyes sparkled, and her cheeks flushed.
“I’d love to, Kevin.”
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