Jackie*

The following is first draft text of a story in the middle of my memoir. Not everything mentioned is explained, or explained fully, because it would have been explained elsewhere prior. The story will likely be cut quite a bit ultimately. However, the details in this draft will be valuable for my own records, at least, if not more elsewhere. There are reflections from writing at the end as will be my style for the memoir. This set, though, will probably get cut. I just wanted to have something for now.

Names with asterisks* are aliases, with the asterisk only denoted upon first mention of the name.

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Individual birds are heard more easily in winter

I don’t remember why team tag wasn’t being played before school started that cold, winter day. I don’t even remember what day or month it was. What I do remember was a chance to walk around the school playground to see who else was in my new school besides my team tag playing friends that were the only friends I had. What I also remember, was that one person stood out like no one else had ever stood out to me. She also stirred feelings in me like no one else had stirred feelings in me.

A group of a couple of hundred kids is generally big enough for you to find all the common assortment of kids among them. There are the quiet and talkative ones, energetic and calm ones, cheery and sad ones, fun and creepy ones, popular and not so popular ones, even an Asian one in Nova Scotia back in the day, etc. As I walked around that morning, like a quiet, calm, possibly sad, maybe creepy, definitely Asian, kid, checking out all the other kids, I couldn’t help but notice a cute [bigger than me] little girl with wavy blond hair, sparkling eyes, and an energy that was just magnetic! There she was, chirping on like a bird with her talk and contagious laughter, moving and bouncing around with delight she shared with others around her who were captivated by her. Whatever she was exuding, I wasn’t even near her, and I was captivated by her!

Without delay, I made my way over to the group around this girl. The closer I got, the more I even loved what I saw and heard from this girl. She was holding court, it seemed, bantering with a few other kids while the rest, including me now, were being entertained. There was no way to get to talk to her without disrupting everything, which would have been very awkward, even for a group of eight to ten year olds. What was less awkward at that age, was just making friends by asking the other kids what their names were, telling them your name, and asking the names of the kids who were at the centre of attention.

Jackie was her name, the kids told me.

“Aw, how cute! A name as equally adorable as the girl!” I felt, because I had no idea of either those concepts or expressions. Her name just felt so right for her, and that was how I was already feeling about her.

Whatever else happened before school that morning, I don’t remember other than being completely smitten by Jackie in being among that group around her. I didn’t understand much of what she said with my limited and slow English. However, I didn’t need to. Just hearing her and seeing her be the way she was, were plenty to charm me, making me feel like my less than pretty black eyes had turned crystalline the way I saw some white people’s eyes to be. I don’t imagine I was the only one who felt smitten being around Jackie.

When it came time for row call, I saw that Jackie was in the line for grade 4, one higher than me, which left me a bit sad. I knew, even at that age, that there were so much difference from one year to the next. I already knew from older friends how those from a given year sometimes, if not often, looked down on those in younger years. So never mind that I didn’t have the English, or much else of interest to Canadian girls, to hope to appeal to Jackie, I was also a year younger and less cool for it. I was just going to have to be happy with getting to hang around in her crowd. It’d be sort of like being happy to “bask in her presence”, the adult me now would have taught the expression to the English challenged me then.

In contrast to row call, when school was over that day, I didn’t get myself out quickly to get home and do homework like a good boy that I was. I don’t know the reason, but in getting out a bit later than usual, I saw Jackie and her group just a minute ahead on the sidewalk of Main Avenue. A beacon blond bird chirping in winter is hard to miss, you know? Now, my route home was on the parallel Evans Avenue that met up with the other end of Titus Smith School. However, I knew from geometry that it did not matter which two sides you took on a rectangle to get from one corner to the diagonally opposite corner, representing the school and my family’s apartment here. The distance was the same. So long as Jackie went up Main Avenue, so could I without having to add extra time on to my route to delay my arrival at home. That’s provided I didn’t go farther along Main Avenue than I would have on Evans Avenue. That is, don’t go beyond the bounds of the rectangle in the described diagram. So off I scooted to join up with some new friends made that day and went home on my new route with Jackie’s group!

The walk home was not a far one for me, albeit a fun one because we were an effervescent bunch bursting with joy and energy, most often initiated by Jackie. After only ten minutes or so, crossing the first major intersection at Titus Street, sadly, I had to turn right to get back to Evans Avenue that branched off to Dawn Street where my home was. I didn’t know how much farther Jackie was going to be going up Main Avenue. All I knew was that taking the next cross street back over to Evans Avenue, Berts Drive, was going to be an overshoot of my home off of Evans Avenue. Going back down to Titus Street to get back on Evans Avenue, if Jackie wasn’t going to go that far up Main Avenue, wasn’t going to work, either, in wasting time backtracking. Breaking off at Titus Street each day was going to have to what I’ll have to do.

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During the rest of the school year, I actually remained loyal to my tag team playing friends in that whenever they asked me to play, which was almost every chance we had at school recreation time, I played with them. It wasn’t formally asking, like I was some desirable part of the game, just an extension of the playground greeting to either join the waiting group for a few more before picking teams, or go on one team or the other if the game was already in play. The one time around school we didn’t play team tag, though, was after school. It was then that I got my “Jackie time” in, going home with her group as often as I could by not rushing out immediately after class. Seeing that small delay to when I got home didn’t make any difference to my Mom, I pushed the limits a tad more to go home with Jackie’s group past Titus Street on Main Avenue. I turned right on Berts Drive to cross back to Evans Avenue, running what I could of the rest of the way home given my weak build, to minimize the time spent getting home the long way. It was the perfect plan, by chance, because Jackie lived on Birch Street, across from Berts Drive on the other side of Main Avenue. The group basically disbanded there aside from a few kids on her street, so I didn’t really miss out on anything with that group going home with them.

As for what I did in the group, it was mostly just being around them. I don’t remember any memorable moments, or even who anybody was in that group! Jackie was really the only person I cared about. I recall a few instances of Jackie talking to me very briefly, like quick responses banter. However, given I can’t recall what was said despite what I thought of Jackie, it wasn’t anything I would consider meaningful. I don’t remember telling her my name, but even if I did, I’m convinced she didn’t remember me unless it was the fact there was an Asian kid in there somewhere. That was all fine with me, though. I just enjoyed being around Jackie. Before life got complicated with terms, judgment and such, eight year old me knew the equivalent of the concept I was “not in her league”, to expect anything more of time hanging out in Jackie’s circle.

Things were fine with the socialization within Jackie’s walking home group until a couple of weeks before the end of the school year when I realized I was no longer going to be able to do these walks home without school. I didn’t know how to handle it, but I never got the chance to find out, either. At about that time, I heard that Jackie’s family was moving to Ketch Harbour when school was over! I didn’t know where that was, but I can tell you that to an eight year old, it might as well have been another country! Not only was there going to be no walks home with Jackie’s group over summer, there was never going to be walks home with Jackie’s group again!

Hearing the news that Jackie’s family was moving devastated me! It really did, because I remember lying in bed on a couple of nights with tears in my eyes thinking about it. Whatever you make of feelings an eight year old boy might have, those feelings I had for Jackie were definitely real if I were shedding tears over them. After the first night of shedding tears, I couldn’t bring myself to walk home with that group on any more days that might have been left. I was not going to be able to enjoy the time with that on my mind, so I cut off doing those walks with Jackie’s group myself before Time did it to me.

I have never seen Jackie since.

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A lot of research and theories in psychology show that childhood experiences, tendencies, challenges, etc. have powerful influences on the adult the child becomes. I’m neither a professional or scholar in psychology, but I have a decent grasp of many of these concepts. Comparing this story with my tendencies now, I can tell you I have always been drawn to extroverted women who are positively chirpy since I knew what one was like in Jackie as a girl. Some Vietnamese girls would have been like that, of course, but they would likely have been suppressed from being so in public by their the conservative and “proper” culture. Jackie was the first girl I knew who was like that, and I fell for her immediately. Her beautiful look with blond hair also helped, but that’s less about psychology.

Contrasting Jackie would be the likes of Chi, and Ms Hanh, both of whom I was attracted to for being elegantly quiet and confident, with a different kind of physical beauty in being Asian and with black hair. I’ve also been always attracted to women with those personae that is quite different from Jackie. Similar to Jackie, but in different circumstances, all I could do with Chi and Ms Hanh was simply to enjoy being around them. It’s something I’ve learned to make the most of, without sexual complications in the feelings I have for some women.

Some people take a long time in life before they figure out the tendencies, possibly nature, of their attractions. For me, it seems, some of the most fundamental answers were discernible by the age of eight!

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