“and upon this rock, I will build my church”
I am president of the freshman class. Eisenhower is President of the United States. In the spring, Eisenhower tells the nation of a “domino theory,” and in the Senate, Joseph McCarthy warns of being “soft” on communism. Whether or not I know of this news, I know that I am a young man who does not want to be soft.
My cousin, Bob, is the boy in the family who most fills-out the rock-hard mold cast by my father. Bob is one year ahead of me in school, an extraordinary football player. I’m still the kid who dreads going to gym class because taking showers reveals my boy body, still soft in parts, still the soft blond hair under my clothes instead of the black and wiry. The boys would call me “Fuzzy Wuzzy,” a gentle teasing, but it cut deep.
I come home from school one day and cross paths with my mom returning home from a card game, bridge, with friends. She asks me about being class president. She says, “Why didn’t you tell me, Glenny?” I don’t have an explanation. But somewhere inside I know that class president isn’t the same as football captain.
I don’t have strong memories of the summer of 1954 at Camp. I will share a memory from younger years:
Dad and the counselors would pack us into the Camp trucks for day-trips around New England. We took a trip once to Benson’s Wild Animal Farm in New Hampshire. There was a gorilla. Debbie is how I remember her name. She sat in her cage surrounded by gawking children who were fascinated by the resemblance and the difference. I remember how she peed on the ground, a giant puddle, got down, pursed her lips and sucked up a great mouthful. It was hot summer in the monkeyhouse. The children in front of me scattered as the urine squirted from her mouth and showered the people closest to her cage.
That fall I maintain my attraction for Nita, the brown skinned Catholic girl with the last name starting with “F.” My friends and I start to call her “Fudgsicle.” We say this behind her back. The color of her skin, our desire to taste her, and the rumors that we hear about how cold, actually, she becomes once you get her on a date. I flirt with her still, and she with me. I do my best to cross paths with her and other girls in the crowded hallways, soft breasts hard under bras, their soft flesh swelling my flesh hard.
Hardness. That fall in school I am proud of the work I do in the school woodshop. It is men’s work with metal tools and hard wood. The work reminds me of the leather work and other tasks with tools at Camp in my younger years. In class, before Christmas, I make a cobbler’s bench. It has almost an hourglass shape, soft curves, hard wood, auburn stain, sturdy legs. It will be a Christmas gift for my mother and sit in her living room for decades and decades until she dies. Some years after that, as sturdy as the day I brought it home to mother, I will give it to one of my sons for his living room.
My woodshop teacher praised my skill. In softer successes, I was again elected president of the class. Again, I didn’t tell my parents.