Blaine Strickland. Even now writing his name makes me smile! I was in first grade at Douglas Valley Elementary and I fell in love with this beautiful boy who sat 2 desks away from me. His smile was the best smile I had ever seen and his eyes twinkled when he looked at anybody. Blaine wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat almost every day to school. Even then Blaine must have known he was special. Maybe his mother started telling him at a young age that he was going to slay all the girls. I must have been one of the first girls he slayed – even though he never knew it.
Too bad Blaine Strickland didn’t have a clue who I was. I mean come to think of it why should he? I was probably the quietest girl in class. I was scared half to death of doing something wrong and I followed rules so I wouldn’t get in trouble. Why would anybody notice me when the teacher never even called my name? Blaine on the other hand was the most popular guy in our 1st grade class. I don’t even remember any other guy in that class so he must have been the most popular!
My first chance to get Blaine to notice me happened around Thanksgiving. It was time to prepare for our Thanksgiving play for our parents. Our teacher, Ms. Carroll, decided who was going to have the star roles (Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, etc.) and who were going to be Indians and who were going to be Pilgrims. Needless to say, I was not chosen to be Pocahontas (maybe because I was blond?) and I was not chosen to have a speaking role at all. More than half the class had a speaking part of some kind, but not me and not Blaine either!
Blaine and I (and I’m sure others but I don’t remember) were chosen to be part of the sound effects crew. That’s not what our teacher called us but that’s what it was. Whatever it was that Ms. Carroll called us, I was finally paired up with Blaine Strickland so I didn’t care if I didn’t speak at all. I could only hope that Blaine felt the same way.
Ms. Carroll explained to Blaine and me that since we were taping the play on audio tape, at some point during the play there had to be a sound of people walking quickly (where I don’t know) but there had to be sound of people walking and “sounding determined” while we walked. My teacher looked only at me and said, “Do you know what I mean by the word determined, Caroline?” I looked at my teacher wondering why she wanted to embarrass me in front of Blaine. I wanted to say “Of course I know what determined means Ms. Carroll, I’m not stupid!” but I only said meekly “Yes”. Ms. Carroll smiled and said, “Ok, then…good.” She began speaking again and Blaine interrupted and said, “Uhh…I don’t know what that means.” Ms. Carroll looked at Blaine and smiled so sweetly to him and said, “Blaine, you just walk like you always do and you’ll be fine.” Ms. Carroll obviously loved Blaine too, but she was too old for him so I wasn’t to upset.
Well, now I knew why Blaine was chosen to walk determinedly, he just had to walk like he always did. Me – I don’t have a clue. I can’t imagine Ms. Carroll thought I walked determinedly anywhere. I mean, I know I never wore boots to school unless they were those rubber boots that I had to wear over my regular shoes when I walked to school in the snow. Ms. Carroll must have had nowhere else to put me (I could practically hear her thinking out loud “Now what do I do with Caroline?”). None the less, I just wanted to do my best to walk as determinedly as I could – not for my parents or anybody else, but for Blaine!
I had practiced and practiced walking determinedly for two days. One time my twin sister, Cathy, caught me practicing in our room and said “Why are you walking that way Caroline – you look stupid!” I looked at her and could have kicked her but I knew if I started something with Cathy – she would win – she always did. So I just stuck out my tongue at her and walked determinedly and as loud as I could out of the room.
The day of the audio taping came and I wore the loudest shoes I could find in my closet. (“No tap shoes Caroline!” Ms. Carroll had told me. “Tap shoes – I don’t tap,” I thought but didn’t say. Why was she always on me – this is just a play!) There was nothing I was going to do to mess up my big moment with Blaine Strickland. If walking determinedly with Blaine was how I was going to get him to like me, I was all in. We stood together and when time came for us to begin our walk, I briefly thought that if I messed up we could do it again and then I’d be able to stand next to Blaine a little longer. I couldn’t believe I had that thought, where did that come from? Was this what it was like to get a boy to notice you – do something you wouldn’t normally do? Anyway – I didn’t do anything that devious.
As I was saying…We stood together and when time came for us to begin our determined walk, Blaine grabbed my arm. I froze as this part was not planned. Ms Carroll did not tell Blaine to grab my arm and then walk determinedly, she just said walk determinedly. I could barely think and truly thought I was going to faint. Blaine was holding my arm and smiling and practically dragging me across the room as we walked. But, I pulled it together and we walked determinedly and loudly across the room so the audio tape would pick up the sound. Blaine looked at me, smiled and that day for sure, was the first great day of my life.
Authors note: When I was in my early 30’s I was walking across the stage at an event I was at to get an award I had won in Toastmasters. The person who gave me the award knew me well and he later said to me that I always walked so “confident and determined” when I walked on the stage! I couldn’t believe he used that word, I told him I had my first grade teacher, Ms. Carroll, to thank for that but truthfully it was Blaine Strickland.