View from the Hill

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY PAUL PENNER
St. Valentine?s Day reminds me of cartoons. I was saddened when I learned of Charles Schultz?s retirement and that the ?Peanuts? cartoon strip would no longer be drawn.

My children grew up with the ?Peanuts? gang, and in many ways so did I. So I dedicate this column to Schultz and all the ?Peanuts? characters. May you live on forever in our memories.

* * *

Reminiscing is fun, especially when I think about my own ?Charlie Brown? years. I often compare my early life with that cartoon character. We seemed to have similar experiences, at least from a social standpoint.

For instance, poor Chuck had a crush on the little red-head girl. The one who caught my attention was a brown-haired girl.

When I was in the third grade, our family moved into a small community in western Oklahoma. On the first day of school, the teacher took me to a seat next to the brown-haired girl.

Our desk was in the center of the room, which had the fourth grade on one side and the third grade on the other. The dividing line split our desk in half.

I was terrified that I would be noticed, so I covered my face with my hands and sat very still. I rarely uttered a word for several days. The truth is, I could not speak to the brown-haired girl?I was afraid of her. She was a year older, and much bigger than me.

Two years later, in the fifth grade, the brown-haired girl shared my classroom just like before. We did not sit at the same desk this time?but I was not afraid of her anymore. In fact, I began to like her.

Charlie Brown once made the statement ?I wonder if the red-haired girl even knows I exist.? I wondered if the brown-haired girl ever knew I existed. I didn?t have to wait long to find out.

Our school was decorated by the students for the Christmas holidays with the usual fare?trees, angel hair, many lights and trinkets. Holly was hung on the walls and mistletoe fastened above the doors of the classrooms.

When the decorating was completed, our class had a party to celebrate. We ate chocolate candy, apples, nuts and caramel candy.

Then I noticed a disturbance in the hallway and moved to the door to check it out. As I turned, someone came from behind me and planted a wet kiss on my cheek. It was the brown-haired girl!

As she ran away, she smiled and said ?You were under the mistletoe and you know what happens if you get caught.?

My first reaction was ?Eeeww!? My face turned beet red as I wiped my cheek with the sleeve of my shirt. I hoped the other guys didn?t see what happened.

Then I realized what had happen. The brown-haired girl kissed me!

OK, I admit it wasn’t a real kiss?you know, the kind of kiss when two people are welded together in a facial embrace. It was more like a drive-by shooting, or a walk-by pecking. She was the daring cheek kisser and I was just a cheek kissee.

The Kiss was not a momentous occasion…from her perspective, maybe.

I don?t remember anything about the rest of the school year. As far as I know, nothing else was worth remembering. Maybe I was walking on air like Charlie Brown, floating in space?enraptured with the knowledge that she noticed me.

Sixth grade was a year of adjustment for me. The brown-haired girl advanced to another classroom. I thought I adjusted well?except for two minor incidents in the principal?s office and memories of a painful spot on my backside.

My errant behavior was allegedly due to an undesirable grade and some fight over grape soda. But the real cause may have been due to separation anxiety.

In the seventh grade, I once again shared the classroom with the brown-haired girl. But something else had changed during our year long separation. She looked like a high school girl?and she attracted the attention of older guys. She was the most popular student in junior high and high school combined. Or so it seemed.

Life was never the same?for the boys in the class.

In the eighth grade, I made good grades and was on friendly terms with the principal. I also met this intelligent, blonde-haired girl, played basketball and baseball, was in a play and had a great time in school.

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