Hearing what L.M. had written changed me

Hearing what L.M. had written changed me
Instead of W-A-S-H M-E, someone etched T-O-N-Y on the dirty trunk of a maroon Monte Carlo ahead of me at the corner of 72nd and Dodge in Omaha.

T-O-N-Y probably was the boyfriend of the young woman behind the steering wheel.

Did she write Tony's name on the back of her car. Or did Tony write it? Was she in love with Tony? Was Tony in love with her? Was this his way of telling her?

Seeing this brought back memories of a heart carved on a pine in Lakewood, N.Y. It had an arrow piercing through it with the initials L.M + P.B inside. I was 13-year-old P.B. L.M. was 15.

T-O-N-Y reminded me of the day I learned that L.M. had peeled away tree bark and carved our initials on the trunk's bare wood.

L.M. didn't tell me what he had done. No. The news traveled through the band of 35 neighborhood kids like a swarm of bees droning in slow rhythmic unison toward me. I was the last to find out.

I felt giddy when word reached me.

Hearing what L.M. had written changed me as it did the others. Until then, we saw each other as a unisex group of left fielders, right fielders, pitchers and short stops.

We spent most of our time together competing on the baseball diamond or going head-to-head in touch football, badminton and basketball.

Our collective relationship aligned according to athletic skill-sets ? nothing more or less.

But the day L.M. + P.B. appeared on that pine, I entered ? we entered ? a new place, not knowing where that was or what it meant.

The carved heart had a kind of power over me. It was not so much the potency of a romantic love as the power of a belonging love.

2007� Copyright Paula Damon

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail pauladamon@iw.net.

� 2007 Paula Damon

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