May 5, 2019
It’s prom night. We wait for a table in a restaurant behind a gaggle of teenagers in chiffon dresses and rented tuxedos. They are excited to be one night away from freedom.
Yet they cleave to each other, holding close the partner with whom they shared the mysteries of young love.
A song comes to mind by Nat “King” Cole: They tried to tell us we’re too young, too young to really be in love.
As a parent I tried to give that message to my children, to spare them the pain.
Don’t get carried away with your first love, I said. They will come and go.
But in my heart, I was holding something back.
The secret was that no matter how long a relationship lasts or how much comfort companions give each other over the years, hidden away — in all of us — is the tiny ember of our first love.
Waiting to be rekindled, if only for an instant, by a song, a picture, or a scent that transports us back to the first person who made all things right with the world.
The sad part is that the memory is often of the last moment you shared. You didn’t realize the depth of your feelings until it was too late. Bags were packed for faraway colleges. Only later, when a boy’s letter was never answered or a girl’s phone never rang, did the realization set in.
I remember my prom a half century ago, which is why I know that every young person will take with them memories, cloistered in the recesses of their mind, to be brought back in decades to come.
And when it happens, like me, they will reach out to find a friend who was there. Someone who can confirm that it all actually happened and was not just a dream.
The older I get the less I understand about love. But, for me, time proves one immutable truth. Though young love will never supplant the gratification and fulfillment of long term relationships, its memories are the most vivid of all. The power of those feelings stays with us forever.
So, in the end, Nat “King” Cole was right. We were not too young to know that our love would last though years might go, and some day we would recall … we were not too young at all.