There he is…second row, far right, yellow and green striped shirt with Ms. Uzman’s hand gently placed on his shoulder. How I would have LOVED to have had my hand on Eddie Ward’s shoulder. Eddie is the first boy I ever had a crush on (Oh, I’m the big one in the middle, the 8-yr-old who looks 13, all messy hair and big teeth.)
My 8-yr old daughter, Amelia, has had a crush on the same boy since first grade-Jay Tucci. I’ve told her about my crush on Eddie, how my heart used to beat really fast when I drove by his house, how I hoped beyond hope that he would be in his driveway. I would call his house in the hopes of him answering, and ended up hanging up on whoever did.
By 5th grade my heart had moved on to someone else, and by junior high Eddie was dating a much “purer” girl than I would have pictured him with (over dinner he revealed that she tried to “reform him.”) In our 7th grade yearbook, they won Cutest Couple and I won Best Personality. My world and Eddie’s had virtually no overlap and in the middle of 10th grade I moved away.
30 years later, enter facebook. Through a circuitous route, Eddie and I became fast “friends.” I had heard a bit about him through a mutual friend about 10 months ago, how he was divorced, a NY City Cop, and that his daughter went to BU. Soon after, he appeared on facebook. He quickly told me that he would soon be in Boston, driving his daughter back to school after break and we made plans to get together.
I just knew that it would be a wonderful and easy evening. Eddie’s absolute love and commitment to his daughter just beamed through our brief e-mails beforehand. When you have the joy of parenthood in common, that amazing equalizer, how can some time over dinner and drinks be anything but easy.
We ran into each other in the underground parking lot, both getting to the restaurant at the same time. It was just amazing, seeing this person as a grown man, big and easy smile, FANTASTIC Long Island accent that I have long since lost (except for a couple of choice words that Amelia still imitates every time she hears them.) Eddie’s lost his curls (well, all of his hair, actually). Hugs, locked arms. Pure amazement.
Dinner was casual, not rushed. We talked about our divorces, fortunately mine being much “easier” than his. Eddie’s wife, due to some circumstances, had left him utterly without self-esteem. The vulnerability was heartbreaking. He has been left to parent two grown children on his own, no doubt, rather brilliantly.
We talked about our work (I felt my very first gun, strapped secretly to his leg) and held a real police badge in my hands. I told him about my work and fearlessness in dealing with some rough kids over the years. My favorite and most astute question that has been asked of me in a long time was “How did you get so tough?” Our very different worlds and upbringing, have toughened us both in very different ways.
This will be the first of many meetings with Eddie Ward. We made some promises to each other about keeping the glass half full at all times and about him forging ahead and after three years, entering the world of middle-aged dating.
I always come back to the sheer joy that facebook has brought me. Some people in my life don’t understand this. They’d rather not be “found.” It’s circumstances like this, though, seeing the first boy who ever stole my heart, at 45, that really keeps that glass half (even 3/4) full.