In December of 1984, my father, wanting to avoid the holidays and also in the mood to get out of town, asked if we'd like to stay a few nights in the Wisconsin Dells. Though I was now a teenager, one of my favorite vacation memories is going to Storybook Gardens there; pictures exist of this trip to prove that the memory is not faux. Not only would the five of us kids go, so, too, would the first two children of a family friend. Named Heath and Heather, they were sure to make a Christmas spent in another state a bit more compelling than it would otherwise have been.
I told all my teachers the days I would be gone and they prepared me accordingly. My computer teacher had me take a test before leaving town; the rest of the class would take it while I was gone. He was exactly what you'd expect from a computer instructor in the mid-80's. Bald, except for around the ears, with glasses and a pocket protector, he made the primitive instruments he'd mastered look cool.
One afternoon, while teaching the language BASIC, he showed us how to write a short program which would allow us to write any sentence we wanted and then see it stream endlessly across the monitor. There was a somewhat nerdy girl that liked to talk to me during class's downtime. Though it made me feel a bit embarassed, it was cool to have the attention of one of the fairer sex.
As I took the test, Mr. Kolter, along with a good-looking student aid, watched to make sure there were no bugs. It all went extremely smoothly as I finished up and looked forward to some time off from 8th grade.
A couple days later, we were firmly ensconced at the Dells staying at a nice hotel and enjoying being together. Heather had had a bit of a crush on me for a number of years and it was during this time that we got closer than we ever had before. With minimal parental supervision, we embraced quite a number of times that week. Happily, my dad encouraged it, saying that perhaps we'd be together one day.
The rooms had a built-in radio placed just over the bed. As the two of us were about to leave the room to go to the swimming pool, I told Heather to hold her horses as one of my favorite new songs was on, "Jack Wagner's "All I Need" (he was also a actor on General Hospital). We smiled at each other as the words spoke to what we were both feeling. Another song that reminds me of that week is Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night".
This would be one of the last times that I would go swimming. Feeling self-conscious about my body (puberty will do that to you) and moving in with my mother seven months later, in which the opportunity to spend time at hotels would be much less frequent, all but put an end to my time in the pool.
One of my happiest memories, though, is sitting in the whirlpool with the others and looking outside through the two-story window. Just fifty feet away, there were pine trees and snow on the ground.
But inside, we were toasty warm and Stevie Wonder's "Love Light in Flight" was playing.
As inevitably happens with young love, me and Heather were at each other's throats a couple days later. We were able to make up by the time we made it back to Minnesota. I would be in the faith that we both shared for just a few more months. After that, she all but disappeared from my life. I heard sometime later that she would, most likely, marry me if I came back to "The Truth" (the Jehovah's Witnesses). Though she was a wonderful girl, that was just too high a price for me to pay.