May 5, 1997 Monday
As we sat before the dying fire, I suggested to Sidney that rarely in life do we experience something that, in the moment, we know we will cherish the rest of our lives. I have had an increasing number of these events happen to me in the last month, from that night game at Stark County as I looked out over the sky, to the very first time Sidney stayed after one of my games. Even as they were in progress I knew I would want to remember them forever. Last night was another one of these times. Also, before I continue, I must bring something up. Lately, I have been in the habit of bringing my latest journal volumes ro school, insecurely nestled within my notebook. This practice must end now. I have always committed myself to keeping an accurate log of my life, and I will continue to do so. However, considering the last week, it is obvious it must remain away. Still, the show must go on.
Yesterday afternoon we the Brimfield Athletic Banquet, in said town a few miles to the northeast, over flat, Illinois terrain. It as fun, but–naturally–the best part was the food. It was much better, actually, than what was served at the Elmwood Alumni Banquet, and best of all, no water this time no salt found its way into my water via Sidney. When the time came for the baseball team to be recognized, we were all called up and Coach Slapeck told something brief about each of us. I was called up first. Slapeck said I was a, “quiet leader who leads by example.” Then, perhaps because he had run out of athletic things to say about his pretty much non-athletic right fielder, he added we were neighbors, and his grass needed cut. I finally got a varsity letter, even if it is a big, red “B.” I’d like to say it was worth the wait, but it’s different from what I imagined. Instead of something I did, it is a reminder of my team with the team, and a reminder that hard work does have its rewards. The banquet was over by 3:00, and I went home to get ready for my trip to the farm with Sidney.
Why the farm? I had thought of this seeming problem for days, that being I could not think of a place where we could just be alone for a while. Not home, not anywhere in Elmwood or Peoria, any place, seemed up to it an afternoon away. Every option seemed like an encroachment. The openness of the farm at least remedied that.
She arrived at my house at 4:30, fashionable late as they say. Once arrived at the farm together, myself driving Dad’s car, we took a quick tour of the well-kept farm yard, and we went inside to watch a movie. I had rented two from the Farmington Day & Palin grocery store–Dumb and Dumber and also Phenomenon. Dumb and Dumber was chosen by Sidney. As fate would have it, this was also a day my Uncle Rich was there as well, to help Grandma and Grandpa Connors get ready to put in new carpeting (one more example of how things don’t go exactly as you planned them).
It may have not been a very private time, but some good did come of it. My seven-year old cousin Miles had come along with Rich, so Sidney got to meet my cousin/buddy. During the film we ate Cornish hen I had bought as well. By the time we were done eating the movie was nearing the end. Excusing myself, I hurried out into the hilly back woods behind the farm yard, with a secret bundle of wood and blankets. Miles tagged along, or rather sort of far behind me, wanting to be a part of whatever I was up to. So between setting everything up and giving him a piggy-back ride back to the house, it took a little longer than I had expected. To be more exact, it was an “I walk into the room and Sidney’s staring at me because the movie is over and the credits are playing” long time. I didn’t worry too much of this, because she would soon see what I had planned. I’m not sure, but between the matches, candles, water jugs, and stick for roasting marshmallows, she might have had and idea of what we were going to do.
The trek into the woods, after first passing through fence and small cattle field, took perhaps ten minutes. Soon, well into the woods, we came up a small outcropping of land between two eroded embankments. We sat before the fire I had made as the sun set, until its flame went out. During this time we talked about the newest letter I had written. A train whistle was heard periodically, as she said she would always think of our friend Hoke the rest of her life when she heard a train. The rest of the night, whenever we would hear a train we would say, “Hoke.” Actually, little else was said by then, as we watched the second blaze slowly go out as well. I had brought an old tape player as well, with a cassette that had on it an old Natalie Cole song, “Love Is Here To Stay,” and a long, live version of “Wonderful Tonight.” Afterwards, as we were looking at the stars, she began to look at me increasingly consistency. Another fire was made. Suspenseful, we gazed at each other, for what seemed the longest time. At one point she even offered, “Well, should we go?” Finally, after many minutes, I kissed her. I was slightly afraid to, this point of no return for this relationship’s slow evolution. But I also wanted to prolong the moment. It isn’t every day you’re about to kiss someone for the first time. Or have your first. Also, I considered just how I wanted to do it. In the end, I quietly asked Sidney, referencing the writings we had both shared and pushed each other to discover, “What is your journal going to say?” She replied, “I wished he would have done it again.” So I did.
It being late, I finally coaxed, “We better go.” She hugged me, and said she didn’t want to. That made me feel really good. Then, quietly, I put out the embers of the fire, and we headed for the car.