If We are a Collection of Stories…

…I will try to make this one brief. You know, like a blog post.

Today, November ninth, 2021, is the fifty-third anniversary of Trisha’s sixteenth birthday. When I tell people who know me but don’t know Trish (other than what I say about her- nice things, and frequently- She is the person I most often quote- this means something) that I attended her sixteenth birthday party… “Um, what? Really?” “Yeah,” I usually add, “I was seventeen, so it wasn’t like, you know, that pervy.”

The only connections between this photo and whatever else I end up writing it that it is from about the same time period, late 1968 (or so), and that the father of one of the characters in my novel, Lee Anne Ransom, may or may not be a Black Panther. I googled “teens partying in the late 1960s” and nothing else really fit.

The problem I have with stories is keeping them simple. This is the problem with (not to get off the subject of Trisha’s birthday) my manuscript for “Swamis.” Too many stories.

Simple, simple, okay. So, I was at this party on a Saturday night at the house in Fallbrook that Trisha’s parents rented while Trisha’s father was in Vietnam. Trisha’s mom was playing bridge. Trisha’s older brother, Jim (back from Vietnam), was the theoretical chaperone for the event. He had a date with him and wouldn’t have wanted to seem uncool, so he wasn’t going to interfere with any teenage shenanigans that may or may not occur.

How I happened to be invited involves friends of Trish thinking friends of mine, specifically the real Phillip Harper, Ray Hicks, Dana Adler (as opposed to the fictional Phillip and Ray in “Swamis”- I won’t mention my manuscript again) would be great guests; but how to get them there? Oh, through me.

It wasn’t Trish who invited me. One of her friends. It was done over the telephone; something like: “So, you know this new girl, Trish Scott; it’s her birthday on Saturday… (cut out stuff here) …maybe, if you come, you could get ahold of a couple of your friends (see above).” “Sure… (gulp, giggle) …love to. I mean, like, I’ll see.”

Now, I had already met the thin, blonde, mysterious new girl with the Vidal Sassoon hairstyle (as opposed to the hair-sprayed-to-death poofed- up semi-beehive dos still fashionable in rural North San Diego County), and the monogramed sweaters and sophisticated East Coast clothes.

It wasn’t like Trish and I ‘met cute’ at another party (and it wasn’t like I attended many parties) in Janie Pollack’s family’s barn in Oceanside. I was, um, intoxicated (not all my fault), and I was rude and sarcastic when Trish went into the cleaned-out stall where Phillip (with his own date drama going on- Ray was in the hayloft with the sister of Phillip’s date) and I were smoking cigarettes and trying to look as cool as possible (easy for Phillip- I was only slightly recovered enough to actually look out of both eyes at once). Trish, because she had seen me pass her driveway taking one of my siblings to the Junior High, and I’m driving the exotic Morris Minor, very reasonably asked me where I lived.

Trish does remember my line. “In a house; on a street; in a town; with my parents.” She could have just left. I continued. “Debby Street. They were going to name it ‘Erwin Street’ but it was too controversial.”

Okay. My friends and I agreed I had blown that opportunity all to shit.

But, then, while I was pretty much stealing art supplies (I was a senior, fourth year of art, handed out supplies during my class), and Trish had an after lunch crafts class, and I came out just in time to see her walking into the classroom looking all classy and sophisticated and pretty and… well, I saw this as another opportunity. “Hey; where do you live?”

Trisha didn’t even stop walking. She turned her head toward me, gave me the coldest ‘drop dead’ expression. I should say the best-ever ‘drop dead’ expression.

That was a moment. The moment. This girl has passion.

And her passion was directed directly at me.

And then, because my fifth period class was almost directly across from the Art classroom, and because students seemed to gather at the doors before the bell, Trish and I exchanged enough looks that others noticed. And then Phillip said a girl in a class he had but I didn’t said, “that girl asked about you.” “Which girl?” “You know, that girl.”

Okay, okay; so I went to the party. If Ray and Phillip didn’t attend, Dana did. I may have brought a present. Some other dude thought he and Trish were, because he had tried to pick up on her at the Friday night after-football dance, and I didn’t go to dances because of my religion, kind of… together. Oh. He and I had a bit of repartee at the party. Somewhere in there I had to go to town to get cigarettes, invited Trish. My English touring car was actually a mess, with wet trunks and mildewed towels and discarded not-quite-empty chocolate milk containers and such in the backseat. And I’m digging around in the mess to find enough change to buy cigarettes. “You shouldn’t smoke,” Trish said. “I know. Oh, and, since you used to live in Oceanside and you used to surf, would you like to maybe go surfing with me… tomorrow?”

“Okay.”

Back at the party, I gave up on the repartee. I went home. I leaned on the counter in the kitchen, suffering, as I remember, my most serious bout of teenage angst. And doubt. Everyone else was asleep. But wait, Trish had agreed to go surfing. In the morning. It was like a date.

This is my “Happy Birthday, Trish” photo. I should look for some others.

I do believe I have told the story of the day after Trisha’s sixteenth birthday before. It ends with me saying something like, “So, maybe we should… kiss.” Trish agreed. We had to set up a sort of… procedure. “Okay. One, two, three…”

I do, occasionally, get a well-deserved ‘drop dead’ look from Trish. I still, if I’m waiting for her to come back into a room, or back home from somewhere else, hate the waiting. If she makes me anxious, I can still make her nervous. If she calls me on a job and I notice I had been thinking about her, it’s because I so often think about her. She is still the person I most often quote, the person I most hate to disappoint. We can still make each other laugh. We share years of stories.

Happy birthday, Trish. I love you. One, two, three…

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