Today’s blog goes out to a girl named Heidi Downing. I don’t know where she is, I don’t know if she’s married, or has kids, or if she is even still with us, but Heidi was the first girl who ever thought I was cool enough to like. Almond-eyed and cute in that effortlessly English sort of way, she sat right behind me in Miss Scrivener’s 3rd Form class (the equivalent of fifth grade) at the Dollis School in London, where I spent the years 1977 and 1978.
When I started my first day of school in London, I was already pissed off: it was June, and Americans had been on summer break for a month, but there were still six weeks of the school year left in London. The curious habits, dress code, and indecipherable accents of my class had me mute for weeks. But gradually my Americanhood, and subsequent coolness, won out, and for the first time in my life, I was considered cute, popular and funny. It was all to end disastrously as we were shipped back to Iowa two years later (and I got the shit beat out of me again) but for those English school years, I was in heaven.
Heidi teased me relentlessly, sprayed me with paper-mach, gossiped, spoke rudely of her parents and her idiotic girlfriends, and made me feel like I was the coolest guy in Mill Hill. Together with my best buddy Adam Regis, we were truly as inseparable as Harry, Hermione and Ron – and I developed a deep, soulful love for the girl. It was the kind of affection that was effortless and obvious, it was one I never even worried about. I looked forward to school on Sunday nights. I remember one kid taunting me saying, “You like Heidi, don’t you?” and my immediate reaction was “Of course I do, you twit.” This kid’s comment, coming from some other era where I “wasn’t supposed to like girls” seemed so… un-evolved to me.
The problem with trying to find girls you’ve known is that their names tend to change. The whole sexist surname-changing thing makes Google an ineffectual tool to find half of your old friends. I can only hope that Heidi is out there somewhere, perhaps searching for her own name, finding this site, and understanding this: that she taught me so much about relaxing, that she made my 10-year-old body understand the idea of a non-traumatic love, and that she was the first person who made it possible to be with the incredible woman I find myself with today:
with Tessa at Prospect Park this afternoon we were screwing around, and it wasn’t supposed to look like a Christmas card, but…