Who Is Marcia Jenkins?
Most of us have a first love.
For some it ends bittersweet.
Others end badly.
Some shrug it off and move on.
For a few, there is a lifelong romance.
For most of my adult life I have always been a bit jealous of Charlie Micchelli. He married his high school sweetheart, Patricia Guider.
Their marriage has endured and they seem happy.
My high school romance is a story of a three years pursuit, five-months of happiness and a bad ending.
I bring this into my chronicle because this tale also reveals the importance of ethnics in our generation.
My first day of class at East Side High School began in Mr. Schlosser’s math class.
I sat behind this girl with gold white hair.
She had a pony tale and for no reason I yanked it.
Crying in pain, she turned around and looked at me.
I was smitten and remained so for all my high school years.
Marcia Jenkins was English, Irish with pale skin and what was described to me by my arch rival for her affections as a Botticellian body.
In retrospect, I believe she was a shy, conflicted girl made so by a mother who I can only describe as an ogre.
Her father left them when Marcia was quite young leaving a bitter wife behind.
Blissfully ignorant of all this, I clumsily sought her affection through our sophomore and junior years.
The reader will not be bored with these misadventures but suffice to say there were many failed attempts.
Marcia sought companionship outside of our high school environs and was involved in organizations that brought her in contact with students from other schools.
One such individual was a boy named Jefferson Davis, yes that is his real name.
During our high school, Jeff and I were unmet competitors for Marcia’s affection.
By the end of our junior year, Marcia and I had reached some sort of accommodation.
She ignored me and I pursued her.
One thing happened to change her mind about me.
In junior year, I did very well on the SATs, in fact so good I had a real shot at college.
At this point, I should tell the reader that I was an indifferent student.
It wasn’t until years later a psychologist put the finger on why.
Once I see how something is done, I get bored.
For an Italian-American of my generation there were few outlets for someone like me to display this talent.
We were taught to learn something and then keep doing it well.
Not for me this approach.
Suffice to say this approach did not please my teachers.
But when our scores were announced, this changed Marcia’s opinion of me.
She actually deigned to talk to me and even ask for my help in history.
This subject was always my strong suite and if life had been different I would be teaching history in some little college.
The real breakthrough came when we were taken to the Metropolitan Opera to see Don Giovanni by Mozart.
It is the little things in life that make incidents memorable.
By chance, we had adjoining seats and as the opera proceeded she somehow indicated we should lock arms.
In those days locking arms or putting an arm around a girl was a big step.
We stayed that way through the second act with my arm getting numb but my not wanting to pull it away.
Again, I point to Pat Cooper and his wonderful depiction of his date with an Italian-American girl to understand my action.
At intermission she turned to the girl next to her and they went off to the ladies room.
I sat there dumbfounded and totally out of my mind.
She returned just as the lights were dimmed and sat down again.
Still in awe of what happened in the previous act I sat there saying and doing nothing.
She took my arm and put it under hers and we saw the next two acts in this manner.
Each time she went off, came back and we resumed our interlocked positions.
The reader may assume that this was the start of our romance.
Well it wasn’t. On the bus ride home she sat with the other girls.
Again, how different our world was. The boys sat in front in a cluster and the girls talked in the back.
The next day at school and for the rest of the year, she ignored me.
During the summer I happen to be at the Newark Museum and saw her with a boy (Jeff Davis) and my heart sank.
I started looking at other girls and had several flirtations that took up the fall months until our Prom loomed for December 18th.
Yes, I still remember the date. I bet many readers can also call up the date of their high school prom.
Summoning up great courage, I asked Marcia but she said she already had a date.
It crushed me and I ignored her until the spring.
I once read in Reader’s Digest a great quote: “spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to what girls have been thinking about all winter.”
As graduation approached we all started to look ahead and beyond high school
One day, Charlie Michellie, two other boys and I were staying after school for some reason I have long since forgotten.
We were laughing in the halls when Marcia walked by.
Charlie nudged me and said to walk her outside.
I took up the unspoken challenge and joined her.
She looked at me and said nothing but her manner indicated acceptance of my companionship.
As we walked outside the sun was glistening off the yellow flowers blossoming on the bushes in the nearby park after a rain shower.
The scene was so beautiful and remains in my mind’s eye to this day.
Pointing out the vista, I told her how beautiful the scene was.
She looked at me as if I had just met her.
“You really think so?”
“Oh, sure,” I replied not knowing what to say.
We continued talking about what I do not remember but somehow I walked her home.
From that moment, we walked to her house everyday for the rest of the term.
I also got up early and walked to her house so we could go to school together.
Our romance blossomed and I was never happier in my young life.
The only memories I have of my last high school term revolved around her.
I also remember in the beginning I would meet her down the street.
As she explained: “My mother doesn’t allow me to date Italian boys.”
Because my mother insisted I go to the door, she relented as our relationship deepened.
But each time I did her mother would say in a loud voice behind the closed door to their apartment: “That Italian boy is here.”
That her mother was unhappy with me was made clearer by the only cloud in our relationship.
My unseen competition was Jeff Davis.
As Marcia explained to me more than once, Jeff Davis was acceptable but I was not.
While we were together, she had to go out with him to keep her mother happy.
Every time she did was an agony for me.
When graduation approached I tried to make plans to celebrate together until she said her mother would not allow it.
Graduation night saw us separated.
I ignored her comments until one day when I went to pick her up Marcia was standing at the door with the things I had given her.
“My mother says I can’t see you again,” she said simply.
That was the end of our romance.
People then were really into the ethnic identity. Her mother thought she was better than the neighborhood she lived in, especially the Italian-Americans.
Over the years, I have heard similar tales from other men so I was not alone in having such an experience.
The summer that started out so brightly turned very sour for me.
I often drove passed her house just to try to get a glimpse of her.
I never did and the ache faded as it often does with time.
But the warm glow of that first romance has never dimmed.
After college, I went to work for the Newark News as a reporter.
One night, I went to pick up my mother at an event at the old Symphony Hall in Newark. I was the night reporter and dressed for going to police stations, not the symphony.
As I made my way through the crowd, I heard Marcia calling me.
She was dressed beautifully and had Jeff Davis in tow.
He greeted me and when he learned I worked for the Newark News said he did too.
“I’m in advertising,” he said.
They were obviously a couple and my heart still skipped a beat.
My mother joined us and we talked of inconsequential things before parting.
That was the last time I saw her.
Months later I ran into Jeff at the Newark News.
He took classified ads for the newspaper as he worked his way through graduate school.
We spoke briefly and he went out of my life along with Marcia.
I often wonder what happened to Marcia.
Being proud to be an Italian-American I have hated her mother my whole life.
For what she did to her daughter and for how she felt about my heritage.
Our generation made the transition most young Italian-Americans today don’t realized needed to be made.
Part of my price was the end of a wonderful romance.
My high school classmates and I have lost touch with Marcia Jenkins.
On occasion, I wonder where she is and how life has treated her.