I was talking with a friend the other day about the different meanings of the word “love” and how they have have different connotations depending on the generation of the person using the word. Boomers (ahem) see the statement “I love you” between two people as being a romantic declaration with all its attendant implications. Not so Millenials, who see the sentence as roughly equivalent to “Love ya!” which may be said to most anyone the speaker is close to. I got to thinking about these differences and decided to write a short episode which will appear in On the Wings of Noontide (the sixth novel in the Beyond the Blue Horizon series, slated for publication in January, 2017). The writing is part of Chapter Two because Chapter One always begins with one of Otto’s dreams. Thanks to my wise and anonymous friend for pointing this out. I hadn’t noticed it. And anonymous friend, you know who you are. Thanks!
In June, 1964, Maria and Marion Kerchner are recent graduates of Pioneer Lake High School and headed for the University of Wisconsin at Madison, planning majors in art and business respectively. It’s a Friday evening the week after graduation, and Otto is sitting up in the kitchen waiting for his girls to come home. Maria is still out with her steady beau, Tom Rogers, while Marion’s boyfriend Carlton Button, a varsity baseball player for the high school, escorts her to the door. It’s a cool evening, so Otto has the door open with the screen door between him and the young couple. He can hear every word they say.
Otto had just finished his third cup of coffee when he heard someone coming up the walk. No, make that two someones, he thought. It’s either Marion or Maria. Kerchner, you’re a deductive genius. Of course, it could be someone else. I never know who’s going to show up or what’s going to happen. He thought back to his adventures in the Amazon jungle a few years ago. He shuddered and it wasn’t just from the cool air. He never wanted to go through anything like that again.
He heard steps approaching the door and then wondered if he should go into the living room. He decided it was a father’s duty to know what his daughter was doing so he stayed put. He liked this Button boy, but he had been his age once and he knew what could happen.
The steps slowed and then stopped. He heard Marion’s voice distinctly, Carlton’s less so because it was lower pitched. “I had a lovely time, Carlton,” Marion said in the particular tone of voice that young women use with young men they are trying to impress.
“I did, too, Marion. Gosh, you’re so pretty and smell so nice. And your dress is beautiful.”
Pour it on thick, Otto thought. Any thicker and I’m coming out there to break up Romeo and Juliet.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
“You bet. You’ll pick me up at 2 for the picnic?”
“I’ll be right on time.”
“You always are. You’re so wonderful.”
I may be sick right here, Otto thought. Remember they’re young, Kerchner. You were probably worse than this.
“Marion, may I tell you something?”
“I love you.”
A brief pause ensued.
“And I love you, Carlton.”
Silence again, and Otto knew they were kissing. Whoa, this was a whole new ball game, he thought, and he wasn’t thinking about baseball. Neither was young Carlton. He would have a word with little Miss Marion.
She came into the kitchen, closing the big wooden door behind her. “Daddy! Have you been sitting there all the time?”
Otto nodded grimly.
“So you heard everything we said?”
“Yes, I did. Sit down, Marion.”
She sat, looking like a cornered animal.
“What’s this business about ‘I love you’ and “I love you too, Carlton’?”
“That’s how we feel about each other.”
“You’re too young to be saying such things.”
“How old were you when you dated Mom?”
“That’s immaterial. Things were different then. Boys were different.”
“From what I’ve heard, you were about the same. And what are you doing eavesdropping on my private conversations?”
“This is my house, Marion, and I’ll damn well sit where I want and listen to what I want and do what I want. You’re grounded for the rest of the weekend to give you time to think about what you’re saying and doing.”
“Daddy! That’s not fair!”
“Life’s not fair, Marion. Surely you know that by now.”
She burst into tears and slammed her purse down on the table. “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!” and ran down the hall to her room.
A few seconds later, Betty emerged from their bedroom, wiping sleep from her eyes. “What in the world is going on?”
Otto stood and rinsed his coffee cup out in the sink. “Nothing. Just a little father-daughter chat.”
“Sounded like a big father-daughter argument to me.”
Otto shrugged. “Call it what you will. We’ll talk about it more in the morning. By the way, you’ll have the services of Miss Marion the rest of the weekend. I grounded her.”
“For what? She’s such a good child.”
“I’ll tell you in the morning.”
“You’ll tell me now, mister, or I’ll ask her.”
“All right, all right. She told the Button boy she loved him.”
“Isn’t she too young for that sort of thing?”
Betty sighed. “Otto Kerchner, you’ve been around women all your life. To think you don’t understand them any better is simply amazing to me. Don’t you know a girl that age doesn’t know what she’s talking about, really? She couldn’t. Understanding love takes years of living, give and take, going through good times and bad, staying together and upholding each other no matter what. Of course she doesn’t understand love.”
“I’m just trying to protect her.”
“You know we can’t protect them, no matter how hard we try and how much we want to. Enough has happened to this family that you should know that. I’ll chalk this up to crazy father thinking and we’ll talk more about Marion’s punishment later. But now, to bed.”
Otto sighed. He had run afoul of one of the women in his life again. When would he learn? He simply didn’t know.