I had just gotten my first pair of roller skates.

They were hand-me down high ankle skates for figure skating, not the cool racing ones, but I didn’t care because they weren’t those weird rental skates possessed by the ghost of the last kid who wore them the previous weekend. They were mine. It was a Friday night and my mom had let me graduate from Saturday matinee skating to roll with the big kids – fifth and sixth graders.

The skating rink is where I made my first foray into the wider world -and what a world it was! There were flashing lights, rock music, disco music, bell bottoms, and girls. Not girl next door girls. They went to exotic elementary schools where I swear, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they drove their own Camaros to the skating rink. To me, they all looked like Kristy McNichol or Jan Brady or that girl from Bad News Bears. They flew past me on eight wheels, glitter encrusted with their feathered hair fluttering in the wind, the intoxicating scent of Love’s Baby Soft mixed with the festival aroma of popcorn made the air inside the Skate-A-Way crackle with excitement. I was as dizzy as a wide-eyed bumpkin in Studio 54.

Though all the boys looked like they should be on the cover of Teen Beat or pinned on my little sister’s bedroom wall, I had something none of them had. I was the new kid on the block, and nothing stirs the competitive juices of fifth grade girls like a new boy. I didn’t even know I was holding this golden ticket, but it got me my first, second and third kiss, all on the same Friday night when I was in fourth grade. Cindy, Jackie, and Jenny, who were all friends and a grade older than me, told me one night in June that I had to pick the one I liked best. This apparently would require me to also exchange leather name bracelets acquired at Kings Island or the County Fair to indicate exclusivity of relationship. It would begin in the fall. Summer was upon us and girls from that side of town apparently went to camps and on vacations, so I had to decide who was going to “go with” in September when they would return to the Skate-A-Way like swallows coming home to Capistrano.

I couldn’t have been more surprised, or ecstatic at my predicament.

I needed to get a leather bracelet.

I learned of my situation and of my leather bracelet dilemma as I stood with the trio in front of the skating rink waiting for our parents to pick us up. It was 10 PM…the wee hours of the morning.  As a new ‘country squire’ station wagon with faux wood contact paper tastefully decorating the doors pulled up, Jackie decided she would tip the scales in her favor by surprising me with a hug and promises for September and a forceful kiss that stunned me into a shocked silence as she jumped into the station wagon. That was my first kiss? I was totally caught off guard. I don’t really recall any emotion other than surprise. Cindy repeated Jackie’s performance, though it was less practiced and somewhat rushed as her mom honked the horn to hurry her from the parking lot. It was Jenny’s kiss that was most memorable. It was soft and included a lingering gaze and a promise that she’d see me at the swimming pool in the park by July. I was in love. I knew it. Captain and Tenille wrote that song for me and Jenny. Love would keep us together. It hurt to hear it, but it gave me strength that summer.

My summer was indeed a lonely one at the skating rink.

I didn’t see the girls there the rest of the summer, nor did they return in the fall. Maybe they had outgrown skating. Love didn’t keep us together…nothing did. To my deep chagrin, I didn’t see any of them again until Junior High School by which time I was no longer the new kid in town and my beautiful skating rink princesses were now the queens of a much larger realm, already dreaming about boys with four wheels instead of eight.