Second grade. Mrs. Mim’s class. It was a time of innocence and playfulness. We were kids who knew nothing of the gas shortage or the real world. The nation had not yet tasted inflation, political correctness hadn’t been invented and computers were the size of an office building. It was 1978; I was seven years old, and the friendships I forged then would last forever.
Little did I know.
It is said that the people we meet early in life make an impression on us that lasts a lifetime. The guy beside me who always reminded me of Mork from Ork; nanu-nanu. The cute girl behind me with long brown hair, green eyes and a face as sweet as honey. The aging teacher who pointed at things on the blackboard with her middle finger while we all giggled like she’d said a four-letter word.
Mrs. Mim’s class took a field trip to Kabuto Japanese Steakhouse. It was one of those places where they cooked hibachi-style on the table right in front of you. For a second-grader from the sticks, that was pretty amazing. Fire and knives and food flying everywhere, hot tea served in little cups with Japanese writing, waitresses wearing silk kimonos and nodding at you with every syllable.
We weren’t in Mayberry any more and we knew it.
I remember we made our own kimonos with light blue sashes. I remember the escalator we took inside the mall. I remember my classmates laughing and having fun and posing for a few class photos, all of us with wonderful bowl haircuts and comatose expressions. I also remember puking all over myself because I was sick that day (which was the reason I avoided Japanese food for at least another fifteen years.)
Now, thirty years later, at the seasoned age of thirty-seven, and after two failed marriages and a virtual lifetime of triumphs and mistakes, I found myself eating at Kabuto Japanese Steakhouse once again, recalling that trip in Mrs. Mim’s class. It was a different location than the restaurant we ate at so many years ago (I think that one is a Starbucks now), but it felt the same as before.
Fire and knives and food flying everywhere. Hibachi-style cooking on the table in front of you. Oriental music piping through the loudspeakers.
Although the memories that flooded me evoked a sense of familiarity, some things were different this time. The waitresses weren’t wearing kimonos. I didn’t have the hot tea in the little cups. And I also didn’t throw up.
But you want to know what the biggest change at Kabuto’s was? Remember that cute little girl with the long brown hair and mesmerizing green eyes that always sat behind me? Well this time, she was sitting beside me, holding my hand and giggling in my ear like a little schoolgirl.
People, I’m in love with a girl I’ve had a crush on for thirty years. Ain’t life grand?