This boomer still remembers puppy love

We love old memories. Memories of baby boomers as kids. That’s what Portland, Oregon’s Salli Hollenzer writes about in this story about long ago puppy love.

In 1963, I developed a crush on a boy — discovering that even eight-year-olds can fall in love.

His name was Mark, and he caught my eye shortly after he moved into the neighborhood. Timorous, I’d walk twenty paces behind him to school. Later I’d watch him from my bedroom playing dodgeball in the street.

Mark seemed beyond my reach until one day when good luck, and a great idea, converged! Our dog “Huckleberry” had puppies. So, I pestered my older sister, Christie, into inviting Mark over. With a shrug, she agreed. When he arrived, with Christie leading the way, I recall his excitement … about the dogs:

“When were they born?” he asked. “When will their eyes open?”

“Few days,” Christie answered. I sat, mesmerized.

“May I come back?” Mark asked. Well, certainly!

Over the next few days, checking frequently, I finally detected peeping eyes. I couldn’t wait to tell Mark! But since Christie was sick, I couldn’t rely on her gutsy confidence. But ambling up the sidewalk to school, an idea came: A note! Later, sitting at my desk, I grabbed paper and, in my best penmanship, wrote, “Dear Mark, the puppies’ eyes are opening. Love, Salli.”

Finished, I slipped the paper in my pocket. Later, on the playground when I pulled it out, I was rudely interrupted:

“What’s that?”, a mean fourth-grade girl bellowed, snatching it.

“That’s mine!” Grabbing it, I darted.

“Salli’s got a love note!” she taunted, chasing me. Suddenly, the bell rang, summoning everyone inside. With no time to lose, I raced to Mark.

“Mark!” I wheezed, passing him the note. Task accomplished, I disappeared into the crowd, heading triumphantly back to class. The mean girl’s scoffing didn’t faze me as she passed by to her classroom — Mark’s room. Glancing up, I saw her waving the note. She had taken it from Mark! Within moments their teacher would ask what the ruckus was about.

All afternoon I nursed a gnawing pain in my stomach. Could Mark forgive me for this kerfuffle? Even if he came to see the puppies now, could I face him?

After school, I headed home. Although I was moving quickly, the mean girl reached me.

“Mr. Benson read your note to the class. ‘Come see my puppies. Their eyes are filled with love.’ You idiot!” Spewing insults, she whisked passed me.

What? I didn’t write that!” Grimacing, I hurried home.

Salli Hollenzer (left) today with her sister, Christie.

I never found out what really happened in their class; I was too embarrassed to ask. Mark had undoubtedly been mortified, which added to my chagrin. But he was gracious; he never looked at me again. I’d still watch him from my bedroom though, tracing his name on foggy windows.

Despite the sting, the moniker held pleasant association. Years later, as a new mother, holding my son, inspiration came: “Mark …. The perfect name!” And that’s the name I gave him. Though at the time I didn’t link my choice with my childhood fascination, later when I did, it tickled me.

Today, that baby is a man, and I must admit that my heart still patters faster whenever anyone hollers out, “Mark!

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