Endless Love Unfulfilled
I stopped dead in my tracks, jaw dropped, tummy distended, belly button sticking out. Ellen Mixon stood in her brand new pool, a beautiful, red vinyl, inflatable three–ring model. The pool was set in front of the sliding board connected to her swing set. An ingenious arrangement. And three rings? I had seen pools with one or two rings, but not three. Three rings meant 50% deeper water than two rings and a whopping 200% more than a one ringer.
Ellen's platinum blonde hair glistened in the late morning sun. Her mouth was circled with a fresh cherry Kool–Aid stain. In my mind she had it all, the looks, the three–ring pool and a mom who kept the Kool–Aid flowing. What was not to like about her?
"Hi Ronnie! Guess what?" Ellen asked
"Hi Ellen! What?" I asked as I jumped in.
"I'm gonna be this many in two days!" Ellen held up four fingers.
"I'm already four and a half," I lied. I had turned four only three months earlier. I had an image to maintain in order to keep that pesky Marky Watson from horning in on Ellen.
"Is it fun being four?" Ellen asked with a squeal.
"It's pretty fun." She was impressed. "Let's play!"
"O.K!" she answered with a splash.
Mrs. Mixon dragged us out of the pool after about two hours, dried us off and then put us in the car and drove us to McDonalds. We didn't wear seatbelts, as that was not the custom in those days. But smoking with the windows rolled up was still acceptable, so Mrs. Dixon lit up right away. Unfortunately, by the age of 9, I had a two pack–a–day, second–hand smoking habit. I regularly begged my smoking mom to take me for long drives.
At McDonalds, I gave Mrs. Mixon my fifty–cent piece and reminded her to give me back "all the change." The Happy Meal had not yet been invented and little kids actually ate fast food in those days. Stuffed after five bites of hamburger and eight French fries each, we threw our left over fries, one at a time to the birds in the parking lot. It was more exciting when a bird picked up one of my fries rather than one of Ellen's . Then it was time to go. It was getting late. Almost nap–time.
Mrs. Mixon lit up another cigarette and started the car. The drive home ended all too quickly. I wanted the day to last forever. But it couldn't , they seldom do or at least not very often. Back at Ellen's house, I told Mrs. Mixon "thank you," just as my mother had trained me.
Ellen looked at me and said, "Bye Ronnie. See you later alligator."
"Bye Ellen. After ‘while crocodile," I replied. She laughed. Ellen understood my sense of humor and I knew just how to tickle her funny bone.
Ellen and I spent many a day together as young children. Around the seventh grade we started drifting apart. Mom held me back that year and a couple more times before I finally got my G.E.D. Contrary to popular opinion, I never really failed any grades. In the business world, we would say that Mom just made a management decision.
The last time I saw Ellen was in 1979, when she went off to Ole Miss on a cheerleading scholarship. As I waved good bye, I think that she accidentally flipped me the bird. I opted to stay at home and pursue a food and beverage career at McDonalds. In 1987, Ellen finished her residency as a doctor. I think she works on livers. That was the same year that I was promoted to Assistant Crew Chief. I sent her an announcement card with a couple coupons for free Big Macs, but I never heard back from her. But I prefer to forget about the hard years and instead remember our salad days as I lay in this three–ring pool, that looks just like the one Ellen used to have thirty five years ago.
When Congress approves another minimum wage increase, I think I may just go get my liver checked out, by none other than Dr. Ellen Mixon. Wonder if she still drinks cherry Kool–Aid?
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