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Loves of Christmas Past: Classmates.com-Resurrection and Romance
Last summer I posted a Toronto Memory Archive story for the Live in Culture project chronicling my story of synchronicity and the Eaton Centre. The day I was just 17 years old (barely legal), a 20-year-old security officer at a famous retail landmark caught my eye, even though we had never spoken and I was definitely a distant admirer of the shoppers. somehow brought him back into my life ten years later. With the holidays coming up, it got me thinking about the spirit of love from Christmases past. My girlfriend and I were lamenting our lost youth when we came across an episode of DeGrassi: The Next Generation because we remember the original series from 1986 when it was current! My point is that we were hooked on adult-centric love plots of Spike and Snake/Joey and Caitlin who were at DeGrassi Junior High and later DeGrassi High before the series ended in 1992. Minors never mind! We want the grown-up ‘Jaitlin’ to have a happy ending!
There’s something bittersweet about watching old footage of teenagers “Spake” and “Jaitlin” with their ’80s-style outfits, fresh faces and teenage mentality. Hard to believe that was half a lifetime ago when you count the years since then. When I realize what the trends used to look like and hopefully there will NOT be a revival of the series with them as grandparents in another decade! I saw a rerun of the old series with Joey walking down the hallway of DeGrassi High in his bright neon 80s dress and fedora hat and my realization that it was 20 years ago triggered a sudden mid-life crisis. No wonder classmates.com has become a very popular dating site!
What prompted this article? A few months ago I read about a study on first love reunions after many years apart. Surprise…. The person who knew you often captures your heart again. Scientists say it’s because of imprinting, and that first love leaves a template for the rest. Dr. Classmates.com relationship expert Nancy Kalish confirms that if you do decide to contact your first love, it’s best to be single and available. The strong feelings evoked are because love never ended, it was suspended, interrupted, and now circumstances allow it to regain its strong position in the human heart. First love encounters are the emotional equivalent of a Pandora’s box of intense love, like a volcanic eruption after years of feelings frozen in suspended animation. So if you’re feeling like a lifelong member of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band this Christmas… take a Sentimental Journey where you might just see your first love in all the old familiar places… because deep down there’s always been something. Remind yourself of them all the time. Classmates.com is a new twist on wishing; “Can’t we be kids together again?”
If you’ve never seen DeGrassi’s past and present shows, here’s a fan-made video of Joey Jeremiah and Caitlin Ryan that says it all: [http://www.zippyvideos.com/8457611766239996/goodbyemylover/]
FACE IT: You will NEVER get over your first love…. So keep their family numbers handy or at least the name of a good PI.
By the way…. This is my story from the Toronto Memory Archive: (Months after we broke up, I often weirdly wished we’d grown up together, kind of like Joey and Caitlin or how Craig and Manny’s characters are now on the current show)
The Toronto Eaton Center was the first place I visited when I was fresh off the plane from the West at 16. Although I had been warned about the teeming teenage gangs, my first visit to a tourist attraction was as a kid in a candy store. I wanted to see every shop in the place. It was the first place I saw that impressed me with what Toronto was and still is. It’s actually a fountain in the middle of the first floor near the Queen Street tube entrance where many coins have been thrown for so many different wishes over the years. Every corner of the Toronto Eaton Center is a hallmark of memory. By the way… most wishes came true in a strange way.
I’ve worked there at different times in my life, in different locations, and then during a two-year stint as a communications advisor to the Ontario government. There isn’t a store or restaurant I don’t visit. And yes, the closure of the Abacus restaurant, Coles bookshop, Glamor Shots, the old internal police station and other businesses that came and went made me feel like an old friend was committed to memory. I will be very sad the day Indigo leaves the Eaton Center! How many hours have been spent drinking coffee while reading a good book while people watching from above.
When the Eaton Center was renovated and rebranded in 2002, it was like the Toronto landmark got a facelift that looked great… but felt like something was missing. The familiar is pleasant because it is so familiar.
And about wishes… there were many an afternoon as a teenager and college student when I window shopped after indulging in a Dairy Queen cup (I left the pounds looking at retail eye candy!) … with gusto to one of the security officers doing his rounds. It was the dimples that caught my attention. I never knew what his schedule was like, but every few weeks I was at the Eaton Center when he was working. One afternoon during the fast, I threw a coin into the fountain that maybe one day I would find out who it was. This admiration from afar lasted about a year (maybe longer, but it was so rare it was hard to measure) and then I think he called it quits. By 2004 I had forgotten about it.
Did it come true? A wish to know who the boy was? Yes, about 13 years later when I was 29… and the boyfriend I always wanted as a teenager stole my heart as an adult. Be careful what you wish for, especially when you throw a coin in the fountain. You can forget a wish, but someone up there can’t. I’m glad they didn’t.
It was a touch of magic that allowed for a real introduction ten years later and a change later. The new Harry Potter movie just opened in theaters. I called an acquaintance on Tuesday to see. We agreed to see it and meet near the Rainbow Theatre. When I arrived for dinner before the movie, I saw my movie date talking to a man. She invited a friend to join us, as did I. After that we went to Golden Griddle (now a Korean Bistro) for coffee and when I found out that the man worked in security, I took a closer look at him. It occurred to me that he looked familiar, but maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. Of course I didn’t “get it” – not even when he drove us home and then we spent 4 hours talking outside my apartment. He told me that he got his professional start at The Eaton Center, but maybe it was too late and I hadn’t put it together yet. Also, I forgot about the fountain wish and his appearance changed from a skinny teenager to an adult figure, plus he didn’t have a uniform.
How did I figure out that he and the boy I noticed from afar as a teenager were the same person? One afternoon while I was at lunch, I suddenly asked to see photos of him as a teenager and in his early 20s. The question came out of nowhere. He showed me old albums and then a photo of him at the Eaton Center behind some baseball player. I took a closer look at the image and made the connection. did i say something No why? I was afraid I would sound stupid and he wouldn’t believe me anyway. Did I ever say anything? No. Too much pride to admit to fate.
When the security guy and I finally got together, I found out a few interesting things: 10 years ago, we lived on the same street at the same time – MacDonnell Ave, just steps away from each other. He guarded a number of buildings, one of which belonged to YTV, near Atlantic Ave when I worked at 99 Atlantic Ave in the late 1990s. When I lived in an annex on Palmerston Avenue and then Markham Street, it was on Manning just 3 blocks southwest of both of my places, around the same time in the early 90s. When I moved to Yorkville around 2000, he worked in a corporate office just 5 minutes from my apartment. And the night we met at St. Lawrence Market… changed jobs back to another corporate office, also only 5 minutes away each time. He said it was fate, but I didn’t admit it at the time either.
So how did it end? Well… my best friend Kelly said she’d never seen me so happy until she saw me with him. My college friend Michael said the same thing. But alas… it was like the Blue Rodeo song “Bad Timing”. He had a past he wouldn’t let go of… and I had a future to follow. It ended during a long weekend in August 2005 in Ashbridges Bay (where the beach reminded me of San Francisco) and one thing is for sure….it was a fond memory of Toronto that I will always remember no matter where I go. The saddest part was that I didn’t just lose one love in that relationship: I lost two – him and his little baby who looked just like him, with dimples.
The lesson for all you young people (under 30) is: SAY HELLO. Don’t waste 10 years! Don’t worry about the security officers at The Eaton Center … they are nice after all.
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