Fond recollections of youth and confusion.
Our youth group convention in Jacksonville began on a happy note. The huge tour bus taking us there swallowed us up like minnows in a huge aquarium. I heard my mom yelling, “Have a good time Greg!” and saw her waving as we pulled away.
Young teenagers adapt quickly. We sang songs, laughed, and teased each other.
The hour and a half drive might have been 10 minutes for all we cared. Our U.S.Y. (United Synagogue Youth) Ormond Beach chapter sat together in open seats at the middle of the bus.
“I’m leaving on a jet plane don’t know when I’ll be back again…” John Denver lyrics dominated our shared harmonizing. We did a few Hebrew songs and bad jokes or jibes filled the contained air.
A Jacksonville Denny’s Restuarant served as our drop off and meet up point with our host families. Arriving late in the afternoon left little time to get ready for Friday night services but we rushed to our assigned homes and got ready for the Sabbath night.
Somehow my folded dress shirt, tie, and slacks weren't wrinkled and the weekend convention kicked off nicely. My host family extended comfortable accommodations and exhibited warmth and kindness.
Sabbath services lasted an hour and a half then we returned to our host houses for the night. Saturday’s slate of events scheduled to be non-stop action and fun so we were instructed to get a good nights sleep.
However, my 13-year-old brain didn’t quite accept directions well.
I was wired and uncomfortable about sleeping in a strangers house. We had separate rooms but Jenna couldn’t sleep either. I and a boy from Tampa shared one room and Jenna, a 13-year-old girl from Clearwater, shared a room with our host’s daughter.
We met each other in the family room, in our jammies, and began watching T.V. Everybody else in the house went to bed but we stayed up and found HBO, which excited us like finding treasure. In 1983 having HBO felt like luxury.
The movie JAWS! thrilled us even more.
Jenna and I found ourselves terrified and moving closer to one another. She sat on a bean bag and I joined her there in front of the tube. Each scary scene caused us to accidentally grab each other’s hand or brush a shoulder.
She cuddled and I returned her affection. We focused on the movie.
A woman swam in the ocean, ominous foreboding music played, Jaws’ great white shark nose and teeth appeared to rip the maiden apart, and I feigned fear burying my head into Jenna’s chest.
Jenna stroke the back of my hair and we made out. Our convention ramped up in excitement a thousand percent.
An understanding passed between us with no words. Our eyes melted into one another's. She turned off the T.V. and led me to a side room I did not know existed.
My head lifted in unfamiliar clouds.
Jenna took me by the hand and led me to a single bed. She produced a condom and it was a first I’ll always remember.
After we cuddled I rushed back to my room and tried to sleep but racing thoughts kept me up. The momentum of the day and unbelievable ending to the night revved my nerves.
After a few hours of extremely restful sleep, a bright sunny morning kicked off a day I remember as being disappointing and anti-climatic.
I was in love. But, for some reason Jenna avoided me and we didn’t see each other except in brief passing at our host’s house. She ignored me but I hoped it was because we were so busy doing convention events.
Saturday night we were all excited for the big convention dance. In my mind, Jenna would be my date but she had other plans. She avoided me like the plague.
Though my thoughts were stuck on Jenna I still wanted to dance and my friends from back home had the same idea. We did our best teenage dance moves and grooves to tunes like Let’s Go Crazy by Prince.
My plan was to see Jenna at our temporary lodging after the dance. When we arrived home she went to her room and I didn’t see her again until the next morning.
I was in a haze of “What did I do wrong?”
Jenna gave me a kiss before we walked on to our different busses Sunday morning. She smiled and said goodbye. I returned the smile.
Our moment of sudden love floated away like a distant dream. Riding home to Ormond Beach, I replayed the weekend over and over again trying to figure out where I made the mistake to drive Jenna away.
To this day I still don’t know what I did wrong.