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by George Lester
George Lester
From as far back as I can remember and until I reached my early teens I was terribly shy around girls. I suppose it might have had something to do with the fact that I grew up with only a male sibling, my brother Sam. I didn't know how to act around girls. I would break into a cold sweat when one of them showed an interest in me. I was flattered, naturally, but I just didn't know how to handle it. So rather than face the problem I always tried to avoid it.

I was probably about 12 when we were visiting my grownup half-brother J. P. Lester, Jr. and his family in Wink, Texas. I always idolized him because of his glib way of talking and his confident air of authority. Where ever he went he was the center of attention, not only because of his personality but also because of what everyone called his "good looks". I wanted to grow up to be just like him. So when he asked me to do him a favor I eagerly agreed. However, when I found out what he wanted me to do I wasn't so enthusiastic. Some of his friends had dropped by to visit and they had a daughter about my age. We were the only kids in the house and he was afraid that we might get bored around all the adults. J.P. asked me to take the young lady to the movies while the big folks visited. I couldn't have been more frightened if he had asked me to escort a mountain lion.

The girl seemed to be excited and very pleased at the prospect of our being together for the afternoon. I tried to think of any excuse to get out of it but nothing came to me. My father gave me the money for the show and sent us on our way. The poor girl tried to make idle conversation as we strolled the to the "picture show". Looking back on it I now realize it was an awkward situation for her too. I couldn't think of anything to contribute to the conversation. The few blocks' walk seemed like miles and I was getting more nervous with each step. I wondered, if it was this difficult in the first few minutes what would it be like sitting through a two hour movie.

Finally we arrived at the theater. We paused to look at the marquee above the entrance. Eureka! It dawned on me how to get out of this terrifying experience. I announced, with my best act of great disappointment, that I had already seen the film. I'll never forget her look of rejection as she glanced back one last time and disappeared through doors alone.

On the walk back to the house I felt a great sense of relief and elation. I had avoided one of the most frightening experiences of my life.

My sense of victory was short-lived. As soon as I entered the house and saw the expressions on the faces of the grown ups I knew I was in deep trouble. They wanted to know why I had returned alone. No amount of explaining seemed to help. At the time I couldn't comprehend why they were so upset with me.

I guess it was years later when it finally dawned on me what the poor girl must have gone through that day at the theater. Many times I have wished that I could have lived the day over again and corrected my thoughtless behavior. I then realized that this sort of thing could have a lasting effect on a young girl's ego. I'd like to live with the thought that the experience quickly faded from her memory.

I sincerely hope so.
George Lester
Spunky Flat and Beyond - A Memoir >

October 1, 2006 column
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