My Words: I fall in love every day

One year ago today – or close enough to make a good column – I stepped away from journalism after close to 30 years.

In my first hours as a free woman, I created Okaloosa Stories – this website – where I could continue to write. I was afraid I would miss it. I haven’t. I haven’t missed the weekly pressure to share my thoughts, the hourly pressure to monitor the world around me in case I missed something.

There’s a term for that, according to my now-adult children. FOMO. Fear of Missing Out. I was sure I’d have FOMO if the world went on around me without me writing about it.


Now, 12 months later, I am struck by an urge to write. My muse was a beautiful spring day, a long-legged stride, sunshine on my face and a song I’ve recently rediscovered nearly 50 years after I loved it last.

How did 50 years pass since I first heard Frankie Valli sing “My Eyes Adored You?” Fifty years since I was a freckle-faced awkward little girl, who couldn’t know she wouldn’t be blessed (or cursed) by puberty for another five years. Fifty years since I chased a boy whose name was, I think, Fred Conti, around the playground every recess.

He was serious about running away. I wasn’t the only one chasing and I think he may have been late to the puberty game, too.

But back to the song.

It reminds me of all the longing of adolescence in the 60s and 70s, before children became adults too soon, before we had 24-hour-a-day access to our friends, before we started “dating” in elementary school.

“My eyes adored you. Though I never laid a hand on you. My eyes adored you. Like a million miles away from me, you couldn’t see how I adored you. So close and yet so far.”

Frankie Valli poured those words into us.

I rediscovered this song last month. In my new life, I guard at the pool a mile from my house. I teach children and adults to swim, to love the water, to be safe in it. I raise money for a foundation that pays for lessons families can’t afford and gives everyone the opportunity to swim.

It’s simple and beautiful – the sound of water, the people who pass back and forth in front of me, the satisfaction of watching someone float for the first time, the joy of blowing underwater bubbles with a child. I fall in love every day.

One of these days a few weeks ago, I was guarding the pool during a morning aquacise session and this song came on.

I went back to the days when I had two parents and played outside and slept in a room with an odd corner housing the chimney so that it was always warm in the cold Illinois winter. I went back to before I dated at age 16, before I moved away from home, before I got married and divorced and married again.

It was like an old VCR tape rewinding and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that listening to this song pierced my heart a little. Those years are gone. So many. I’m not sure I loved each and every one the way it deserved. I cannot go back. We can’t. I can’t vacuum away the wrinkles and the mistakes and the age spots. I can’t clean up the mistakes or redo all of the things I would do differently now.

I won’t allow myself regrets. To change one thing would have changed everything and I couldn’t risk that.

I am where I should be now, though.


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