Thursday, 4 November 2010

My first love

I'm participating in Mama Kat's writer's workshop. I chose to use the prompt Look up a favorite childhood actor and tell us where they are now:
One of my favourite parts of the day in elementary school was when the teacher read to us. In grade five Mr. Jansen introduced us to S.E. Hinton and her novel The Outsiders. It changed me. The whole experience affirmed my already growing love affair with reading.

The silent rapt attention of the class while he read a few chapters each Friday afternoon, the exhilaration of hearing our teacher talk of things so unorthodox in our Catholic school environment, while he opened up a world where the poor kids known as Greasers fought to keep their turf and dignities intact against the rich and privileged soc's (short for socials) gave me joy. I remember the excitement with which we would all discuss the chapters we had just heard on our walks home, trying to figure out who amongst us would be considered Greasers and Soc's.

The following summer I borrowed a copy of the book from the library and read it again even memorizing some of the passages and the Robert Frost poem Stay Gold*. I can recite it by heart to this day:

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
And dawn goes down to dayy
Nothing gold can stay.

In grade six our family moved all the way to Tucson Arizona. It was a devastating and difficult move but I found enormous comfort when Hollywood came out with the movie version of The Outsiders. That I was seemingly half away across the world and yet this beloved story was known there too, eased the pain of leaving behind my friends and school.

It was when I fell in love for the first time. He was the lead character in the movie, Ponyboy Curtis, and the actor's name was C. Thomas Howell. To me, he was Ponyboy, I made no distinction between the character and actor. I wrote his name on all of my notebooks, and there was always an I love T.H (Tom Howell) at the top of every note I passed to friends. I used my allowance and babysitting money to buy any teen magazine he was featured in, and plastered my share of the wall, of the bedroom I shared with my two sisters, with his pictures. I even wrote to him once and received a postcard from his Fanclub Headquarters. It said something like:

Thank you for the letter. Stay Gold. C. Thomas Howell.

His name was a stamped signature but the rest had been written in pen. I was convinced it was directly from him and carried the postcard around in my pencil case showing it to anyone and everyone.

I hadn't thought about Ponyboy in a long time. A few weeks ago I was watching Criminal Minds and there he was, C. Thomas Howell. He was guest starring as the unsub and time had not been kind to his face. He was gaunt and lean, his hair shaved close to his head. There was nothing left of that teen hearthrob I once worshipped.

I guess Robert Frost knew what he was talking about. Nothing gold can stay.

*I googled the poem after I posted this. The title is actually Nothing gold can stay.


  1. So sad, but true-and it always makes me feel old too.
    My daughter just read The Outsiders for school and really liked it-it's good to know that books stay the same-even if the actors who play in the movie versions don't :)

  2. Loved this Kim. I also was a fan of The Outsiders. My teen crush was on Matt Dillon. It seems like just yesterday when I was writing his name on my notebooks. I'm so glad that you joined in on this writing challenge. I always mean to join in on Mama Kat's writing workshops. One of these days, I'll do it too.

    I love that you can recite Frost's poem by heart. It's a nice one. I like the line, "so Eden sank to grief."

  3. Oh wow....neat post. I love Robert Frost....and how you carrie that postcard around for so long.

  4. First, thank you for your kind comment today. You are so right. We need to work together as parents - it's not a competition (as many would act that it is). They say it takes a village to raise a child, we really should start acting like that. So thank you for your kindness and support.

    I was a total geek in jr/high school. I was completely enamored with Will Riker (Johnathon Franks) of Star Trek the Next Generation. One year a friend got me the magazine subscription and I was in heaven. I still have one cut out of him from those days. My husband chuckles since he is really not my "typical" kind of guy I'm attracted too but he's also charmed by the fact that it's someone from Star Trek as he's a big fan too!

  5. I've never read the book, and I was slightly too young to be interested in the movie, so I have no experience with either. You make me want to read the book now though!

  6. I never did read that book but I loved the movie! And I just laughed so hard when I read Ponyboy!

  7. Big fan of Frost and the Outsiders...It is so cool your are doing this for you. ;)

  8. BTW, C. Thomas Howell played that role so well on Criminal Minds...chilling.


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