Jesse came into our lives in the early weeks of
June, 1977, at a two-seat booth at the Taco Bell on Michigan Avenue,
in our hometown of Dearborn, Michigan.
Lyn and I had known each other for 18 months, and our relationship
had the rationality and stability of any relationship between dating
had been a difficult day bringing closure to a difficult couple of
weeks. Jesse came upon the scene to bring comfort to us during my
pending period away.
Lyn had graduated from Edsel Ford High School 12 full months
previously in June of 1976. We had attended her senior prom that year
even though, as a 16 year old, I possessed only a learners
permit drivers license, and we were therefore forced to
double-date with people that I barely knew and who treated me with
general indifference. Pictures of us from that time, viewed today,
are of two children full of life and full of possibilities hopelessly
blind to the coming joys of their many years together to come.
Lyn was finishing her first full year at the University of
Michigan-Dearborn. She had the use of the white car, a
used Pontiac LeMans with a black vinyl top, for her commute. She was
taking freshmen English composition, MEL (matter, energy and life
the general sciences class) and philosophy. She had to write a
composition paper every other week-end, and I lovingly supplied my
fingers, my Sears electric typewriter, and buckets of correct-type to
put them onto paper.
I was a senior attending Edsel Ford High School only 2 hours per day,
from 1pm to 3pm. I left home at 8am and drove myself (in my powder
Hornet) to Henry Ford Community College where I was taking college
level courses in calculus and several computer programming languages.
I had attended Economics and Pre-Calculus at HFCC the previous
summer, receiving my car a few weeks after Lyns prom, being
driven to summer school by my dad for the first couple of weeks that
previous summer. Since entering the 11th grade in September of 1975,
I had been attending school, between Edsel Ford and Henry Ford, for
21 straight months leading up to our dinner that night at Taco Bell.
And I was due to leave within the week for another summer school,
this time at Central Michigan 150 miles away in Mt Pleasant.
My senior year had been a roller coaster, with
incredible academic pressures yet incredible freedom provided by my
parents: a license, a car, insurance and a credit card for Mobil gas;
infinite walking around money (but no formal
allowance), the ability to come and go as I pleased, at
any hour of the day or night without question, and unchaperoned
access to the house and my room. I kept my grades at
Straight-A (except for gym), and hadnt worked at a
job of any kind since quitting my paper route in the 9th grade.
My high school graduation party was to be that Friday night and, like
Lyns the previous year, party attendance was limited to
graduates (no dates). So Lyn had gone to hers without me the previous
year and I was scheduled to go alone to mine that night. Lyn had been
despondent for a couple of days, sullen and bursting into
inconsolable tears at random intervals. She was sure that I was going
off to Central Michigan (like her ex-fiancee Randy had done three
years previously) to never again occupy a place in her life. A
sentimental fatalism (or fatalistic sentimentality) that is part and
parcel to most teenage girls. What a wonderful age!
My senior prom had been the previous week but
Lyn and I, this year equipped with both money and a car, fulfilled my
mothers one year-old prophecy and did not attend my
cap-and-gown was in my trunk, and the commencement exercises were to
be the next day. So my senior party was that night and
the entrance ticket that my mother bought was in my pocket. But
before I could go, I had a little present all wrapped up to give to Lyn.
Many of my prior presents to Lyn had been perfect,
including a small necklace once and also an engraved bracelet that I
had presented at early anniversaries. Since we first met
on Lyns 18th birthday, it had always been easy to quickly
calculate how long we had known each other. One Christmas I bought
her a modern (now tacky) clock for her piano. But this present this
night was going to be very special.
I came by her house to visit and leave my present with her, but it
became obvious that it would be impossible for us to have a personal
sentimental moment with her mother standing on the porch and
literally pointing to the street and ordering me off to my party. So
motivated, we jumped into my Hornet and drove off for Landmark, the
greasy spoon coffee shop a half-mile away (and now long ago out of
business). For some reason we drove around instead, and ended up at
Taco Bell on Michigan Avenue. Lyn had been crying intermittently but
uncontrollably. She had been doing it on her front porch and in the
car and now sitting across from me at our table. Like a early summer
drizzle, she would lighten up from time to time only to start in
anew. So it was there, at Taco Bell, that I handed over my package
and Lyn opened it and Jesse entered our lives.
Jesse was a plush stuffed bunny doll. He had
fuzzy tan fur and a fuzzy white tummy. He stood fourteen inches tall
and had twinkling brown eyes (like Lyns) and wore a yellow
ribbon tied in a bow
around his neck. He had long floppy ears that were just the right
middle ground of standing up erect but still being floppy. And he was
cute as a button. When Lyn opened the package she burst back into
tears (this time with vigor) and by now, after sobbing and crying and
sobbing and crying for nearly an hour, her skin was blotchy, her face
was swollen and red, and people in general were beginning to stare.
She would gather her strength for a moment, then exclaim out in love
Oh bunny geeb bubba snub snerk and then Oh your
party boo hoo, sknerk, gub gub gub sknerk shnick repeating on
and on as I ate my encharito and looked into her swollen and runny
eyes on that very special night.
I had purchased Jesse-bunny by myself, looking for something to leave
with Lyn when I went away to summer school, to remind her of me. I
had been in Small World, an eclectic tiny store on
Michigan Avenue (now out of business) that is closest these days to
the odds and ends you would find at Spencers Gifts
in many suburban malls. I fell in love with his soft brown fur and
brown eyes and his little yellow ribbon bow-tie. He was perfect and
he was on clearance. He was, like me, an Easter bunny out of
season when I purchased him that day in early May and then hid
him in the closet in my Moms room.
This was legally the second Jesse-bunny, but the first is just a
footnote. When Lyn and I had been dating just two or three months, my
mom found a small blue stuffed bunny, just 4 or 5 inches long.
"Here", she said, throwing the bunny across the living room
to me, "give this to Lyn". Mom was always doing that kind
of weird stuff. Randomly pouncing on an opportunity here or there,
treating it off-handedly. I could never tell if she was thinking of
Lyn, and wanted to help me cement my budding relationship (a inspired
act of nurturing, training me in the proper way to treat a steady
girlfriend) or if she had simply found some silly stuffed animal
somewhere and it popped into her head to have me give it to Lyn
(probably closer to the truth). So I gave Lyn the blue bunny, and she
slept with it every night, until one little black button eyeball fell
out and was lost. She named it "Jesse", and it was to be
something for us to share and care for, but I had never bonded to
him, and today that little blue bunny sits in a box of memories somewhere.
So I told Lyn that the new brown bunny was to be me (and be the
little blue bunnys dad). He sat on our table and stared at us
mutely and Lyn cried and cried and cried. Somehow it didnt
comfort her to have something in my image to keep and hug and talk to
while I was away.
You can guess that I never made it to my senior party that night. We
sat and talked at the fountain by the library and on the park benches
by city hall. I was so sad that I couldnt console Lyn that
night, and within 72 hours we two set off to take me to Mt Pleasant,
to continue my string of months in school without a break. We
repeated our sad parting again at Mt Pleasant, and like the next time
Jesse David came into our lives, we were both emotionally drained and