Judy was a match made in heaven. She was thirteen years old and I was twenty.
I got a job in the summer of 1968 as a camp counselor for the City of San Jose. It was the first year for the San Jose Family Camp. At the time it seemed like a good idea, and I guess it was because the camp is still active. It is off Highway 120, just past the city Groveland. Further south of there is Yosemite National Park. East of there, and higher up the mountain is Hetch Hetchy Dam. The city of Berkeley had their own family Camp up there.
It was not exactly a rugged adventure to stay there. It offered housekeeping tents. The tents were not on the ground, they were on wooden platforms with a wooden frame to hold the tent up. They had cots to sleep on. Restrooms were nearby, shower included. Meals were provided. There was a wide variety of activities offered such as fishing, evening campfires, arts and crafts. Yosemite Valley was a relatively short drive away and definitely worth the trip.
My job there was to work in the kitchen. I operated the huge dishwashing machine that they used there. Sometimes for no apparent reason I would crawl through that dishwashing machine, I probably did that just because I could. Maybe I was just a show off.
After my duties were finished I would go by the pool and climb up on the lifeguard chair and listen to the music of the water flowing. It was quite relaxing, especially after sundown.
During her stay there Judy used to come up and hang out with me. She must have thought I was a hero but I was nothing of the sort. I was just a shy twenty-year-old college student.
She was small and she looked very much like a thirteen-year-old girl. I could tell she was smitten. I guess I enjoyed them the fact that somebody was attracted to me. Now let’s be clear, it was one of my duties to be sociable, so I was. What I wasn’t was stupid and I had no interest in liking her back the way that she liked me.
When September came around, and even that very week she was there I knew I’d never see her again. I lived in San Jose that was near the hills that rose on the west side of the valley. I used to walk up to a place where I could look down to the valley below. It was a good place to think and maybe write down a poem or two. And that is what I did when I was thinking about Judy.
I sit upon a Saratoga hill in the perfumed summer night
among the calming melodies of the crickets and the toads.
I sit upon a severed trunk of some old once fruitful tree,
and look upon the grids of streetlamps and porch lights
that stretch across the valley.
That must be Judy’s house.
She must be home now.
I should’ve called her.
She wanted me to.
I never will.
I should have.
Dear Judy, here’s the truth that has no words.
It is shadowed behind my lip locked tongue.
Here’s the sorrow of my cowardice,
kept hidden in my pride.
Dear Judy, how totally beautiful it would’ve been if what you wanted to do and what I wanted to do,
one and the same!
Saratoga, California 1969