I’m two-years-old, sitting unashamed in a tin tub set in a shady spot on a lawn in Culpeper, Virginia. My grandmother Georgie Dennis is soaping my back with a rag and a bar of homemade soap. It’s late in the day because I can see the mountains in the distance without squinting. The feel of the warm rag gliding across my shoulder blades is pleasurable. I squirm against the tickle of dripping water. I hear Grandma’s voice, a deep cooing sound reserved for me. “That’s gamma’s girl…” she murmurs, rinsing my back.
A man appears across the field, my grandparents’ neighbor Mr. Green. I stare as he strides toward us. Even from a distance, I spot his eyes. I’ve seen them up close so I know they’re green like his name. The only eyes green eyes I’ve ever seen. From far away, I see them sparkling. With his bright eyes and coppery skin, black, curly hair, like a sheep’s and overalls I also admire, my grandparents’ neighbor is utterly fascinating.
“Mr. Green must have been a beautiful baby,” I pronounce, twisting my neck towards Grandma.
She drops the washrag. “What did you say?”
“Mr. Green must have been a beautiful baby,” I repeat in my babyish voice.
Grandma throws her arms around me. “You have to hear this, Mr. Green,” she calls out. She lifts me out of the tub and dries me off.
When Mr. Green is upon us, I’m in Grandma’s arms wrapped in a towel.
“What’s is it, Georgie?” he asks.
Grandma gives him the report. “Sharon (she pronounces it “Shurn”) said ‘Mr. Green must have been a beautiful baby!” She laughs again. “Isn’t that funny?”
Since Mr. Green is shy his laugh isn’t loud, it’s a chuckle. “Why, you’re just a baby yourself,” he tells me, leaning closer.
When I think about it now, Mr. Green was my first crush. As he strode the field in his overalls, I was imagining his childhood, what he looked like when he was two-years-old and just my size. “A beautiful baby,” I decided, like the song my daddy sang to me sometimes.