My old high school yearbook picture. At 17, I was very shy and painfully insecure. I had fallen deeply for this incredible girl, whom I was sure was way out of my league.
By Richard Mabey Jr.
In the late summer of 1970, between my junior and senior year of high school, I met this wonderful girl who changed my life. My family and her family had belonged to the National Campers and Hikers Association of Northern New Jersey. We would often go camping together.
In late August of 1970, I first met Penny. Our families went camping together. From the first time that I saw Penny, I fell from the Grand Canyon for her. Simply put, she took my breath away. Penny was tall, beautiful, razor-edge smart and a year younger than me. We would talk and go for walks around the campground. I was very shy and insecure. I wanted to ask Penny to go on a date with me, but I was just very intimidated by her incredible beauty.
In September of 1970, I began my senior year of high school. I turned 17. And, I began working nights and on Saturdays at a local grocery store in my little Mayberry in New Jersey. I worked the produce aisle. One of my jobs was to weigh up people’s fruits and vegetables. I would refer to an elaborate chart for the prices, then mark the price with a marking pen on the plastic bag that the people had put their fruits and vegetables in.
There was this older man who would come into the grocery store and talk to me. He would buy three bananas. He never got a carriage for his groceries. Instead, he would grab one of those plastic baskets.
He would bring his three bananas over to my produce scale. He would smile and then say, “a penny for your thoughts.” I always thought that was odd, because I was always thinking about Penny. I was totally smitten with her. And, when I was at school, at work, at church, at a scout meeting; all I thought about was Penny.
But it was odd. When he would say to me, “a penny for your thoughts,” it was as if he knew that I was thinking about a girl named Penny. I remember him as a kind man. Practically every time he saw me, he would give me a compliment.
He would say to me, “nice tie,” or “where’d you get that fancy watch?” or “a handsome guy like you must have three or four girlfriends.”
One night that dear, older man came into the grocery store. He walked down the produce aisle and picked out his three bananas. He brought the three bananas over to me, for me to weigh them and mark the price on them.
As I weighed the bananas, it was as if he could read my mind. He simply said to me, “you need to ask that girl out for a date. The one you’re thinking about. Ask her for a date, she’ll say yes.”
I remember that I marked the price on the bananas. I handed him the bananas. He smiled at me and simply said, “ask her for a date.” I remember that I shyly replied, “I will.” Then the older man smiled and walked away.
Well, I did ask Penny for a date, when I saw her at the big multi-families campout. And, to my amazement, she said yes. And it began a most incredible two-year whirlwind romance. And I fell deeply in love with Penny.
I’ve wanted to write this story for a long time. But I was always afraid that I would sound like I was too far out there. But here goes. Here is the rest of this story.
I have this repeating dream that I am in a grocery store. I walk down the produce aisle. I pick out three bananas and have the boy behind the scale weigh them and mark the price on them. And, I talk with this boy. And, I know that he is my younger self.
I know that he is head over heels in love with this girl, Penny. I know that he is filled with self doubts. I know that he is struggling to find the courage to ask Penny for a date. So, I share with this boy, my younger self, some words of compliments. I try to give him some words of assurance. And finally, I simply tell him to ask Penny for a date.
Is it possible that somehow and someway my present self goes back in time, while dreaming? I don’t know. I just don’t know. I’m just not discounting the possibility. I know that this repeating dream seems so incredibly real.
I remember that the older man who would come into the grocery store, back when I was 17, was very real. All I am saying is that we just don’t know everything. We really don’t.