I had a huge crush on Bruce when I was 13 years old. He dated my sister’s best friend and would come over to our house once in awhile, but he never paid any attention to me. After all, he was 17, a jock, and the best singer Jasper High School ever produced. Even when I wore my junior high cheerleading outfit to school on game days and went out of my way to walk past his locker he didn’t look at me.
I didn’t miss a single performance of “Oklahoma!” when he played Curly and I had a front-row seat at homecoming coronation. He still didn’t notice, but that’s OK, because four years later he did notice, big time.
I lived in Minneapolis the last three years of high school. Bruce went to South Dakota State University. Our paths didn’t cross again until June 1981 at a Styx concert in Sioux Falls.
I broke my foot earlier in the week (a little mishap in a bowling alley in which alcohol may or may not have played a role) and needed crutches to get around. My friend Curt ( who unbeknownst to me was Bruce’s best friend) said he’d save a seat for me in the arena since it was a general admission concert with no reserved seating. My friend Lisa (who later became Curt’s wife) didn’t leave me alone and helped me find Curt and his friends in the stands.
I settled in next to Curt and scoped out my surroundings. Curt was at the end of a line of about eight or nine guys I sort of recognized from my years at Jasper High School, but it was the boy next to him who really caught my eye.
“Who is that next to you?” I whispered in Curt’s ear.
“Bruce Bouwman,” he said.
I’m quite certain my heart stopped for a second. I know I stopped breathing.
“That’s Bruce Bouwman!” I squeaked in Lisa’s ear. About that time, Bruce was whispering in Curt’s other ear.
“Who’s that girl?” he asked.
“Lynn Haraldson. You know, Debbie’s little sister,” said Curt.
“THAT’S Debbie’s little sister?” said Bruce.
Finally, he noticed. I guess growing boobs and a few inches taller helped my cause. I’m pretty sure the lack of orthodontia was a plus, too.
I tried to concentrate on the concert, but all I could think about was Bruce. Apparently all he could think about was me because the next night he greeted me with a huge grin when he saw me walking down Jasper’s Main Street. He was sitting on one of his friend’s cars, wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, jeans, and a yellow polo shirt.
“We’re going to Granny Kindt’s for a party,” he said.
“So are we,” I said. My friends and I still traveled in packs.
“So, I’ll see you out there?” he asked.
“Absolutely.” I was in full-flirt mode and having a good hair day.
Everyone 25 and younger who’d gone to Jasper High School was at the party. These were massive events with rows of kegs and a dance floor in the barn. There really was a Granny Kindt – the grandmother of several of the boys from our school who threw the parties – and she loved having “the young folks” out at her house. She usually stayed inside, but everyone loved her and would always stop to talk to her when they used the bathroom.
Bruce and Curt gone to the party with their friend, Brian, and I’d driven my car with a few friends in tow. Somehow, Bruce and I convinced Brian to drive my friends back to town after the party, and Bruce and Curt and I went back to Curt’s farm where I made us breakfast.
I made the perfect after-keg breakfast: cheesy scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. I don’t remember what we talked about, but we laughed a lot and it felt an awful lot like the night before Christmas. I was full of anticipation and had all those wonderful butterflies floating in my stomach.
I drove Bruce back to his car in town. He said there was another party the next night and asked if I wanted to go? Yes, I did, I said, and he leaned over and kissed me lightly on the lips – no tongue, no other body parts touching, just the most beautiful kiss I’d ever known.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said and got out of the car.
I floated home and couldn’t sleep and waited and waited for the next day to end so I could see him again.
Which I did, but of course, love is never simple. We bent back and forth all summer – he was trying to figure out what he wanted in life while I was trying to figure out how to live on my own for the first time. All of this is a long and complicated story that is still lodged in my head and not ready to come out yet. Some day, maybe. But for now it’s suffice to say we figured it out.
Here are some photos of us. Keep in mind this was the early 80s – please be kind when assessing my hair. Click on the pictures for a larger image.