THE BOY MY MOTHER LOVED
I met Tom the second semester of my freshman year in college. I was part of
the NSA delegation from my school attending a national conference at N.C.
State and he was a delegate from his school, the Air Force Academy. I never
pass the old student union on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh without
thinking of Tom. He was the only boy I ever dated who fit the description of
"All American Boy." He was blonde and blue eyed with a beautiful smile and
In the early spring I met him in Washington D.C. when the Academy sent him
with a delegation for something, maybe this time it was some sporting
event; I don't remember, but I went up and spent the weekend with my college
friend, Judi Stevens, at her mother's house. It was early spring; I was
still wearing my winter coat, a Chesterfield with small green and black
checks with a velvet collar; Tom kept taking my picture wherever we went
which I was totally unused to. Somewhere I have a photograph that was taken
of the two of us that weekend.
That summer Tom came through Charleston on his way to Brazil, or maybe it was
a more leisurely visit during his summer furlough from the Academy. This was
the first time that my mother met him. And, she was, instantly, head over
heels in love with Tom.
In December he was my escort at my debutante party. By this time I knew that
I was not in love with Tom. We continued to communicate and I think that I
saw him at least once and maybe several times after that. He graduated from
the Air Force Academy at the end of my sophomore year and went to Argentina
on a Fullbright.
I wrote to him the end of my junior year because I had friends who were
going to spend the following year in England and I knew that Tom was going
to be in England on a Rhodes Fellowship. The response to my letter was a
telegram from his family saying that he had been killed several days earlier
in Buenos Aires. Later in the summer my parents went to see his family when
they and my grandmother were in Miami and we learned the circumstances of
It was only after I finished this piece, "First Flight" that I began to
realize exactly why my mother was so wild about Tom, or about the idea of me
and Tom; he represented everything a mother could want for her daughter: he
was smart, good looking, feet solidly planted on the ground, he had a life
plan, everything! And I began to understand why my not being in love with
him was so painful and devastating for me. And that, the piece, already
named when I realized it, was so aptly titled "First Flight"