Most only remember the first name of their elementary school sweetheart, but I recall much more. 

Some moments are so memorable that they must have been written by the heavens. These are the ones that you just know that, decades from now, all your senses will still feel the memory. For me, few memories stand out as notably as the time my third grade classmate, Max*, said he liked me. 

It had been a long eight years of waiting to hear Max’s words. You see, growing up, I had faced a series of disappointments when it came to romance. At age four, I swore to my cousin on our grandmother’s front steps that Michael, an actor on “Barney & Friends,” would come to marry us both. However, he never came and instead married a guy named Ben. 

In kindergarten, I told our teacher’s assistant that I was going to marry the boy my mom babysat. The next day, he said I was annoying and called my toy horse a piece of poop. In the first grade, all my anonymous love letters to the Smith twins, Sean and Sawyer, remained unreturned. 

Things got so bad that at one point my mom suggested I wait a few years to have crushes again. Sitting on my bed, I told her I agreed, that, in fact, I was just kidding about liking the Smith twins. I promised her I was done with what I thought was love. 

This didn’t last long due to our second grade classroom getting a new boy named Knox. The whole school liked Knox since he was the tallest boy in the school with a witty sense of humor. Whenever Knox said hi to me at the end of the day, you best believe my mom got a twenty-minute debrief.

Thus, I was sad to find out on my cousin’s swing that her cousin (not related to me) was together with Knox. This time, I really did want to swear off boys. Perhaps Sean Smith was right. He told me dating would be much easier in high school when you could just tell a person you liked them and then start dating. 

Max, Knox’s best friend, really solidified my newfound enragement towards men on a day where I was simply trying to enjoy some warm green bean soup that my mom had prepared. 

At our round lunch table, Max sat across from me (this was not my choosing but our assigned seats). Max said, “Eww, your beans look gross.” This was an insult to my mom. Thus, I threw one at him, and he shrieked like a girl. My laughter ceased once Max marched up to our teacher. I still can feel the fear in my stomach, remembering how I tried to stop him. 

In response, my burly, 6-foot-6-inch teacher, Mr. L, made sure to punish us so that we’d never make the same mistake twice. During recess, he stood Max and I face to face and said, “You have to hug each other now.” For the next six months, I prayed to God that he would be gracious enough for Mr. L to not bring this up during teacher-parent conferences. 

Luckily, my parents never heard a word of this incident, but, unfortunately, Max was the blond-headed, Justin Bieber look-alike, so, subconsciously, I thought he was cute.

I hated that when I got a letter from our state Senator announcing my story was chosen for the newspaper, and my whole nosy class swarmed me, Max was the only one I noticed. And when he said, “Ugh, I already know what that letter’s about; You always win the writing contests,” my heart leapt just a little because Max saw me. 

In the third grade, Max and I shared a locker. I don’t remember much about us that year up until January when our school had its monthly roller skate night. 

It was either Justin Bieber’s “Baby” or One Direction’s “What Makes you Beautiful” that played on the rink. Either way, Max and Knox were too cool to like it. Max covered his ears and skated past me around the corner. I flirtatiously covered my ears too. Max looked back and laughed with me. I wondered, “Was I starting to like him?”

The following Monday, Max, myself and our wingman Chad sat at the corner table during art class. Chad stood up and confessed out loud that Max liked me. Consequently, Max chased Chad around the table yelling at him for revealing the secret. 

I was shook. With delightful disbelief, I said, “But you hated me last year.” Max surprised me even more with these words: “I didn’t really hate you.” 

For the next five months, we lived out the classic “good girl and bad boy like each other” trope. To list a few examples of this, Max and I first received time-outs during library class for teasing one another. Weeks later, at lunch, he and I got the entire third grade to start fake coughing at the same time, so we were forced inside for recess. Then, during inside recess, we got timeout for reading the encyclopedia, which, as a side note, resulted in the removal of all encyclopedias from the third grade classrooms.

Judge him all you want, but even my family loved Max. At the next skate night, he taught my dad to skate backwards and showed off his new blades to my mom. Even my little sister wrote him a love letter, and when she saw him during voting day, she refused to leave the car, explaining, “I can’t, I look like a chicken.”    

Max cared about me too. Once, when we were trying to see who could lean back the farthest in our chairs without crashing, he caught me in the knick of time. Another time, when I was walking with him in my one-inch wedges, I fell. He showed genuine shock and concern and offered me a pretzel. 

Despite all of this, he insisted to the entire class that he did not like me. Looking back now, I see I was being gaslit. Still, regardless of him being too afraid to say how he really felt, he was my best friend until the school year ended. 

I would have given anything to have been in the same fourth grade class as Max. However, we were destined to never share another locker again. It’s strange; I was so young, but I think this might have been my first heartbreak. 

In the fourth grade, Max and I didn’t talk for months, but I hoped that during a December birthday party at the skate rink we both were invited to, things would return to normal. I discovered at the rink that there remained a slight spark between us, but, deep inside, I knew it wasn’t enough. I should have given up there. I should have seen the red flag when I requested for the DJ to play TobyMac, and instead of the song introducing Max to Jesus, as I had planned, he said, “this is a silly song.”

At the end of seventh grade, I saw Max again, and, once more, I really thought I could resurrect what had been. The miracle, though, was not meant to be. 

Reflecting on all of this, I see that maybe I’ve romanticized the past too much. Seeing how quickly it ended, it probably all meant very little to him. I guess it shouldn’t mean much to me, then. 

However, I say if something sweet sticks in the limited space of your memory for that long, then you better hold onto it. For memories that are that unforgettable don’t come around all that often. 

*All names have been changed