43. “Cherish,” Kool & the Gang

Do you remember your first crush? Like, your first real crush? I’m not talking about the girl whose pigtails you pulled in kindergarten or the boy you played dress-up with in that surely unsanitary corner of the classroom filled with wigs and hats worn by 25 six-year-olds per day. I’m talking about that first pubescent obsession where you had feelings. Nothing graphic, just whatever heart-bursting emotion a 12-year-old thinks love is. Feeeeeeeelings.

That’s what this song reminds me of. It was ubiquitous during my favourite summer, the summer of 1985, rising to #2 on the Billboard charts. It was the summer I turned 12, so that puberty stuff was starting to happen. And I had feeeeeeelings.

Who was my first crush? Well, there was one girl at school who was a year older and had the same name (with a different spelling) as my wife. She was super sporty and super pretty and just cooler than I could imagine a person could be. But there was another girl that summer, and I’m not sure who came first. She was the sister of a kid on my baseball team. And that’s who this song reminds me of.

What was her name? Cheryl? Sherry? Marsha? Something with a “sh” sound in there somewhere? I really don’t remember, which is kind of terrible. And I don’t think I ever spoke a single word to her, which is very on-brand for me, especially back then. What could a shy, introverted kid who wore a digital watch over his wristband (check out the pic below) possibly have to say to an angel? What would be worthy of her? “Hi?” Are you kidding me? “Hi?” Angels don’t respond to “Hi.” They only respond to the profound, to the hilarious, to the truly emotionally meaningful. Right?

Would an angel ever say “hi” to this kid? Actually, maybe, because this is the most self-assured I’ve ever looked in a picture (or, probably, in life). That was the magic of baseball and the summer of ’85.

She’d sit and watch our games, with her long, sandy-blonde hair and tanned skin, or play on the nearby playground. She was so, so cute. So close, yet so far away. I was simultaneously ready and not ready to “Cherish the love we have… hand in hand, you and I,” as the song said. How that sweet sax solo touched my young soul.

One of my teammates once said something about her being cute or something, and that was the first time I ever experienced anything like jealousy. My thought process was something like, “What?!?! But I like her. Nobody else is allowed to like her.” But, quickly, that defiance morphed into acceptance: “But I guess, since I don’t know how to talk to an angel, and maybe you do, I’ll just have to step aside and watch in utter heartbreak as you have ice cream with her and become boyfriend-girlfriend and eventually get married and live the blissful, fairy tale life together that was supposed to be mine.”

My 12-year-old brain, ladies and gentlemen. But I “Cherish” the memories, as silly as they are.

P.S. As much as I love this song, even as a 12-year-old, this line creeped me out: “If you receive your calling before I awake, could I make it through the night?” Why death? Why do you have to bring death into this beautiful song of gratitude for love? Why? Also, is he saying that if his significant other dies while they sleep, he might somehow know in his sleep that they died in theirs and he will subsequently die in his sleep as well? Huh?

P.P.S. This song dumped me down a rabbit hole of songs that remind me of that glorious baseball- and puppy-love-filled summer of 1985, so I created a (50-SONG!!!) Spotify playlist for your enjoyment (or irritation, depending on your tastes).

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