Look Up

The truth is that I’ve been boy-crazy my whole life.

My first crush was Dana Rossi, this super-cute boy I used to chase around the Kingdom Hall after meetings on Thursdays and Sundays. We were five, and I remember the time I actually caught him. I was breathless from belly laughing as we were running around the big empty hall, and, somehow, I managed to trap him in a row of seats. When we both realized he was caught, we quit laughing.

I very distinctly recall the two of us looking at each other, unblinking and with a growing sense of discomfort between us. I’d been chasing him for months, and finally I’d caught him. Now what? The game didn’t seem very fun anymore.

I crushed hard on that boy for a long time, but my first real feelings of love developed about a year later and were for someone completely different.

Roosevelt Bagby and his mom, Gloria, were friends of my parents. Gloria was a beautiful black woman who always wore deep red lipstick and smelled like cinnamon gum. She was larger than life in all ways, and she was intentional and generous with her hugs. Her arms were safe and loving, and I always found my way into them after our bibles were closed and before we piled into my dad’s work truck for home.

My sister and I studied “My Book of Bible Studies” at Sister Bagby’s apartment, where she and Roosevelt lived. I loved going to their house and was intrigued by the macramé on the wall and flourishing plants in the kitchen. I imagined that I would have macramé and potted plants, too, when I was grown up.

Gloria was a single mom, and she raised the best boy. Roosevelt was kind, and he radiated love and strength – just like his mom, but somehow softer.

One night when my parents had a meeting with the elders, Roosevelt was appointed our babysitter. My sister was four and I was six at the time, which would have made Roosevelt right around 13. I can, without a doubt, confirm that he was the best babysitter we ever had. He made us hot cocoa, and when the teapot began to whistle, he asked, “Should we turn it off or let it whistle a little longer?” We jumped up and down and shouted, “Let it whistle! Let it whistle!”

After hot cocoa, he led us out to the fenced-in front yard. Even now, at 47 years of age, I remember exactly where we were standing when he said, “Now, look up.”

We tilted our heads back, necks stretched and eyes wide. “Don’t blink,” he said. “The longer you look, the more you’ll see.”

That was my first glimpse of the magnitude of the universe; it was the first time I realized how truly tiny we are, and how there is so much more than what’s inside of our fenced-in lives.

He taught us the nursey rhyme:

Star light, star bright

First star I see tonight

I wish I may, I wish I might

Have the wish I wish tonight

And then we each picked a star and made a wish. He didn’t ask us what we wished for, and I would like to say that I remember now what was so important to me then – but my wish didn’t turn out to be what mattered.

He didn’t mean to, but Roosevelt taught me a lot that night. In the span of a few moments, through a young man’s kindness and patience, I came to understand that the universe is filled with endless, twinkling possibilities.

Roosevelt Bagby taught me what it means to have hope.

I fell in love for the first time on that starry Southern California night. I spent much of my life searching for a person that would make me feel that way again, like I could have anything in the world if I just remembered to look up.

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