Me and my second-grade crush

My second-grade crush has appeared in my dreams ever since I was seven. It’s not an


The little girl who never really grew up.

everyday thing, of course. I have other things I need to frequently dream about as well: like walking into my high school and not remembering my locker combination, or wandering round and round my high school’s halls because I have absolutely no idea what classes I’m meant to attend. Those recurrent dreams cast themselves as ghoulish nightmares.

But my second-grade-crush dreams are always warm and fuzzy. I couldn’t tell you what happens in those dreams. I don’t remember. I’ll remember for a few minutes after I wake up, but then the dream gently wafts away, leaving a happy feeling inside of me. I couldn’t even tell you for certain how old my second-grade crush is in those dreams. I went to school with second-grade crush on and off until I was about 16. He was the cutest little boy in the second grade. But man oh man was he a dashing young fella at 16. I think I probably see 16-year-old second-grade-crush in those dreams. 

Don’t get me wrong. The dreams are never ever sexual in nature. I think that’s what makes them so warm and fuzzy. The dreams are usually about me finally finding him or him finally finding me, admitting our ever-lasting love to each other. The dreams have an almost childish Disney-movie romanticism about them.

Second-grade crush was not my first or only crush. I’ve had TONS of crushes over the years. I made sure that I always had someone to crush on. I’ve also very easily had multiple crushes of varying intensities going on at the same time. The real crushes were always over real people around my age. I’ve had the odd celebrity crush, of course. I had a girly crush on Mr T, for example, when I was in high school. As an adult, I’ve crushed like many women on Johnny Depp. But that crush quickly dissipated when I realized that his whimsical on-screen personalities have some basis in Depp’s real-life one. Not sexy in real life, Johnny. Not sexy at all.

Recently I realized that I never really knew second-grade crush. Sure we went to school together as kids. But back then, the boys didn’t readily allow girls to play with them. All I ever wanted to do was play ball with second-grade crush and his guy friends. I was a tomboyish girl who loved active sports and hated playing with dolls. The closest I got was when the boys allowed me to go fetch the ball for them when it fell astray. They had told me that if I did that for a while, they might later let me play actual ball with them. I don’t remember that ever happening. But I do recall feeling very privileged to be the only girl allowed by them to support their play.

I don’t think I ever had a full-blown conversation with second-grade crush. I have no idea what his aspirations were, what he wanted to do when he grew up, what his favorite foods were. I do remember asking him once, while in the 5th grade, who his favorite person was among the girls (hint, hint). He said that I was, but he didn’t say it with a blush. It was just matter-of-fact. One guy to another.

I got to hold his hand once. We had a class outing at the local ice-skating rink and Maureen convinced me to go with her to second-grade crush and ask him to go for a whiz with the two of us. He kindly obliged. It was bliss. But it was shared with Maureen. I have a feeling lots of other girls had a crush on my second-grade crush.

At one point in my childhood I decided that I loved second-grade crush so much that I was going to carve his name into my thigh. It wasn’t long though until I realized my baba would kill me if he found out. I wasn’t sure I could hide my thigh from him forever, so the result is that there are no scars anywhere on my body with a boy’s name on it.

By the time I got to high school, my baba had imposed tons of Muslim-father rules on me. I could only wear skirts, no pants. I had to cover the rest of my legs with long socks. I couldn’t let my hair down. It always had to be pulled back into a ponytail. I couldn’t have guy friends. My baba didn’t come to school with me, but he might as well have. I did every single thing he told me to do. As a result, I was a bit weird-looking and -acting in high school.

Even so, whenever I passed second-grade crush in the hallways at high school, I’d make sure to look him in the eyes. He always looked back. I never said hi. I never gave a nod of acknowledgement. I just looked him in the eyes in passing.

Second-grade crush once walked next to me in the hallway while I was going to a class. He asked me if I was following the news happening in Palestine. I don’t remember what was happening over there at the time, but instead of saying something intelligent, I was so flustered that I gave this cringe-worthy response: “Yeah. Everyone is making a big deal about everything.”

Second-grade crush eventually got a girlfriend. She was one of my friends. I can’t say that I was terribly jealous. I was just a little bit disappointed that I’d never get a chance to do anything about this long-standing crush of mine.

We only took one class together in the two years I attended that high school. Once, just before the class started, second-grade crush sat on a chair right in front of me and asked, “Hey, Nadia. Do you still have your orange ‘I Hiked the Grand Canyon’ t-shirt?” I hiked the Grand Canyon with my baba and brother in the summer before fourth grade. I was very proud of that t-shirt. Second-grade crush remembered it!

You tell me that all these little things aren’t signs that there was something there.

And because I believed this for years, and if you know adult Nadia at all, you’ll know that I tracked second-grade crush down. It took me years to find him. When the Internet first became a thing on my radar, I decided that this is what was going to help me find second-grade crush (and a whole load of ‘less important’ school friends). I found lots of really good school friends during that time. But I completely failed to find second-grade crush for years. When I did find him, it was his work e-mail address that I managed to get a hold of. Yes. Out of the blue, second-grade crush received a message on his work e-mail from one Nadia, claiming to have gone to school with him and that she found him as part of finding tons of other friends. He remembered me! And….HE REMEMBERED MY ORANGE GRAND CANYON T-SHIRT!

But beyond that, there was nothing. No obvious excitement about finally hearing from this long lost one and true love. No sudden gushing of long-hidden feelings toward me. He was happily married with a few kids (phewy!) and was doing well at his job.

Even though I felt I was getting the cold shoulder, I didn’t stop there. For at that point, if he had let the smallest emotion show, I would have hastened my already-impending divorce to husband number one.

Remember my cringe-worthy response to his question about a Palestinian current event during high school? I had let that regretful conversation go round and round in my head for more than 30 years. I needed him to know I could give him a better response. And so, after adult Nadia returned from a trip to Palestine, she e-mailed him one more time and said, “Guess where I just got back from? Palestine!” As if second-grade crush could possibly have remembered that he asked me about it all those years ago. The man was, of course, oblivious, as was obvious from his answer. All I did was make a complete and utter fool of myself.

Years later, I complained on Facebook about my recurring high school nightmares. A Facebook friend, someone I’ve never met in person but I’ve become rather fond of (in a friendly way!) sent me a message in my Facebook inbox. He related. I can’t remember what he said, but whatever it was, it caused me to confide in him about some things that happened during my high school years that I know have led to some of my recurring dreams. He came up with a brilliant idea. Get in touch with your high school friends and explain what this time was like for you. Maybe this will give you some closure. It was then that I told him about my recurring second-grade-crush dream. “But what do I do about that dream? I can’t e-mail second-grade-crush and tell him I had a crush on him all those years ago and he keeps appearing in my dreams!” To be honest, I was hoping that my friend would tell me I had to. Instead, he said something even more brilliant than what he said about my other dreams. He told me not to get in touch with him. Those dreams, he said, represent the purity and innocence of your childhood. Leave them as they are.

That was an eye-opener. It was then that I realized that I didn’t have a crush on a real person. My crush was on a figment of my childhood imagination. It was on someone I had met, mainly in passing, but who I knew virtually nothing about and who I have no idea who he turned out to be.

The dreams in which he appears are warm and fuzzy because they represent everything that was good about my childhood. In so many ways, those dreams represent the little Nadia who still resides inside of me.

I’m a very happily married woman. I am truly in love with my husband. But I also love that I have managed to hold onto my second-grade self after all these years. That is what those dreams are all about. They are about that child within me: my original, true self. That original, true self of mine gives me warm and fuzzy feelings. She comes back to me often and reminds me who I am.

But second-grade crush: COME ON! Gimme something! Your second grade feelings were mutual. Right? RIGHT???



  1. I very relate to this, and I’m glad that you found your friend. Just before graduation from college, I created a facebook group for my school, completely informal. I went through lists and lists of hundreds of school mates who I found on Facebook (luckily everything was public back then) in search of my first crush, which happened to be when I was 16 years old. I never got to find her, though I stopped searching after getting married 🙂

    I was a very shy person back then, you would resonate as I spent my first 12 years in Saudi Arabia. The school had boys and girls in the same class and I was horrible with girls. I was very shy to talk to my first crush through I guess she knew from I way I looked at her that I had feelings, this continued for a couple of years till high school where no one went to school anymore (only doroos). Then I lost track of her.

    Hope you have all the happiness in life!

  2. i never would have thought that i would have found something so similar to an experience i had recently on the internet by google. thank you so much for this post! i related to it and found a whimsical sense of closure through reading.

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