Simple Systems

The Tale of My First Love

Childhood Crush

I pinched my freckled nose tight and peered under the trampoline at a pair of tan legs grounded in red, white, and blue skate shoes.

“I like that boy,” I whispered to my 7-year-old sister from the safety of my hideout.

“I like him too,” she smiled. “His name is Pete.”

“No, like, I like-like him,” I scowled. “His name is Elisha.”

“Those are ugly shoes,” Ky shrugged.

“Yeah, but look at those muscles!” 

Late that night at summer camp, I snuggled in bed with my three best friends–Kyla, and Annie and Lilja Voetberg–and shyly whispered about my crush.

“I’m still not sure what his name is,” I sighed. “I asked and he said to call him ‘Bo’.”

“I told you it’s Peter,” Ky mumbled sleepily.

“Elisha? You like our older brother!” Lilja groaned and rolled over in bed. “All the girls like him. Not you too!! He’s almost 13 and you’re only 8.”

Nevertheless, the first thing I did when I arrived home in California was scrawl in my journal, “I want to marry Elisha Peter Voetberg.”

Over the next 4 years, I only saw glimpses of Elisha at Camp Dwight each summer. I say ‘glimpses’ because he was always running around with the cool kids that could drive, stay up late, and eat sugar without asking their parents. Annie, Lilja and I went to sleep at 8:30pm, and I was wearing pull-ups to bed until I was 10.

Still, I would dream about Elisha each night, and try anything to impress him—back flips, sports, learning the fiddle (because he and his sisters played) and memorizing all the songs on his family’s CDs by heart. Still, we never talked.

I do remember giving him a half hug goodbye once. He was wearing a pink pin-stripped shirt and I nearly passed out with happiness.

He also got on Instant Messenger one New Year’s Eve when I was messaging Annie and told me I was a jerk. My heart flip-flopped and I wouldn’t have been happier if he told me he was in love.

“Katie, Elisha is too old, hun,” by babysitter told me late one night.

“Well, then I’ll grow up fast,” I shrugged and snuggled in my bed to pray the prayer I did every night: “Dear Jesus, Please let me marry Elisha.” 

From the Distance

Around 12 years old, I got tired of not being noticed—by Elisha, that is. Turns out, other boys my age thought I was cute, and my tomboy teasing turned into flirting and giddiness. However, every year at Camp, my heart would still flutter when I saw Elisha get on stage and perform on his mandolin. I’d make excuses to hang out with his friends, but still, we never talked.

“Do you still like him?” Lilja whispered.

“Of course not.” I sighed. “I admire a lot of things about him but I’m not going to be one of the hundreds of girls that like him.”

She rolled her eyes.

Then, I started hearing rumors of Elisha liking this girl or that girl falling for him. I realized he was 20 and I barely turned 15. He was going to be married before I even finished puberty.

I gave him up. (Although I still developed grudges against girls I heard he was crushing on). Besides, other guys told me they “were in love with me.”

The Beginning of the End

Finally, I turned 18, and my dad decided to let guys begin contacting me. A couple well-known suitors made public their desire to “get to know me” that week, and I was considering how to respond when an email popped up in my browser from ELISHA VOETBERG!!!!

Suddenly my heart stopped. Elisha Peter Voetberg, my first crush, the boy that was always out of reach, the catch of the century, wanted to get to know ME!

“Ahhhhhh!!!!!!” I jumped up on the bed and began screaming. Dizzy with excitement I didn’t even read the whole email and sprinted downstairs to my dad’s room.

“Oh my gosh,” I gasped, “tell me it’s not a joke. Tell me it’s. not. a. joke. Elisha . . . Elisha Voetberg . . . he wants . . . did you know this???! He wants to get to know me! Ahhhhhhh! I can’t even handle it!” I grabbed my head and jumped up and down.

Daddy shot Mother a ‘this-was-a-bad-idea’ glance and sighed, “let’s go upstairs, Katie.”

“Just tell me! Tell me! Is this real? Oh my WORD!”

Thus began a series of the dullest, most thought out, most anticipated letters ever written.

Our “approved” form of contact would have me clambering to the mailbox every day at 11:15am to check for a letter. It didn’t matter if Elisha wrote like he was writing the president, it didn’t matter that my dad read every word and censored everything I sent out, they were letters from him with his scrawling penmanship and light scent. He said I was a cool girl, and we talked about the weather and theology and any other emotionless fact.

Elisha and I hung out in person at a wedding a few weeks in.

It was awkward.

When we talked he would look over my head like he was trying to find someone in a crowd. I would alternate between following him around and ignoring him, but I told every girl I was writing Elisha Voetberg and they all fainted with jealously.

We hung out again. It was awkward again. Both of us would make small talk and then ignore each other. I wrote in my journal how insecure I was . . . maybe I wasn’t pretty enough for Elisha.

I was pretty sure Elisha didn’t like me, because he would get antsy when I was there and would then monologue for hours while I feigned interest and stared at his gorgeous eyes thinking “this is worth it.”

Then came Camp Dwight. The camp where I met my crush, the camp where I swooned over him for ten years. The CAMP.

“Elisha’s hot,” I whispered to Lilja as he performed at talent night.

She rolled her eyes, “you guys are SO awkward. I hate this.”

Love finally began to blossom and a light flirtation between Elisha and I occurred around the camp fire. As usual, it was awkward, but skydiving together was a highlight and I came home with a love-song written in my mind and hope in my heart.

“Mommy,” I smiled dreamily, “Elisha and I may actually get married!”

“I’m not ready for this,” Mama said, concerned.

Turns out, no one was ready, for the next week Daddy announced there would be no more letters between Elisha and I while he got to know him. There was no timeline for this “get to know” process and I sunk into the first depression I ever experienced. 

Elisha was allowed to come to my district volleyball championship and I felt awkwardness . . . again. Any momentum we had gained was completely gone, and all the dreams I had of running and jumping in his arms were realized as a stiff side-hug and painfully polite “hellos.”

Nevertheless, we still talked on the phone once a week. These calls were usually Elisha monologuing for an hour and me “mmm . . . oh . . .uh-huhing” as a mindless, frustrated, insecure girl.

I started to get fed-up with this “relationship” with prince charming.

It’s Over

Elisha came down to visit me in California that winter and we got in a family argument. Actually, we got in lots of them.

“You guys just need to be friends for the next year or two,” Daddy cautioned. “He’s not ready to get married.”

“I just want a boyfriend,” I sobbed. “I like him and I want to go on dates WITHOUT Kyla and Kelsey!”

Tension reached an all time high when Elisha decided to create an argument:

“I don’t think corn syrup is bad for you…” He  smiled smugly and waited for a response.

I took the bait . . . worn out and mad.

When we got home to Oregon, I still answered Elisha’s call, only to hear him say we should think of taking it slower . . . talking less, maybe even taking a break.

I was fed up.

This guy didn’t like me, he wouldn’t romance me, and my dad was ready to ship him to Africa to grow up. Typically a confident, good-with-guys kind of girl, I was sick of feeling insecure and unsure of myself. And he wanted to take it slower?! We were already going backwards.

“Elisha,” I wrote a final letter (that was never sent), “I’m kind of tired of this. You’re awesome, but whatever we are, whatever we’re doing, let’s stop.”

The next week, Elisha called for a final time, “Katie, it’s just too much pressure right now. I respect you, but I need to figure out what I’m doing with my life and I don’t think we make each other better. I’m not saying I’ll pretend we never happened . . . I liked you, but it’s over. Are you with me?”

I held back tears and nodded on the phone, “Yeah,” I whispered, “I totally understand. You’re right.”

After we hung up I walked down to my parent’s room with tears trickling down my cheeks. “He’s right,” I smiled through cloudy eyes. “I’m actually relieved. Like, it’s sad everything I’ve dreamed about for so long is over, but it actually feels good to be done with all that confusion!”

I laughed . . . and never looked back.

Well, actually I did look back over the next year and a half, but only with a cringe and grateful heart. We gave it our best shot and it didn’t work. Continue Reading.


Cheers to first loves!
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1 thought on “The Tale of My First Love

  1. OH I am SO happy for you Kathryn:) I can’t wait to read the rest of the story;) I love how you’ve written it so honestly. I needed to hear it that way:) Thank you for being willing to share. I know how hard that is sometimes, especially with details about our hearts. I know God has a very special plan for you and Elisha together, and I’m sure it will be worth every moment of the journey!

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