Seasons of Loss
I lost my first love today. Fred Hill. A football hero for a five-foot-six-inch guy who could carry the ball and run like blazes down the field. He was more than sport. He was art in its finest sense. I fell in love with him when I was 11. He was in my sister’s class at Clifford John Scott High School in East Orange, New Jersey. Because of him the community attended high school football.
So, I sat in the stands in the cold and the rain and sun and marveled along with everyone else, cheering how a little guy like Fred Hill could make one’s blood run hot by just catching that pigskin and taking off like a rocket. Oh my God, he could run! No one could catch him as he weaved right and left through the tackles on to the goal post. Sometimes the length of the field . . . running . . . running.
Victory! Victory! He gave us victory when we needed it at that time when the first flush of civil rights was burgeoning on our horizon and war, as usual, was once again on the minds of the masters in the halls of judgement. We had Fred Hill to lift us up and out of all of it.
I fell in love. My little pre-teenage heart was full. Of course, he was unattainable; five years my senior and I still a grammar school girl in my blue and white uniform at Holy Name School. Fred Hill was a Catholic, so I was privileged to see him at Mass on Sunday. He had a twin sister, Mona. They didn’t look alike. She was dark and he was fair with big blue eyes.
Fred Hill played baseball too and after he graduated, he went on to attend Upsala College whose ball field was conveniently located across the street from my house. I could sit for hours watching baseball practice in the afternoons and when football season rolled around, naturally, he played for the college, and I had easy access to all the games. Love bloomed and grew.
I bloomed and grew also; 13 turned to 14 and 14 to 15 and I was no longer a little girl. Fred Hill drove a little beat up car and passed by my front yard every afternoon on his way to Upsala. I made sure I wore my most alluring outfits and always found an excuse to be out in the yard. I admit it. I flirted outrageously.
My sister, who didn’t think much of Fred Hill or his athletic prowess, thought I was daft. Yes, a bit out of my mind. Why would a college man even look at a high school girl? But he did. One day. I found myself with him in the little car sitting next to him and off we went to park somewhere; I don’t remember where. I remember what happened though. I was kissed by Fred Hill! Ah, ecstasy!
It was only that one time. Fred Hill went with Evelyn and they were getting engaged and going to be married and I was left in the dust. Oh, heartbreak!
Fred Hill went on to father six children and he played professional baseball for a while too. He became a coach for Rutgers University, Seton Hall University, and Montclair State College. He was the winningest coach of any sport in the state university athletic program’s 150-year history and a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame. He coached and mentored many kids in his long career, some who went on to sports fame. Some say he was the greatest man they ever knew. The list of his accomplishments is long and amazes me. The testaments are overwhelming.
Fred Hill had a stroke and passed away. I would never have learned of it if it weren’t for the fact that my old school chum Brian somehow keeps up with everything from times gone by and he posted it on Facebook.
He’s running now I’m sure. Fast and furious. Carrying the ball through heaven. Farewell Fred Hill. I can still feel the kiss . . .