Tina’s Smile

tina-grimm-steven-ashlock-davidson-middle-school-1972I first met Tina Grimm in 1972 at Davidson Middle School, in San Rafael, California. We had attended separate elementary schools, and were thrown into the chaos that is junior high school, and the accompanying early adolescent growing pains. As a 12-year-old kid, I was a bit overwhelmed by everything at that time – so many new faces, and so many new challenges. I saw friends from my elementary school days, less frequently now – they were off with other groups, other classes, and new friends. Things were different now at home too: my parents had just divorced, my mother remarried, and everything I used to know and count on, had changed. It was during this time in my life, that I first saw Tina’s smile.

Miss Zaik taught Social Studies, where Tina and I sat near the back at opposites ends of the classroom. The first day of school, September 5th, 1972, was the very same day that 11 Israeli Olympic team members were taken hostage in Munich, Germany, and eventually killed by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. In the subsequent days following the attack, our Social Studies class spent a lot of time discussing this tragedy, and the events that followed. It was during these times, I began to notice the cute, smiley, energetic, and silly girl that sat over near the window.

There seemed to always be some type of commotion in that area of the Miss Zaik’s classroom. Tina and her friend Leana would receive the occasional look from the teacher, in hopes of quieting things down. I am not sure how or when it began, but “notes” began to be passed back and forth between Tina and me – folded a dozen times into a small, tight, compact parcel. These notes were somehow passed, unadulterated, across several rows of students – each one passing off to the other, until it reached the intended recipient. I remember the precise contents of only one note, sent from Tina, across the back of the classroom, with my name on the outside. I opened the note, and was excited to read, “Will you be my boyfriend?” It contained the standard “Yes/No” answer section, with the corresponding box to be checked off accordingly. I checked the box next to “Yes” and sent it back to Tina. She smiled, giggled with her friends, and class ended. I remember thinking to myself, “I have a girlfriend,” and she is so cute, funny, and has an unbelievable smile.

Tina and I continued to have this note-passing relationship for a little while longer. There were to be no long talks, holding hands, phone calls, or innocent kiss – ours was a brief childhood encounter, but it left an impression on me. It was not too long afterwards, when Tina’s friend, Leana, walked up to me at my locker, and said what were the saddest words to me: “Tina doesn’t want to be your girlfriend anymore.” I responded, “Okay” – and that was that. It was over almost as quickly as it began, but I never forgot Tina’s smile.

During these long school days that seemed to go on forever, other friendships began to occur – days turned into weeks, and school became more predictable, and manageable. I would see Tina, and we would say hello, because we were friends. I was happy enough just to see her smile – that brought me joy. Seventh grade finally ended, and we all made it through eighth grade unscathed as well. My friends still consoled me about Tina, writing in my yearbook, “Have a good summer – stay loose and get back with Tina”, and “Steve, see you next year. Sorry you and Tina didn’t get together. See you around.”

Tina and I entered San Rafael High School together in 1974, and I left San Rafael in 1976. That was the last time I saw Tina.

I was deeply saddened when I read of the events in November 1978 – I am still sad, but know tina-grimmshe is at peace. Our paths crossed for a very brief time, but it was a special time. I will always remember Tina’s smile. I also have tangible remembrance of Tina, for her entry in my yearbook during those final days at Davidson Middle School, is my most prized: “To You, From Me, Tina Grimm.”

(Steven Ashlock is a friend of Tina Grimm, who died in Jonestown. He attended Junior & High School with Tina. He is married with six children, and six grandchildren, and lives in Central California with his wife, Katrina. He may be contacted at scasr@comcast.net.)