What happened to Wade? The coolest 6-year-old I knew

by DGO Web Administrator

Neurologists say our sense of smell is the sense most strongly linked with memory.

And when the ladyfriend showed up the other night with Trader Joe’s Antiplaque Toothpaste with Fennel, Propolis & Myrrh on her breath, which tastes and smells disgustingly similar to licorice, my memory went straight to first grade, eating Good & Plenty in my elementary school gym watching “Bambi” and sitting next to Wade Lewis.

“Wade Lewis!” I shrieked to the ladyfriend. “I have to tell you my Wade Lewis story.” Then, 33 years after it happened, I told my Wade Lewis story for the first time. And the details kept coming and coming.

First, I told her, you must understand who Wade Lewis was. Wade Lewis had an enviable aloofness, a chiseled jaw, and cartoon-blond hair, kept wavy and flowing by the comb he often carried in his back pocket. He took taekwondo lessons and wore a Members Only jacket before anyone else and pushed the sleeves to his elbows. A gentleman of few words, he had smoky blue eyes, and this squint – a 3-mile squint – and seemed like he’d be better suited on a dusty desert road standing by his ’60s T-Bird smoking, with a girl under his arm.

Wade Lewis was easily the coolest kid in Ms. Cordova’s first-grade class – probably the coolest kid in the world. To this day, he’s easily the coolest person I’ve ever known.

He was the kind of guy men wanted to be and women wanted to be with. And he was 6.

To illustrate Wade Lewis’ coolness, I give you the following side-story:

Through a connection of Ms. Cordova’s, the field goal kicker for the Denver Broncos, Rich Karlis – best known for kicking barefoot, was supposed to come and say a few words to our school (my school was in a suburb of Denver). So we all headed to the gym, seated on the floor in rows, waiting patiently, talking among ourselves. After some time, after Karlis was supposed to have arrived, a teacher walked out and said Karlis was running late. More time passed – was it 15 minutes? 30? An hour? – and the teacher came back out and said Karlis was en route and he’d be here any minute. We go back to our conversations. After much more time had passed, the teacher returned and said Rich Karlis would not be coming, and we headed back to our classrooms, confused more than anything, wondering if Karlis had any intention to come in the first place.

To make it up, since he apparently knew Ms. Cordova, he sent a commemorative Broncos patch to our class. I could only see it from afar, but this patch looked expensive. There was just one problem: There was only one patch and about 20 kids in our class. Who would get it? It could belong to the class. Ms. Cordova could hang it for all to see. But Ms. Cordova – she was young, and I recall it being her first year teaching – had a better plan, doing the most sensible thing conceivable: She went around the classroom and made each student say – out loud, in front of everyone – who should get the patch. Horrifying in hindsight, we went around and cast our votes aloud. And one by one, the tally mounted: “Wade! … Wade … Wade!” Both boys and girls, some exclaiming his name like they were enthusiastically endorsing a product with thumbs up: “Wade!” He won the patch with 98 percent of the vote, and I grumbled to myself that Wade didn’t even like football, not as much as me at least.

I was friends with Wade, but more so, I had a special in: Our older brothers, fifth-graders then, were friends, too. One time, my brother and I spent the night over at the Lewis’, and the only memory from that night was thinking Wade, at 6, was much, much cooler than his 10-year-old bespectacled brother. “How is this possible?” I recall thinking.

Which brought me back to the Good & Plenty and “Bambi” and the gymnasium. A snack table had been set up in the back with Wade and me in line for candy. Wade went first and ordered a cardboard box of Good & Plenty. Accompanying the coolest 6-year-old in the world, I witnessed his order, never having heard of or tasted Good & Plenty, and thought, “If it’s good enough for Wade Lewis, it’s good enough for me.”

Wade and I found our seats on the gymnasium floor and tore into our Good & Plentys. I took one bite and my face contorted tasting the most disgusting candy I’d had before or since.

“Wade Lewis might be incredibly cool,” I remember thinking, “but his candy choice suuuucks!” I left the 98-percent-full box of candy on the gymnasium floor, never giving Wade my assessment.

I don’t know what ever happened to Wade Lewis after that; his family moved away after first grade and I moved up a rung on the popularity ladder.

In the days after I told this story, I began looking for Wade Lewis online, combing Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, one Google search after another with a wide net of search terms. I looked at picture after picture with only a memory of an incredibly cool 6-year-old boy in my head. What was I looking for exactly?

I caught myself after a while gravitating exclusively to men who looked like male models: stylish clothes, chiseled jaws, smoky blue eyes, 3-mile squints. But Wade could have been the portly, balding fella in the sleeveless T. Thirty-three years is a long time, and what if Wade’s coolness peaked at 6?

I suppose that’s why high school reunions can be so fascinating, all the people you knew who clearly peaked at 18. The cheerleaders you remember being so stuck up, the popular kids and their cliques, the cocky football players who seemed to get everything, all showing up overweight with seven kids working dead-end jobs. Or possibly worse: Utterly boring. The things that got you ahead when you were 6 or 18 aren’t necessarily the ones that will propel you in life.

Wade Lewis was universally adored by all, but more, he was nice for a 6-year-old, a real man of the people. But Good & Plenty? That kid knew nothing.

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