He's a sweet, gentle, handsome boy. After a year of watching his interactions with the girls in his class, it shouldn't have been a surprise. But in May, I learned that the shy Bill Clinton Hadam had become something of a third grade heartthrob.
Several girls in his class had crushes on him, something Bill knew and, charmingly, reciprocated. He wasn't hopelessly smitten with anyone the way his friend Samson was (the famously disorganized boy managed to arrive early for math class so he could rearrange seats to be near his crush, Mita). But when Bill talks about girls, there's none of that "Girls? Ick!" posturing that sometimes comes with the discovery.
Lei Ellingson, mom of Bill's classmate Hannah, remembers one cool day this past school year when her daughter told her Bill had been wearing some kind of soccer jacket or sweatshirt, and she and her good friend Dunia were thrilled to be each holding on to one sleeve of it.
"He's sweet to her, and they get along, and you can see that they joke and tease. And I like that," says Lei, who has gotten to know Bill through her kids' soccer team.
In recent weeks, Bill and friends have been consumed by a new topic: kissing. Bashfully, and with much giggling, they've been pumping adults they know for first kiss stories. When I asked Bill why, he said, blushing: "I just want to know what it feels like."
"It's smushy!" speculated Ritha, 7, who had seen it on TV. Which caused Igey, 8, to laugh so hard he shot fruit punch out his nose.
Maybe Bill, who's about to turn 10, and his friends are especially enlightened. Maybe it's their school. Or maybe they're just slightly too young to have started in earnest. But at the International Community School, I haven't seen nearly the degree of teasing surrounding crushes that I remember from being that age.
On the last day of school, classmates didn't seem to bat an eye when both Dunia and Hannah clamored for Bill to draw pictures of himself in their autograph books. Hannah made a sign that read: "Bill is Hannah E's BFFL" (best friend for life). When she showed it to Bill, he held it up and grinned.