I declared my feelings for Johnny to Johnny on August 25th and he visited me overnight for the first time on the 28th. Shortly after that he announced that he had the entire upcoming Labor Day weekend free and that he could spend it with me.


I didn’t know then how rare it was for Johnny to have a free weekend, one with no lessons, no studio sessions, no gigs, no rehearsals, but I was excited to have more time with him, a couple of nights with no travel in sight, no early morning departures. I didn’t think to check with my elderly mother and my younger brother about Johnny’s impending visit: I was in my mid-fifties, felt I was in charge of my own social life, saw no need to say anything other than “Johnny’s coming over.” I had told my Mom previously that Johnny and I had known each other for a couple of years at the ballad group.


Johnny and I made a plan to meet in Berkeley to see “Beasts of the Southern Wild” at the California Theater. Then he would come home with me, stay the night. He would go home briefly on Saturday before meeting me again at a Saturday afternoon singing session in Albany. Then we would attend a birthday party for one of Johnny’s friends in the Berkeley hills and go back to my house again.


I remember standing outside the California waiting for Johnny. I remember buying a yogurt from the nearby deli and eating it before the movie so that I wouldn’t spend money on expensive movie snacks. I finally spotted Johnny on the far side of Shattuck Avenue, wearing his trademark black leather jacket and carrying a guitar.


We bought our tickets separately and Johnny stopped at the concession stand for a hot dog and a cup of coffee. I asked him where he wanted to sit and held his coffee while he arranged his gear in the aisle.


Then we watched the film, which focused on the relationship between a little girl and her dying father. They yell and scream at each other and push each other away. He drinks and tells her again and again she is not allowed to cry. Parts of the movie pained me to watch and Johnny laughed at lines I didn’t think were funny. For all that, it was a good film, a film that made me think and feel (I later learned that it was based on a novel by Doris Betts, whose novels I generally enjoy, but I have yet to track it down and read it).


Gathering up our stuff and walking to the nearest bus stop, Johnny and I continued a silly tradition based on a New Yorker cartoon he told me about: in the panel a young woman holds up a batch of envelopes. The caption reads, “Darling, our first bills!” As we walked, we declared, “Darling, our first movie.” “Darling, our first bus ride together.”


When Johnny and I arrived in Kensington, I fed him whatever leftovers we had at the house and he and I retired to my bedroom to talk and cuddle. We stayed up almost all night again, spending a lot of the time telling each other stories. We got up early enough for him to have coffee and scrambled eggs with peppers and cheese. We sat in the breakfast room holding hands whenever we put down our forks, gazing at each other across the table. He sang to me in the kitchen again and I walked him to the bus stop and waited until his bus came. We kissed goodbye, but would see each other that afternoon.


Johnny showed up at the singing session that was utterly new to him, sat down next to me and proceeded to charm the room. He played “our song,” Allen Toussaint’s “New Love Thing,” getting everyone to sing along. He played “Dark End of the Street” for me to sing lead. As the session broke up our hostess offered to drive us to our next destination.


I knew no one at the party, but agreed to go because Johnny wanted to introduce me to some people. We entered a two-story house in the hills. A glorious buffet featured salmon, salad, savory pastries and cheeses. We were directed to the deck to get drinks: Johnny started with red wine and I drank sparkling water.


I remember loading up a plate and finding a seat in the living room. Johnny and I were trading on the story of how we met. I remember sitting next to a woman older than I, who told me the story of the last time she had fallen in love and how she didn’t regret a moment of it. Johnny sat listening, laughing, occasionally interjecting something and introducing me to people. John McCord and Lyuba came in — I knew them from Down Home Music in El Cerrito where I had bought many records. Johnny introduced me to Chris Strachwitz, who started the whole shebang, and to the filmmaker Les Blank, who looked ill and tired.


We bummed a ride home from John McCord and spent our second consecutive night together, about which I remember nothing. I’m sure that we talked, told each other more stories, held each other, kissed and cuddled. We may have stayed up until the light appeared in the morning sky, for we did that many a night in the early days. After some weeks, we became so tired that we slept at least three or four hours: it made me happy when Johnny slept because it was rare for him to get enough sleep.


After that second night, my Mom suggested that we might want to go out for breakfast so we strolled down to Inn Kensington for our next meal. After the third night, my mother smiled at Johnny and took his hand and read me the riot act the moment the door closed behind him.


“I am uncomfortable in my own house,” she said. “You are behaving just like Kevin.”


My deceased older brother had lived in a small downstairs room with an outside entrance and brought girlfriends to the house when he had them. Both of us were serial monogamists. My mother had not objected to previous boyfriends of mine or their visits.


I explained that Johnny usually taught or rehearsed or gigged on weekends and that we had seized a rare opportunity to spend the long weekend together. She didn’t care about that.


“What do you want me to do?” I asked, cutting to the chase.


“I don’t want him here consecutive nights,” she said. “And he can’t be here the night before Christmas or the night before Thanksgiving.”


I conveyed the new rules to Johnny on the phone. While I lived in my mother’s house I had to follow whatever rules she made. Accepting such restrictions in my fifties felt odd and lent resonance to a Karla Bonoff song that Johnny liked me to sing: “I never really was a bad girl, but you got me in trouble again.”