Twenty years ago today, I met the person who would change my life forever.
I was 15 years old. Enjoying my final days as a freshman, I was finally feeling the groove after that awkward transition from middle school where you share the halls with 11 year olds to high school with its lockers and football games and 18 year olds who seem to have their whole worlds figured out (what little I knew).
I was a band geek. Have I mentioned this before? I must have. I played flute. Later, I’d move on to twirling the flags for marching band. Did it make me a nerd? Maybe. Did I love every minute of it? Yup. The freshman band took a fun field trip each year to an amusement park. I think it was the director’s way of making up for the fact that the 10-12th grade band went on a spring break trip each year to places like New York and Disney World. The trip was also planned for prom weekend, so it was a win-win for us lowly frosh with nothing better to do on the biggest social weekend of the high school scene.
A senior came along that year. A cute drummer who apparently was skipping his senior prom because the girl he took the year before had made up with her boyfriend the week prior to prom and he was suddenly a third wheel. With no clear girlfriend to take his senior year, he simply skipped and joined the young band director on the freshman band trip as a sort of chaperon.
Just typing this is weird. I feel like it should all start with “Dear Diary” or some other youthful affect.
So, this cute guy somehow is tagging along with our group as we head towards a roller coaster line. Come to find out, he’s got a bit of a fear of heights. I tease him about this mercilessly. Why not? A fun, easy flirtation with a cute guy? Someone who is older and won’t remember me in a week anyway? Might as well make the most of the trip.
I had a great time that day. I was young and confident and enjoying a warm afternoon with friends. I seemed to have the attention of a cute, older, more mysterious boy. I was several seats behind him on the bus ride home and must have stared a hole into the back of his head wondering if he’d turn around. Willing him to turn around. Wishing he would just turn around.
I saw him occasionally in school over the next few weeks. He was around the day I tried out for color guard. We hung out a bit at the combined bands end of year picnic. And then, just before graduation, he called and asked me out.
Twenty years later, I’m married to the man that grew from that cute, older, mysterious boy. I see glimpses of that boy in our two boys sometimes. A certain twinkle in their eyes. A slight dimple in a cheek when they laugh. A glance over their shoulders when they are laughing. They all bring me back to those early days of our youthful courtship, when everything was carefree and fresh.
It’s harder now. Life and kids make marriage a challenge. It’s not as easy as a mix tape and movie anymore. It’s scheduling time together. It’s heart to hearts in the middle of the night when all the distractions and emotional armor are finally gone. It’s babysitters and reservations.
The first time I hugged him, back at that band picnic in 1991 using some excuse like “good luck with graduation if I never see you again” it felt like coming home. There was something different in that brief and casual embrace that clicked inside my soul. Even now, when the days and weeks are hard, it only takes a hug for me to remember him, to remember the beginning, to remember that we’re in it together.
Funny that he was afraid of roller coasters – seems like we haven’t gotten off of one since that first day 20 years ago. And it’s been one helluva a good ride so far.