Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Valentine

February 14, 2010

It was the summer of big hair and tiny dolphin shorts--hallmarks of the early 80's--when I moved in across the street from him. I was finishing up my sophomore year and he was nearing the end of his freshman year at the high school that was a two minute walk from our front doors. When I first saw him he was standing out on his driveway, hanging out with friends who would eventually become an integral part of our lives. He was tall and cute, and a member of our high school band, just like I was.

It has been verified that at first it was my sister who caught their eyes, collectively. My sister, two years younger than me, was and is a vivacious, outgoing and attractive girl. People tend to be drawn to her magnetically, and I can't say I can blame them. I mean, she's a very cool and together person (and my best friend of many, many years). I, on the other hand, am pretty shy and not too successful at first impressions or idle small talk. (Don't get me wrong; once you know me the whole shyness thing fades away, and I can certainly hold my own in a conversation. It's just getting over that first hurdle that challenges me to this day.)

So like lots of guys before and since, my new neighbor and his pals made an effort to befriend me, the sister, in an effort to get closer Lisa. (Of course I didn't know for sure at the time that this was an ulterior motive, but I had my suspicions.) As I got to know Doug, I found him to be incredibly intelligent and witty, but goofy and sweet at the same time. And funny! He made me laugh more than anyone I knew. I can still picture his wry, side-long fifteen year old smile, looking for encouragement that his wit had found its appreciative audience.

There were many hours of late night conversations that summer among Doug, Lisa, Jim, David, and me out on his curb or ours as we soaked up the promise and leisure of summer nights with no place to go and no responsibilities. The courting dance changed its tenor and we just became a tightly knit group of friends with whom there was complete ease and comfort. When we started school that fall, we arrived knowing we already had in place the people who would share our memories of the year. We were all in band, as I said, so that meant hours of practice and bus rides and competitions all in close proximity, over the course of the fall. As we spent more time together, I realized that I was really falling for that boy across the street, smitten as I was with his confidence and his ability to make me laugh and forget my own self-consciousness. To my surprise, I realized that over the course of the fall, he had also turned his affections toward me. I was no longer 'the sister'. That recognition, on both of our parts, threatened to become awkward now and again, as we attempted to renegotiate our friendship and try to make the transition to a different sort of relationship. Then, on a band trip to the Fiesta Bowl in January of that year, we took a walk out under the stars in Rawhide, Arizona, where he shyly took my hand. And under those stars, we shared our first kiss. It was magical--still one of the most magical and romantic moments of my life.

We came home from that trip and were absolutely inseparable. Winter yielded to spring, and our love and affection blossomed. But young love is volatile and can be immature, and in the hands of ones who are yet too young to deftly navigate waters that don't always run smoothly, can hit storms too big to survive. After several months, Doug and I went our separate ways. Though we tried to remain friends, it was quite some time before we were able to make our way back toward the closeness we had known before our first foray coupledom.

We did make it back to friendship, though, eventually. After high school, Doug joined the military, traveled the world, played in more than a few bands, found love. I went to college, got married, had three children, started my teaching career, got a divorce. And though we didn't speak every day, or even every month, whenever we did connect our conversations picked up as if it had been only the day before that we last spoke on the phone. Our paths were separate, but we cared about each other deeply, and sincerely hoped for happiness for each other.

Flash forward several years. I happened one day to run into Doug's mother. He had become a truck driver, she told me, was out on the road for weeks at a time. She thought he might like to hear a friendly voice every now and again. Because he had moved quite a bit, it had been at least five years since we had last spoken. That weekend I picked up the phone and called, and we caught up on all the intervening years. Over the next several months, we chatted as he drove across the country. We became friends again, after all this time, learning about who we were as adults--what we had experienced in our lives, what we thought about, what we believed in, what was important to us. I helped keep him awake during long, lonely nights on the road, and he was an ear for me as I was learning how to be a single mom.

Several months after we reconnected, he was home visiting his mom. He had a couple of days of before he had to get out on the road again, and I had tickets to a concert that I was supposed to attend with my sister. Lisa wasn't able to make it up that weekend, though, so I invited him to join me. Although it wasn't his favorite band, he agreed to come along. It was halfway through the concert when I turned to look at him, and I realized I was falling for him again. Not long after, he realized it, too. We once again began the transition from friendship to coupledom. We were older, though, and less apt to jump to conclusions, to leave unsaid that which needs to be said. We were, of course, more mature, and had enough experience to know what we wanted, what we deserved. And at long last, what we deserved was each other. Two years later, we were married.

Today, I am blessed to be married to someone who truly cares about me and respects who I am as a person, and who is without a doubt my soulmate. He still makes me laugh, every single day. He makes me feel beautiful, and smart, and lucky, and I hope I do the same for him. When he kisses me, I know it's not just because it's my husband and he's supposed to, but because he absolutely loves me. Holding his hand still gives me the same butterflies in my stomach as the very first time his hand tentatively clasped mine. We first met a lifetime ago, and I am thrilled to see what the rest of this lifetime holds for us together.


  1. What an amazing story! I hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day together!!!

  2. What a fun story! I love the picture of you two in high school.

  3. What a great love story. I'm biased but I think the strongest relationships start as young friends.