What a great time to begin my 'Way Back Whensdays' posts, considering today is my wife and I's anniversary.
For those interested in sappy stories, here’s one for you.
A little over 18 years ago, I was waiting to get into the high school band room for practice. There, waiting with me was my friend Amanda Grooms. Then walked in was this pretty girl with short hair, dimples, blue eyes, the cutest laugh, blue jeans and a black turtleneck. Amanda introduced me to her; Stephanie. She played the violin. I immediately liked her, showing off by doing handstand pushups next to the wall. Although, I hadn’t said anything to her, feeling nervous and intimidated by her beauty. After that day I began looking for her in the halls, but never saw her. Stephanie was a grade below me and our high school was huge, perhaps a quarter mile from one end to the other with hallways branching off.
One day I forgot something for class and took a different route to my locker to retrieve it. Alas! There she was, heading to class in the opposite direction. Well, after that, I made it a point to “forget something” and changed the direction to which I went to class. Still, I was too nervous to say anything, but at least I could get a look at her.
Not long from then was the annual school band trip where we went across country to compete. This year we were heading to Dallas, TX. Our school band took about 5 charter buses and you were allowed to pick your bus buddy. Mine was my friend Murod. Fortunately for us, when loading the bus, we learned that there was only one girl assigned to the seat in front of us, and for some reason she didn’t make the trip. So, I said, “Hey, Murod, you take those two seats, and I’ll take these two”; a lot more comfy on an 18 hour bus trip.
When I went to my seat, I realized that my friend Amanda was sitting right behind me, and her partner was to my excitement, Stephanie. This was going to be a great trip! When I fell asleep she’d knock my arm so my head would fall, and I’d wake. While waiting for the bus that got stuck in the ditch, and had to be pulled out by a trash truck, to Chuckie Cheese’s, putt-putt, every McDonald’s stop, to the bus that caught fire and caused the rest of the band to wait on the side of the highway for hours till a new bus arrived, Stephanie and I did everything together. We enjoyed watching Forest Gump and comparing ourselves to peas and carrots, to laughing at You Might be a Redneck jokes with friends back at the hotel. She must have been talking way too much because her voice was getting raspier, until it finally was lost. It didn’t matter. I was falling in love!
On the way back home from the trip, I wanted so bad for Stephanie to come sit with me. Other female friends kept coming to hang out, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful and ask them to move. Finally, when the movie Ghost started playing, Stephanie finally came to sit with me. My hand was aching to hold hers. I slowly inched my fingers across the seat, trying not to be noticed, and by the romantic part of the movie when they’re holding one another next to the potter’s wheel (you know that part), I finally managed to touch my pinky finger to Stephanie’s hand. And by that point, the message was clear and I placed all of my hand upon hers. We stayed that way till the end of the trip.
Back at school, we gave one another a hug and the next day I had to leave for a week as a 5th grade camp counselor. I wrote a post card to her, and eventually a poem, named after her favorite perfume. Later that summer while walking around the high school track, I worked up the guts to ask Stephanie out. She said she could not date till she was 16, and I simply asked her to be my girlfriend. “Yes” she said. And that was it! We have been together since (with some ups and downs of course). Exactly 7 years after that, I proposed to her (on the high school track again), and exactly 1 year after that, we were married. Today marks our 18 years together, and 10 years married. Happy Anniversary!
What I later learned, was that Stephanie first liked me after seeing me perform a drum solo in the 7th grade for a middle school talent show.
Stephanie planned my 16th surprise birthday party, joined the flag corps so we could be with one another during marching band season, gave me a puppy for my first Christmas gift, came to study with me in college, went with me to the Peace Corps, has provided me with two beautiful children, and continues to love, support, and encourage me in every way possible. To this day, we still have every picture, card, letter, mixed tape, friendship bracelet, folded school note, lock of hair, four leaf clover, broken wish bone, movie/concert ticket, old perfume bottle (I used to spray on my pillow in college), and souvenir we’ve given to one another. I wish I could share them all with you. Please enjoy the ones I’ve included here.
Stephanie, my LOVE, I love you with all of my heart, and with each passing year, I find myself still falling in love. You become ever more beautiful, and I am so happy to have you and your family as a part of my life. And thank you for helping create our family. You bless me in so many ways, and as I said recently, having you at my side gives me a sense of accomplishment as a man, husband, and father. Thank you. I look forward to many more decades of wonderful memories, laughter, love, and helping one another evolve. Happy Anniversary. I love you.