I first laid eyes on my valentine (aka lovely wife) when she was a sophomore and I was a junior in high school. I saw her across a crowded room (actually, a gymnasium) while attending a girls’ Varsity basketball game. I just happened to notice her sitting in the upper balcony, amongst a few familiar faces also of the female persuasion, and I was instantly smitten with her. I could not take my eyes off of the “new girl,” and at that moment I became oblivious to anything that may or may not have been happening on the basketball court right in front of me. My future valentine was absolutely stunning from what I could surmise from that distance.
I could tell she possessed a nice figure, an alluring smile, and long, feathered auburn hair. When she initially stood up she appeared to be somewhat statuesque although upon further investigation I concluded her tall stature was at least partly due to the fashionable hiking boots she was wearing. She definitely seemed hip to the times: sporting a pink Izod shirt with a white sweatshirt draped over her shoulders and tied loosely around her tan neck. I wanted to meet her, but before I knew it the game was over, and the intoxicating young woman was gone. However, that did not stop me from thinking about her every now and then.
A couple of months later a good friend of mine, I had not been hanging out with for a while, invited me and a few others to play a game of basketball outdoors at the junior high school. When I arrived the “girl of my dreams” was leisurely playing a game of one on one, in a flirtatious manner, against my friend. I found out that day how she looked in a pair of shorts, and I certainly was impressed. It quickly occurred to me why I hadn’t seen my long lost friend for quite some time. I too had been guilty of dropping my buddies, like lead balloons, in pursuit of female companionship although I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth I missed that one. In any event, now being so close to this brown-eyed girl my suspicions were confirmed: She truly was ravishing. I did not see my future valentine very often, while she was dating my friend, except when occasionally bumping into her in the hallways of the high school.
I vividly remember her coming up to me at some point and running her fingers through my hair. I had just gotten a perm from my mother’s hairdresser, and I guess she wanted to acknowledge the fact that my hair was different. I was not an expert at being able to decipher a woman’s signals, at the tender age of seventeen (or any time since then for that matter), but I thought surely some physical contact from the opposite sex, regardless of how minor, was an encouraging sign. Therefore, when her boyfriend foolishly broke up with her, during the summer of 1983, I did not hesitate to move in for the kill. I did have other options, not to toot my own horn, because at least two other girls were chasing me at the time, but I was not about to let the opportunity for pursuing the “girl of my dreams” pass me by. Alright, I suppose I was tooting my own horn a bit.
In no time I was dating the brown-eyed beauty although it did not come without a few challenges. Two weeks into our relationship my valentine’s ex-boyfriend came to his senses and tried wooing her back. He sent her a fancy, heart-shaped record, of some mushy love song, which he had addressed to her from him on the record’s sleeve. My valentine must’ve already fallen hard and fast for me by that time (and why wouldn’t she have) because she voluntarily showed me the unique present she had received from her ex. She assured me she no longer had any interest in him, so I promptly returned the sweet gift, now broken into many tiny pieces, and I re-labeled the sleeve to him from me. I assume the message was received loud and clear since my valentine did not hear from him again. My girlfriend’s loyalty to me, after only a short amount of time, was extremely refreshing.
If truth be told, I probably fell much harder and faster for my valentine than she fell for me. Cupid’s aim was undeniably perfect. His arrow successfully pierced the bulls-eye on my chest, and I knew in my heart shortly after we met that there would be no turning back. I remember our first summer together when she had to go on a family vacation to Tennessee. I cannot recall if she left for a week, ten days, or two weeks, but it might as well have been a million years because it seemed like an eternity to me. In hindsight, it was either very romantic or quite sickening how miserable I was while she was away. My heart ached the entire time she was gone. I wrote my newfound love numerous letters to keep myself somewhat occupied during her absence, and I’m embarrassed to admit I got teary-eyed every time I heard a love song being played on the radio. To this day, I immediately think of my lovely wife, and the loneliness I felt being apart from her, whenever I hear the love ballads “Faithfully” by Journey and “Don’t Let It End” by Styx.
Our courtship was probably not what most people would refer to as exciting, but it did seem to fit our simple nature to a tee. When my valentine and I first began dating I was working very part time (5 hours a week) as a janitor at a small office building. Thank goodness she wasn’t the diva princess type or we would’ve been doomed from the start. My wages were just enough to cover the cost of our weekly date night out consisting of dinner at Giovanni’s Family Restaurant before catching a movie at the Capitol Theatre. Our regular waiter at Giovanni’s, J.R., knew our order by heart: a small taco pizza with a dish of sour cream, an order of french-fries with parmesan cheese sprinkled over the ketchup, and a pitcher of pop. Of course, we eventually replaced the pitcher of pop with a pitcher of Michelob Light once we both reached Iowa’s legal drinking age. It was nineteen back then.
After I hit the big-time, landing a job at McDonald’s, I was then able to treat my lady to a night on the town more often and provide her with the more finer things in life. That’s right. I could now afford concert tickets to the likes of Bon Jovi, Poison, and Motley Crue, and I could also buy my valentine better gifts throughout the year. We spent the remainder of our dating years renting VHS movies (Beta was for losers), picnicking at Mariposa Park (sunbathing included), and hanging out with the McDonald’s gang. However, most of our evenings were spent on my bed engaging in countless exhilarating games of rummy. No, rummy is not a euphemism for something else. In fact, the door to my bedroom was always to remain open, for my parents’ peace of mind, whenever my girlfriend came over.
My valentine and I were practically inseparable, spending every waking hour together, with only school and the occasional after school activities (E.g. baseball and pacesetters) keeping us apart from one another. We even worked side by side at McDonald’s for a time. Surely, we didn’t spend too much time in each others company. I would be amiss not mentioning that we did have numerous breakups along the way, but the majority of them only lasted a day or two. Ahh…young love. Jealousy, immaturity, and the lack of communication. I’m not positive where, or even how, a marriage proposal transpired, but it must have nonetheless. The peculiar thing about having the same valentine for so long is that the years and the memories tend to bleed together, and some of the details of momentous events seem to get lost along the way.
I do remember my mother suggesting I should either propose to the “girl of my dreams” or let her go so she could pursue other options. My mother thought dating someone for over three years was plenty of time to have already figured it out concerning the future. I don’t know whether I seriously pondered my mother’s words at that time or not, but we did get married the very next summer. Regardless of not knowing the specifics, leading up to our engagement, it doesn’t really matter now because as they say, “the rest is history.” Only by the grace of God, and my wife’s willingness to overlook my selfish ways during our courtship and early years of marriage, have we been able to endure for all these years. I’m simply one of those guys who was fortunate enough to “marry up.” I know I have truly been blessed beyond belief. This February 14th, will mark the 32nd consecutive time I’ve had the pleasure of having the same valentine on Valentine’s Day…if she’ll once again say yes.