That’s how long ago it’s been, as of today, that John and I have been a couple. On February 16, 1987, he asked me if I would be interested in going out with him, and I bet if he could have seen the future, he would have run the other way instead. But I guess if any of us could see the future we’d run the other way, right?
I went to college with the express intention of finding a husband. I also said he would be a lawyer (because I thought all attorneys were rich!) and that we would have a lot of children (I wanted ten) and I would stay home with them. I got what I planned for, although it doesn’t always look exactly the way I thought it would! John went to college to prepare to join the Foreign Service. He was going to live a wild bachelor existence until he was at least 30, and he wasn’t really interested in having children at all. He also got what I wanted. 🙂 I think he’s not sorry, most days.
Our early courtship was . . . shall we say . . . complicated, because John had been dating my roommate first. But we worked through that, and all the things that followed. We were best friends first, and I know that helped (still does). We also enjoyed one of those romantic, chemistry-charged beginnings–and we can usually recall those feelings when we need a boost, even if that kind of intensity cannot be sustained non-stop for 25 years.
We’ve always celebrated this date with the same fervor as our wedding anniversary–which is probably why Valentine’s Day has never been a big deal for us. The first year we were dating, we exchanged cards on the 16th of every month! John planned to pop the question on August 16, 1988, which would have been our 18 month anniversary, but once he had the ring he just couldn’t wait, so he asked on July 16 instead.
I have an exceptionally clear and detailed memory of my whole life up until I started having children. Ask anybody. And I’m glad, because I can conjure up not only the feelings of those early days (not wanting to eat, seeing John’s face floating above the Platonic dialogue I was supposed to be reading, being able to think of nothing but our next meeting . . .) but the actual details (what happened each day leading up to the 16th, where I sat and waited for John to meet me after his class, him playing “Only the Good Die Young” whenever I came over– and no, it did not work!). This is more important than ever now.
Because normally today I would go to my dresser drawer and pull out a sheaf of love letters and cards from the first year of that courtship, still in their envelopes, many addressed not to “Leslie” but to “Pumpkin” or whatever the pet name of the week was, neatly arranged in chronological order. It embarrassed John to hear the things he wrote back then, but I treasured them, and realizing they were reduced to ashes was the post-fire moment that brought me closest to tears.
Which brings me to a happier story that I don’t think I’ve shared yet. When I tell people that our house burned down, the thing they all are most upset by is the loss of all our pictures (we will be the last generation that can lose pictures to fire, thanks to computers). Now, honestly, I was more upset about a lot of things. That’s because I made triple prints of every photo and sent one whole set to John’s family in Baltimore, so I knew that most pictures of our kids survived somewhere. I thought, though, that our pre-kid pictures were gone for good.
One day John went over to the ruins to get our fire proof box, which had all the negatives for our pictures, including our wedding pictures. Sadly, fireproof does not mean waterproof, and everything in the box was ruined. But John also came home with a photo album with some salvageable pictures. I sent him back to look again and he returned with most of our photo albums and the baby books too! Somehow, amidst the utter destruction of the room they were in, the built-in cabinet they were stored in provided some level of protection. The albums are singed and many pictures are ruined. But many can be saved.
I can’t do it. Looking at the destroyed ones upsets me and so does the very strong smell of fire. But Emily worked on it at Christmas time and will finish the job this summer. And because of this little miracle, I do have a couple of courtship pictures to illustrate this story.