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Monday, February 10, 2014

Grand Beginnings: The Story of Us Part I

It’s cold and snowy and I’m ready for winter to be over… but instead of complaining, and because it's almost Valentine's Day, I’m gonna be romantic. Because I’m married now and life is all romantic. Right.

 <Imagine the watery time-travel transition they use in movies>

Let me take you to a time that was, um…six and a half years ago. Or so. Something like that.

It was the summer after my freshman year in college, July 20th, to be exact. I’d come back home to small-town Iowa for the summer, and was beginning to regret my decision. I could have stayed in Chicago and worked at my school-year desk job, watching movies and doing just about whatever I wanted. No manure smell, no working at the fast food place where I spent most of my high school evenings, no obnoxious little sisters… Chicago was looking pretty good. 

That night was no exception. I was, once again, kicking myself for coming back to my tiny hometown rather than staying in the Windy City as I was getting off of my shift at the fast food place. It had been a rough night, and while fast food is notoriously pretty easy, I was sick of it. Really really sick of it. When I went to college, I thought my days at this fine greasy establishment were over. But I needed money and a summer job, and the fast food place really wanted me back, so back I went. 

Like I said, it had been a long shift. I was tired and crabby (not a terribly unusual state for that summer), and was just taking off my apron when my co-worker (whose name I completely forget! We’ll call him Jimmy) walked up to me and asked if I was going to the birthday party. I’d forgotten about the party. It was for another co-worker whose name I forget and isn’t terribly important. The important part is that this kid was having his 16th birthday party, and his girlfriend, Angela, had invited me. Angela’s a sweetheart. I’d known her in high school- she was a year under me- and we’d been pretty close back then. However, a 16-year-old’s birthday party? Really? I was soo above that, being 19 and all. And in college. It was bad enough that I was working with all these kids, but socializing with them? I didn’t think so. 

Until Jimmy told me that he was going. Jimmy was a (cough cough) older man. He was a junior in college, and was my manager. And I thought he was pretty cute. I’m not sure why anymore. The fact that I don’t actually remember his real name is probably pretty telling. Suddenly, a 16 year old’s birthday party didn’t sound quite so lame. 

“Yeah, I’m going,” I replied as I rushed out the door. Had to get home and shower to get rid of the burger smell. I convinced myself I was going to the party for Angela’s sake. She’d been such a good friend. I owed it to her, cute boy notwithstanding.

I got to the party late. Fashionably late. Too-cool-for-a-high-school-party late. I planned on going in, getting some cake, hugging Angela, then ignoring Jimmy until he decided to come flirt with me. Unfortunately, I’d arrived too late to ignore Jimmy. He’d already left. But as I surveyed the room , Jimmy suddenly and dramatically didn’t matter anymore.

Zeke, my Hunky Husband (well, at the time, just Hunky Guy… but we all knew where this was going) was there. Sitting quiet and comfortable on the couch.

Zeke’s eyes met mine. I blushed up to the roots of my hair. Smooth. Real smooth, I thought to myself.

“Hey. It’s been awhile,” he said. I couldn’t remove my tongue from the roof of my mouth.  Say something, say something! Speak, woman!

“Uh, yeah,” was my brilliant reply.

“What have you been doing?” he asked. I couldn’t feel my feet. Where were my feet? And how come I was so shy around this guy?!? I was acting like I was twelve. I hadn’t gotten butterflies or blushed like this since Kevin, my very first crush, had held my hand under the table in the lunchroom in 6th grade.

“Oh, I’m going to school in Chicago. Elementary Education.” I’m mundane and boring! Think interesting thoughts! Oh, never mind. Refocus the conversation back to him so you don’t have to talk anymore. “How about you?”

“I’m workin for my dad yet,” he said, with no signs of the internal struggle that was currently making my insides churn. “But I’m going to school this year, in Minnesota.”

Well, that was unexpected. I’d known Zeke in high school. He would cut Math class to come and visit me in Home Ec (where I unsuccessfully attempted to make a quilt. My teacher wrote on my evaluation, “Great job for your very first sewing project!”). He was on the football team, which meant that he was too cool for me. We were in Government together, too. I woke him up one time, thinking he’d been partying too hard the night before. He corrected me- he’d been running his family farm for the past week. Oh.

I’d always thought of him as just another stupid jock. A stupid jock with a nice, comfortable family farm to support him for the rest of his life. College was the last thing I expected from him. In fact, just the fact that he was talking to me again was kind of the last thing I expected. He was a football player (and a good one); I was just a nerdy girl who thrived on Speech Team. He was waaay too popular to talk to me.

But here he was, talking to me anyway. We talked for a little while longer, about college, about our high school friends, about work (he wanted to use me for my curly fry connections).  Slowly, very very slowly, my prejudices about him started to dissipate.

Angela interrupted us, asking me about how school was going, wanting to catch up. I found myself reluctant to end the conversation with Zeke. I was confused, very confused. This 6’5” man was nothing like the guys I usually liked. I liked the shorter, skinny, talkative kind, not the well-muscled, exceedingly tall, soft-spoken sort. He farmed, for heaven’s sake. I knew nothing about farming. At all. I couldn’t tell a heifer from a steer, and I don’t think I even knew what those words were at the time.

Angela and I talked for a little, but pretty soon, there was Zeke again next to me again.

“You wanna listen to some music? I have a song you’d like,” he said, and pulled out his iPod. We shared headphones and listened- all the while, I was very aware of the fact that we were acting like a high-school couple. Like I acted with some other guy a year before. But that other guy did not smell this good.

Stop smelling him! I ordered myself. This is NUTS.  I don’t remember anything about the song we listened to. I wasn’t paying any attention. Zeke’s shoulders looked way too nice. Like I could just lay my head down right there….

“So, when are you leaving for school?” He obviously didn’t realize that he was interrupting my shoulder-lust.

“Oh, um, August. August 15. I have to go back early because I’m going to be an RA.”

“Oh, okay. I’m actually going up to Sturgis a week before that.”

From some dark corner in my brain, I retrieved any knowledge I’d ever gained about this “Sturgis.” Sturgis, Motorcycle Rally. I’m still very impressed that I figured that one out.

“You have a motorcycle?” I asked.

“Yeah. It’s right outside,” he said. “I rode it here.”

“Really? I’ve never been on a motorcycle. You should take me for a ride sometime.” What is this? Now I’m flirting with him?! What is WRONG with me? And I don’t want to go on a motorcycle!!! They’re fast! They have no seat belts, they’re dangerous….

“Well, you want to go now? I just have to take some of my stuff off the back…”

Crap. Now I was stuck. Tried to act all cool and tough and adventurous, and it totally backfired. Who knew that he would actually offer? Now what?

“Uh, okay.” I’d sealed my doom, I was sure of it. He left to take stuff off the back. I’d later learn that this “stuff” is called a T-bag. But at the time, I don’t think I would have cared. I was too nervous, there was too much dread deep in my core. Me, on a motorcycle?? No way.

My parents forebode trampoline-jumping. I was not the motorcycle type. I’d probably have to confess to my mom that I rode a motorcycle. Like I did the first time I went on a trampoline… when I was 18.

Zeke walked back into the room, which I was just noticing was becoming more and more empty. People were leaving the party, and I was still there. I had planned on leaving early… but oh well.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Sure.” I gulped.

I barely trusted my legs as I followed him outside, where the motorcycle sat waiting. Well, here goes nothing.

This is getting long. We'll do part two soon! (The anticipation is killing you, I know. Don't fall off the edge of your seats, now).

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