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Hooo, boy. Take a seat. Make sure the babies are occupied safely. Get a glass of water. Take a seat again. This love story does not have a pretty beginning, and I’m ashamed of most of it, however, I also think it is a testament to the fact that the HM and I were meant to be together. That’s kind of funny, because I do not believe there is one and only one person who is the ‘right’ person for you, and I think it’s dangerous for young people to believe that and spend a lot of time anxiously fretting over whether this or that one is ‘the’ one. But then I look at us, and I think, “Yep. Meant to be.”
If you’ve read here any length of time at all, you know that I was a mess as a teen, boy mad, insecure, wild, troubled, and just… a mess.
My parents moved me away from all my friends when I *started* high school, because we moved to a different district the middle of my 8th grade year, and all my friends from 3rd grade on up went to one high school, and I went to the other one. As most kids but few adults realize, the kids who will make friends with you the quickest in high school are the kids who lean toward troublemaking. So those were my friends. And, honestly, I don’t think that my high school had very many students who *didn’t* get into trouble, and I didn’t much care what I did or what happened to me anyway.
The year I was 15 my dad decided he wanted to move us again, this time to California. He tried out for several preaching jobs and one of them in particular looked very promising. The whole family went with him to be looked over and have us look them over. Dad was offered the job, and he would have accepted it, only it turned out the smog was horrific, and my asthmatic brother had a bad asthma attack, and I was pitching a fit about being moved away from all my friends, again, right in the middle of high school.
Turns out, this was the HM’s hometown, and his home congregation. His grandmother met us and remembered all of us a few years later when we met again. Had my dad taken that job, the ‘parsonage’ was on the same street where the HM lived. We’d have lived a few doors apart and while I can’t say we would have gone to school together every morning, I don’t have much doubt that we would have been ditching classes from the same high school.
The HM dropped out of high school his junior year. I took extra classes so I could graduate early. The summer before my senior year, Dad wanted to move to California again. I pitched a fit again, and he told me basically they’d already not moved two or three years before when I didn’t want to, I didn’t get to run things now. I seethed over the injustice- because, of course, if I’d been told it was a choice between moving my sophomore year or my last year of high school, I would definitely have chosen my sophomore year. Senior year is the worst time to move any kid, and it was not easy year for me for many reasons- also, to add insult to injury, although I only needed half a day’s classes for one semester and then could graduate mid-term back home in Arizona, here in California they didn’t want to accept a lot of my credits (including credits for a class that used the exact same textbook but had a different class title)- and I wouldn’t graduate at the end of the year without a full load of classes.
Anyway. We moved, and I started high school for the second time with a bunch of complete and total strangers, only even more so than before. We’d moved to a town on the central coast of California, about three hours north of the town where we had *not* moved my Sophomore year.
But almost the only friends I made in California, either at school or church, were boys. I had a new boyfriend the first day we arrived, because I could not imagine life without at least one boyfriend. I did quit drinking, mainly because the drinking age in AZ was 19 so I had friends or friends of friends, or a teacher’s aid at my high school who couldn’t tell me no, or relatives of friends, or acquaintances (you get the drift) who would supply me with what I wanted. The drinking age was 21 in CA, the culture was entirely different, and I did not know anybody, so I quit because circumstances forced me to. I quit cutting class because it was much harder to cut class at the new high school- it was primarily for college bound kids, most of whose parents were officers at the nearby military base, unlike my previous high school, where about 80% were minorities, and most of us weren’t college bound.
My new boyfriend was an Elder’s kid from church, and I was the preacher’s brat, and together we had a lot of pull in the youth group, or at least we thought we did. He had a nice red 69 Mustang, which is the main reason he was my new boyfriend, and we went to all the youth group functions together and we were cool, at least in our own eyes. We were consulted on a lot of youth group activities, he led devotionals, we gave kids rides, and we got a lot of compliments. So I seemed to be doing better and I was certainly behaving better, or so it seemed from the outside. Whited sepulchers, etc. In private, my new boyfriend and I behaved only nominally better than my old boyfriends and I had. In private, my new boyfriend admitted to me that he did not even believe in God.
Meanwhile, 3 hours south, my husband’s father showed up and decided to be a dad for a little bit, and told him if he was going to be a drop-out, he might as well have a trade, and he hired the HM to work for him with his roofing company. If you’re interested in more of the HM’s school story, see here and here. The roofing company took a job up in our areas- roofing houses on the local military base.
The HM was trying to straighten up his life, which was an even bigger mess than mine. I never did drugs but one time, he did them all the time. He was just as girl crazy as I was boy crazy, and for pretty much the same emotionally needy and insecure reasons. He wanted to put that behind him and start living right.
So the poor man walked into my Sunday school class one morning, and our eyes locked across the room and my stomach did flip flops, and I still remember the feeling of the electricity crackling in the air. He had stunning blue green eyes, high cheek bones, a nicely trimmed brown beard, long hair, a California surfer tan (only it was really a roofer tan), roofer muscles, and he looked bad and dangerous to know. In other words, just my kind of trouble.
After class I offered to walk him to the auditorium so he would know where to go, and I introduced myself. After church I saw the orange Scottsdale truck he was driving (four wheel drive), and I gave him my phone number.
Yes, I had a boyfriend already. And the HM had a girlfriend already, back home. Nevertheless, over the next few weeks he called several times to ask me out. I wanted to go out with him very much. I just didn’t want to get caught. I did not break up with one boyfriend until I already had another boyfriend completely lined up and solidified as a sure thing. Every time the HM asked me out it was somewhere that either my current boyfriend or one of his friends would see us, so I couldn’t go. But I didn’t tell the HM that, either. I just flirted harder so he didn’t give up and go away. It was years later before he admitted to me, btw, that he already knew that I had a boyfriend. He’d been warned, he just didn’t care.
A few times he came over to the house and we visited out in the driveway under cover of dusk. One of those nights he asked if he could kiss me and I did not say no.
The following day the church youth group had an outing at a roller skating rink. I stupidly shared my giddy surreptitious romance with the one girl who was a friend- we had a lot in common, and none of it was good. But it was stupid of me, because she was also my boyfriend’s sister, and she also was crushing on the HM and did not think it was fair for me to try to keep them both. So she lied and told me that as soon as he left me, he went home and called her and fed her all the same lines he’d given me.
This offended me (don’t ask me what right I had to be offended), so I went and told some lies of my own to my boyfriend. Among them, “I keep telling him I’m your girlfriend so I can’t see him, and he won’t leave me alone and last night he kissed me against my will.” I also told him what his little sister had said.
So…. my upstanding, respected, and admired elder’s son of a boyfriend met the HM in the bathroom and threatened to beat him up if he ever showed up again. J. (the boyfriend) told the HM that I’d warned him to leave me alone and he would not listen, and he’d better never come around me or his little sister again. The HM listened with much gloom and sorrow. He did not out me to J, did not tell J. that everything I’d said about how I’d responded to his advances was a lie. He admitted to J. that he had known I was his girlfriend, and he was sorry for pushing on anyway, and he would leave- but he also told him he’d never had two words with the little sister. The HM was wild, but he wasn’t stupid. He was 18. I was 17, but would soon be 18. Little sister was only 15, and the HM had no intention of getting involved with somebody that young and risking legal consequences. J, by the way, did not tell me that part.
And he left. He did not come back to church again. Nobody challenged us on what we’d done, or asked us where the HM was. He was obviously not one of us anyway, a high school drop out, from a broken home, a manual labourer, somebody with an obvious past, one he’d admit to if anybody even hinted at wanting to know. It was really ugly and at the same time a total cliché. We were the mean, spoiled kids of privilege. My privilege was more one of status than income- and it covered up a gaping mass of despair and insecurity, but nonetheless, I did know better. Unlike my boyfriend, I did believe in God. I just believed He hated me.
Moving on… a few months later, I broke up with my boyfriend even though I did not yet have another one lined up- the first time that had happened. His hypocrisy just got to be too much for even me to take. Plus, he totaled his Mustang. I had the nerve to send word to the HM via a mutual friend that I was free and we could date, but oddly, he was not interested. Our mutual friend was interested, so we dated a little bit, and I would learn years later that he wasn’t entirely honest with the HM about the limitations I’d placed on our relationship- as in, he pretended there weren’t any, which was false.
So… the HM and I went our separate ways. We dated other people. He lived with a girl. I went to Oregon. He went to Northern California. I got engaged. We broke up and nobody even cried. I began to understand that perhaps my picture of God as vengeful, unpredictable, creature of wrath who wanted nothing better than to play gotcha with me so I could be punished might just be a little twisted. I started straightening out because I wanted to do better, not because of external circumstances. I began to suspect I might not die in my teens and that hell was not unavoidable.
During the period when we were not dating but still seeing each other, he’d written me love poems. I kept them. I took them with me to Oregon and back again three times. At the end of my sophomore year of college I was packing up to come home for the summer, and I came across those poems. I thought to myself, “You are never gonna see him again, and after what you did to him, you deserve it. It’s time to stop carting these things around, move on, and put this part of the past behind you.” So I threw them away.
One or two weeks later, the HM called my house out of the blue, the first time I’d heard from him in three years. We talked for a long time. The next night we went out.
On our very first date we went out for pizza. I sprinkled red peppers on my pizza and promptly inhaled some of them- as in, into my lungs I took foreign objects of burning and desolation. For the next thirty minutes I coughed and wheezed, searing my chest with fire every time I took a breath. I fully expected to see scorch marks on my blouse at any moment. I was in serious pain, and I could not speak at all. Every time I tried, I just coughed harder.
The Cute Boy finished off all the pizza except what I had on my plate. In between pieces of pizza he would say helpful things like, “So, where do you want to go next?” I wanted to tell him “To the emergency room,” but I couldn’t speak. I just hacked and coughed, most attractively I am sure, while the steam from my melted internal organs condensed and turned to tears that streamed down my cheeks.
I finally got my breath back from the fire breathing dragon who had stolen it and finished my pizza. All that coughing had made me hungry. While I was eating he rested his chin on his hand and stared at me intently through those blazing green/blue eyes. I could tell he was concentrating hard and thinking of something romantic to say. I was half right. When I swallowed he cleared his throat and said, “Do you know you chewed that bite of food 27 times?” I am not not making that up. Nor am I making up the part where all my kids, after they hear this story the first time, count how many times I chew my food and marvel that it really is 27 times.
After pizza we went to the mall. He proposed; I accepted. His proposal was something like this- we walked past the window of a furniture store. He said, “Oh, won’t that bed look pretty in our house when we get married?” I agreed that it would, and we had settled things.
Three months later the HM and I eloped. We were 20. Six months later, the HG was born, and while she was, according to a later OBGYN, a little early, she wasn’t 3 months early.
Clearly, we still had issues. I also still did not really, truly believe that I could be forgiven of all the wrong I had done in my teens. However, with the idea of motherhood, came a new idea- one of responsibility. I wasn’t going to take that new little person down with me if I could help it, and my new husband felt the same way (though he was more secure about his salvation than I was), and we put the old behind us and pressed on toward the new.
And here we are, 31 years, seven children, a military career, two countries and something like 15 or 16 houses, and five, soon to be six, grandbabies later. It’s a love story.=) God loved us in spite of ourselves, and did what He knew it would take to bring us together in a way that we would never part.
Be sure to see which questions the other moms answered:
Kim, at Life in a Shoe
Connie, at Smockity Frocks