Friday, August 15, 2014

Through Thick and Thin

A High School Senior moment

I am a true believer in the theory that things happen for a reason. As Chris and I celebrate 35 years of marriage, and 43 years since we met, I feel truly blessed. Knowing that way back then, at such a young age, I had the power to elicit my own future..... This is an excerpt from an unpublished chapter that I wrote for my book "Becoming Mrs. Rogers" (which is now available on Amazon). In reality, this WAS the beginning...

Some people think that life begins at conception; others think it occurs at the moment of birth. For me, life began in the 7th grade. Mrs. Johnson’s 7th grade French class to be exact.

It was the first day of class following holiday break in January—2nd term of 7th grade at Creighton Jr. High. That’s what they used to call Middle School. I had just returned from 2 weeks of Christmas break, during which I took my very first plane ride. My Mother’s parents lived in Detroit, Michigan, and we hadn't seen them since we were babies. Money for plane tickets was not something we had, so Grandma footed the bill. She really didn’t have it either, but she made it happen to see us.

In January, as I walked into Mrs. Johnson’s French class, about to decide where I should sit, I saw my girlfriend Bridgette waving her hand. I took the seat she had already saved for me. The desks were arranged in 2 groups, both facing each other toward the middle. I sat on one side, and he, I saw him right away, was on the other. I didn’t know him! I wanted to know him; I knew that. What was his name? I asked Bridgette if she knew him. She said he lived in her neighborhood, and his name was “Chris something-or-other.” He seemed a little bit shy. I don’t think he noticed me at all, but he became the reason I looked forward to French class.

A few boys had caught my eye before the holiday break, but since discovering Chris, they were no longer on my radar. Honestly, they hadn’t really noticed me anyway, because I wasn’t a jock or a cheerleader or a freak or popular; I was just me. I had my select few girlfriends; both were neighbors and as different as day and night, so the three of us didn't necessarily hang out together. Lisa was my closest neighbor. She lived with her mother, stepfather, and sister. Her mother was expecting another baby, so responsibility was Lisa’s middle name. Candy was my other girlfriend, and she lived 2 blocks further but still walked to school the same way I walked each day. She was the youngest child of 3 with an older brother and sister. She was athletic and played after-school sports. This meant I usually walked home with Lisa, but the time together was always pressed by both our beckoning chores at home.

Looking at Chris was a welcome diversion from my home-life. He was so calm, semi-shy, and very cute. He had a cute smile and gorgeous hair, but, oddly enough, his hands were what really intrigued me. They were soft, steady, and gentle. They were nothing like my dad’s, which were calloused, rough, and weathered. He wasn’t super tall, maybe 5’9” or so, which was fine with me at 5’3” myself. I tried not to stare too much, but I wanted him to notice me. When the marching band was doing a fund raiser during lunch hour, I used my $1 hot-lunch money to buy Chris a candy bar. I wrote him a little note and held them together as I approached his locker mate. Feeling a combination of nausea and adrenaline, I asked in my sweetest voice if he would be willing to put the candy and note on Chris’ shelf. He balked at first, inciting in me a wave of panic, but he agreed. The note contained just a simple thought, “I saw you in Mrs. Johnson’s class and wondered if you’d like to call me sometime?” Then I gave my home telephone number. I could sense that I'd have to make the first move. I was not shy, and I could tell he was. Math and Social Studies were after lunch, and rather than listening to lectures from Mrs. Dixon on something to do with algebra and a history lesson from Mrs. Brown, I spent the rest of the day daydreaming, hoping, fearing, anticipating—you name it—whether or not Chris would call and what we would talk about.

After school, I rushed home to get my chores done, so I could wait by the phone. It happened to be a night when Dad would not be home until late, which made everything all the easier. Right around 7:00 while I was watching “Love Boat” on my 13-inch black and white tv, the phone rang. I ran to answer. It was Chris!

We talked all the way through “Love Boat,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and into “Fantasy Island.” Chris was the first and closest thing I'd had to a boyfriend before this point in my life. My thoughts were singing! The next day I bought another candy bar and again had his locker mate place it on his shelf, this time he just rolled his eyes and obliged. Again, I raced home to wait for the phone to ring. I didn’t even know the phrase "The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach", but my instincts knew as much.

Chris played basketball on a private team not associated with our school. When he did phone that evening, he invited me to go to his next game with him and his dad. I remember the agony of having to wait to ask my own dad, but he hesitantly agreed, even with only 13 brief years under my belt. Knowing that Chris’ dad would be there, I am sure, somewhat reassured my own father. Chris' dad picked me up at home, and we rode to the game together. As we sat in the backseat of his parent’s car, Chris held my hand tentatively. By the timid way he went about it, I could tell he hadn’t had too many girlfriends so far, either. I was comforted by that thought, and smiled.

I hadn't been to a basketball game before, and it was awkward sitting next to a dad so unlike mine who I hardly knew. The sporadic moments of silence were interrupted by his polite and few questions and my nervous and one-word answers. Either way, it was so exciting seeing Chris play. Even on the court, he wasn't all that aggressive, but I can tell you I didn't pay any attention to the game anyway. For all I know Chris could have been the only player on the court. His 1970’s mid-length hair bouncing as he ran. Whoa! That's what I remember. After the game, his Dad drove me home. Chris was such a gentleman; he opened the car door for me and walked me to the back door of the house. Then, the most exciting thing happened. Chris got the courage to kiss me. My first kiss from my first boy! He still tells me to this day that he remembers exactly what that first kiss felt like. I, on the other hand, tend to let go of such details. After that night, we made a habit of talking on the phone for hours every evening on school nights and several times a day on weekends. I woke up every morning with the best reason to look forward to school! We held hands whenever we were together at school. Although, in Mrs. Johnson’s class we still sat in our same seats across from each other. This gave me more opportunity to just stare and dream. Surprisingly, I still got an A in 7th grade French class!

A few months later, Chris invited me to a rock concert for our favorite band, Boston. My first kiss, my first boyfriend, and my first rock concert! Their self-titled album “Boston” had been played at least 1,000 times in my house since its release. I loved the rhythm, the beat, and especially the words to the #1 hit “More Than a Feeling”. The words were somewhat symbolic to Chris and me. Music was one thing we had lots of in our house. Dad had a collection of over 500 albums, and he didn’t mind sharing. The concert was held at the palatial McNichol’s Arena which seemed so large compared to the two of us small bodies held together by 2 hands. The crowd was phenomenal with everyone seeming older than us. We felt so grown up being among rockers that could actually drive themselves to the concert. In hindsight, and as I struggle to grasp the exact details of this night, it seemed like Boston played on and on and on. They hit every song that we could sing along to, and more. The lights, the smells, the energy were all so magical. Magical because I had my guy with me. I was sad to see it end. After the show, we made our way to the designated pickup spot and Chris’ dad met us. His dad suggested we grab a bite to eat at Denny’s afterward, which was so cool since I had not been up this late in, like, forever!

In junior high there was a late bus for transporting kids that participated in school sports to their homes. I didn’t ride it, but Chris did, but only because he had a class 7th hour; I didn’t so I would often hang out and wait for him. I’d fill my time doing homework, or chatting with other friends that hung out too. Just before the bus would depart, we found ourselves spending a few minutes after school each day, chatting, and sometimes even necking. That’s what they called it back then. The school sat next to a popular creek. Some of the “freaks” went there to smoke, and many others used it as private place to make-out; because it was hidden from the teacher’s view. It wasn't all that private though. Eventually, we made our way down there, and it wasn’t very enjoyable—too muddy and too crowded. Instead of spending our afternoons by the creek, we talked a lot on the phone and spent as much time during the school day together as we could.

After a few months of the telephone routine and few visits to each other’s homes, during a phone call, Chris finally got the courage to ask me to “go together” with him. This was like going steady, only more modern. I do remember this day, March 3rd, 1977. It is still a highly celebrated day for the 2 of us today. Wow! I was so excited! The butterflies in my stomach were in full motion! The true rumor spread like wildfire among all other 7th graders. I couldn’t have cared less what others thought, but I was pretty giddy over having a boyfriend.

The rest is history.....

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