She was sixteen when we met. She hated me, and why wouldn't she? I was older, a college kid, and every time I came into the restaurant where I had worked the previous two summers my friends would hang out with me in the kitchen and when that happened she had to run around like a crazy person in the dining room trying to get everything done.
So I suppose it's not entirely accurate to say she hated me; she didn't even know me, and most people don't hate me at least until after they get to know me. But she sure didn't like the extra work she had to do when I showed up.
After I graduated college - in an economy more or less similar to the one we've been saddled with the last couple of years - and couldn't find a real job, I went back to the restaurant to earn a few bucks there while I searched. She was a high school senior by then, working overnight shifts on the weekends. Graveyard shifts, we called them.
As it so happened, those were the shifts I was working, too. I got to know this slim, pretty brunette on those long nights in the nearly empty restaurant on the Maine Turnpike. We would sit at a booth drinking coffee for five hours or so and then work like mad to get everything done before the day shifters came in.
I decided this was a girl I wanted to date - unfortunate because although she no longer hated me, she certainly didn't want to date me. I didn't consider that a big deal, though; I had been convincing girls who didn't want anything to do with me to give it a shot for quite some time.
Eventually I wore the girl down and she agreed to go out with me, more to get me to stop bugging her than anything else, probably. About a year-and-a-half later we walked down the aisle together, an almost twenty-four year old groom and a bride who had just turned nineteen.
I would have loved to have superpowers for just that one day, to be able to read people's minds. How many people in the church and the reception hall whispered their suspicions to each other that the girl must be pregnant? (She wasn't) How many people shared cynical grins, convinced we would last maybe a year; two at the most?
I don't blame them, I would probably have done the same thing in their shoes. But what they may not have realized was that we were two people who knew exactly what we wanted out of life and were lucky enough to have found it at a young age.
That was twenty-six years ago today, and it hasn't all been easy. There have been plenty of bumps in the road, as there are in every relationship. But every bruise and every scar has added a little depth to our relationship, and we're still going strong.
So this is for the girl who has believed in me when no one else did; who has given birth to my children; who has moved all over New England with me as I pursued my career. Thanks for twenty-six wonderful years. Happy Anniversary to my wife Sue...