On a warm August evening at a high school football game, I met Lori when we were both 14 years old. We’d learn later that we’d been born nine days apart at the same hospital, and we’d probably been in the same nursery together for a short time. The two of us lived in the same, rural Missouri town and shared many of the same friends.
I remember that moment as if it only just happened last weekend. Lori stood in a circle of her new classmates and friends. She wore the white sweater with a blue letter, “D,” super-imposed on a red, white, and blue bullhorn, a flattering, white-pleated blue skirt, the ankle socks that the other freshman cheerleaders wore, and had the biggest, warmest brown eyes and a smile brighter than the Friday night lights. She was beautiful. I know it sounds funny to say it now, but I knew at that moment that Lori would be my wife.
This is a documented case of “love at first sight.”
Mutual friends introduced me using Lori’s full name – first, middle, and last. I barely managed a bleating, “Hi,” and that may have been all I said to her the entire night. That didn’t stop me, a few days later, from getting her phone number from a friend, calling her, and asking her to the freshman fall semi-formal dance at my high school. She told me she “had to think about it,” but called back a couple of minutes later and politely declined, citing as her reason the her belief that she “wouldn’t know anyone.” I tried again as the winter semi-formal approached, but Lori’s answer was also, “No.” The second time, she didn’t need any extra time to decide.
Clearly, I am an acquired taste.
During the next several years, I lived my life and Lori lived hers. I focused on sports and did all right with academics at the St. Louis County boys’ prep school I attended. Of course, I dated and even had a sort of “serious” girlfriend. Lori kept busy, too. Our mutual friends would tell me about Lori’s nominations for homecoming and prom queen and the boy who she dated for the better part of three years. Eventually, each of us went to college; I started at a small university in Texas, while Lori stayed in Missouri. Occasionally, I’d see her at a party during winter or summer break. Over time, though, education and other interests pulled our friends to other parts of the country, so my opportunities to see her became increasingly less frequent. It wasn’t until the summer after our college sophomore year that I did have a chance to spend some time with Lori again.
My good friend Brad, who was also Lori’s high school classmate, would celebrate his 21st birthday in August. Brad was the first of our group of friends to reach “legal age,” so another shared friend, John, suggested a surprise party. John and I began to plan.
John asked for a list of friends from Brad’s parents to complement the names we already had. Lori was on the list. Knowing I had been long-smitten, John asked me if I wanted to address Lori’s invitation, which I did using her full name – first, middle, and last. I didn’t really think anything of it because Lori’s full name was the way I’d always known her.
The party was a huge success. Brad was surprised, but not as surprised as I would be. At the party, Lori was especially curious about her invitation. She asked John who had written her full name on the envelope. A week later, Lori and I had our first date.
I still never had much doubt that dating Lori and, later, having a relationship with her would eventually result in a white dress, formal wear, family, friends, and a walk down the aisle. After a year or so together, I think, Lori began to come around to my way of thinking. I’d joked with tongue in cheek that, because Lori made me wait for six years for a date, I’d make her wait six years for one, too. Not surprisingly, my attempts at humor didn’t always get the desired reaction.
Early on, Lori and I had our share of obstacles. First, we were both still students. By that time, I’d also returned to Missouri to study, but our school campuses were separated by a hundred miles. Then, Lori finished her degree a semester early and I finished mine a year late, so Lori took a job while I was still in school, still separated by a two-hour car ride. Finally, when I did finally finish school, I took a job that required me to move to Connecticut. Because I was literally less-than-penniless, five figures in debt with student loans, I knew I couldn’t yet be a financially responsible husband or father. Consequently, when I drove the rental truck away from my driveway, the passenger seat was empty.
Still, we made the best of our circumstances. When we were both still in school, we took turns making the trip to see the other. After Lori started working, she’d generally make the trip, sit at the end of the bar I tended on Fridays, and sip rum and pineapple juice until my shift was finished. Later when I was a young professional manager on my own, I’d often meet Lori in “neutral” cities like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Toledo, and Windsor, Ontario. Some of our favorite memories included the Picasso exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art, seeing the Pittsburgh Pirates with a skinny Barry Bonds at the old Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, and Louie Linguini’s Restaurant and Pantages Theatre in Windsor. We explored and enjoyed the world, or at least a part of it, as we explored and enjoyed one another. Sure, we had our share of disagreements and misunderstandings, which were often exacerbated by the geographic distance that separated us most of the time. We worked those out together. When I asked her if she’d be my wife on a Thanksgiving Day, it would have been hard to imagine that any two mid-twenty-something’s knew one another better than Lori and I did.
On an unusually hot day in August when Lori, who wore a white dress and was even more beautiful as she walked toward me than she was when I first met her at that high school football game, was asked by the clergy if she would be my wife, she said, “I do.”
So did I. Husband, of course.
The next day, Lori and I sat at a table lit by candles at hotel restaurant in New Orleans’ French Quarter, and she asked if I would order for her. As I heard myself speak, it was almost as if it wasn’t me who was talking with the waiter. Rather, it seemed that I was looking over at a young, happy couple at the next table.
I heard myself say, “My wife will have the . . . “
After the waiter had left the table, Lori told me that she had to catch her breath when she heard me order dinner for the two of us. It hadn’t really sunk in until then that she was married. She was someone’s wife. She was my wife.
Ironically, it had in fact turned out that we’d waited six years for that date. Lori never did appreciate the humor.
Matthew S. Field
Sam Clemens, Tennessee Williams, and Matthew S. Field have in common their claim of Missouri river cities as their hometowns. Of course, the two former are (were) writers.
Matt Field’s credits include the illustrated children’s books, Father Like A Tree and The Three Pigs, Business School, and Wolfe Hash Stew, and the mainstream fiction title, The Dream Seeker. The non-fiction, The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, will be released through Arundel Publishing on September 1, 2012.
Field was voted "Best Author of 2011" by the readers of the Times Herald-Record. He lives with his two daughters and son in the charming and historic Village of Warwick in New York’s Hudson Valley.