Last week Jim and I celebrated the momentous occasion of our 31st anniversary. As one does, I posted a picture on Facebook with a sentimental status:
“Today Jim and I celebrate our 31st (!!!!!) anniversary, and I do mean celebrate. It seems weird that we pivoted sharply from one of the most stressful years of our marriage into one of the very, very best but I’ll take it. It also seems weird to me that it wasn’t just recently when I was nearly sixteen years old and “casually” sauntering out to check the mailbox just as he happened to be jogging by my house as he trained for Navy boot camp…but that’s a story for another day. This year we’ve had a blast traveling together to Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, and Oklahoma but the best part every time was coming home to hang out in this house we love so much, in our new-old town. I can’t imagine holding hands through life with anyone else. Happy 31st anniversary, my love.”
My friend Alexandra said she needed to know the story of the mailbox and while I thought I had written about it before, I couldn’t find it anywhere so I guess I didn’t. Let me fix that with a quick, CliffsNotes version of my casual, friendly stalking of my then-future husband.
Jim was a high school senior and I was a junior when I first saw him leaning against the wall outside the restrooms, like a scene out of a John Hughes movie. He was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a jean jacket. You may marvel at my recollection of this but he wore this outfit a lot back then. The jean jacket had an embroidered patch on it for the Early Entry Program of the Navy. Anyway, he made me swoon from the first moment I laid eyes on him. I started looking for him at that wall on a daily basis. I can’t remember if it was before school or in between classes, but he was there a lot.
Although our high school had about 2000 students in attendance, I knew he was an upperclassman and I figured somebody I knew had to know something about him. I started asking around. It wasn’t long before I found out that a very good friend of mine, also a senior, was in the same English class with him. She told me his name but didn’t know much else about him, so she started asking around. One day she approached me with the best, most unbelievable news. She found out that Jim had just moved…to a house on the other side of my neighborhood. Naturally I was overjoyed. At this point I was not only looking for him at the brick wall but would also wait in the hallway near his English classroom, which was very close to my American History classroom, so I could see him leave. He still had no idea I existed.
Wait, this sounds really creepy. But I was a teenage girl on a mission, you know?
I happened to be outside checking the mailbox one afternoon when Jim literally ran right by me. (He was in training for Navy boot camp.) And then, because my street was shaped like the letter P, he had to run by my house again, on his way out! After that first time, if I caught him running by from inside the house, I knew about how long it would take for him to run by in the other direction, so I’d go check the mail and hope for a “chance” meeting. He claimed years later that he never noticed me casually strolling out to the mailbox, which I find hysterical because I don’t know how he couldn’t have seen me.
After a couple of months of just admiring him from afar, I decided that I was going to have to actually find a way to introduce myself. That’s when I thought of the fantastic idea of writing him a note and delivering it to him at his house. (I KNOW.)
On THE day, I jumped into my car after school and drove over to his house. To my dismay, he was already outside, playing hacky sack in his driveway. (No, I’m not making this up. It was 1984.) I didn’t anticipate having to face him immediately upon getting out of my car and considered driving right by, but I decided to take the biggest risk of my life so far (the one with immeasurably awesome ROI, as it turned out), put my car into park, jumped out, and walked over to him. I said, “Here’s a note for you.” Then I turned around and left.
The note took up two pages and I’m not going to give you all of the embarrassingly teen girl details. Basically I wrote him a “Welcome to the neighborhood” note and gave him my number, telling him to call me if he wanted to.
Later that afternoon, he did.
The rest is history.