Thump-thump. Thump-thump. My heart was beating wildly. It’s quickened pulsations drumming in my ears.
Is that her? Is it possible she would be here? How many years has it been?
She crossed the floor coming towards me where I sat. Yes, it was her. It had to be her. She was just as I remembered her. She moved to the seat behind me.
It was the 1970’s, I was a freshman in college. This was the High School invitation weekend: a weekend for High School students to visit the college, live in the dorms, go to classes and find out if this was a school they wanted to attend.
The Coffee House atmosphere was a new trendy and popular thing. It was comprised of a very relaxed “come as you are” acoustical guitar playing and sing along of contemporary Christian music while drinking coffee of various styles and flavors.
Klug, as we called him, the long-haired slender guy who wore his guitar around campus sat in the middle of the circle of chairs on a stool. His feet in sandals resting on the rung of the stool, he began to play, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going…” Everyone joined in with robust singing.
I tried. I tried to focus on the singing and really putting my heart into it, but the distraction of my mind, with the girl sitting behind me, kept me emotionally distanced from the time of praise. The singing continued for an hour.
With the completion of the last song, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I stood turning around, It was her. She looked right into my eyes and said, “Do I know you?” Are you a professor here or something? You look familiar.”
I feigned no recognition, bewilderment and surprise. “Why, no.” I said, “I’m not a professor.”
“You look so familiar did you grow up in Forest Lake, MN?”
“Yes.” Be still my heart. I could barely breath, my heart thumping in my chest so fervently I thought surely she could hear it.
The questions tumbled back and forth between us.
“Are you a student here?”
“Yes. Are you here visiting because you are considering this school?”
“Yes, I am. My sister and I flew up here today to check it out.”
“Really? My brother is here too. How many years has it been since you all moved to Illinois.”
“It was six years ago. Your family also moved about a year later, didn’t they?”
“Yes, we moved to Wisconsin.”
“Would you and your sister be interested in going out for supper with my brother and I so we can catch up with each other?”
“That would be great.” Turning to her sister standing beside her, they both giggled.
“Do you have a car?”
“No, we don’t, we were picked up from the airport.”
“Okay, you can ride with me. Let me find my brother and we’ll meet you at the bottom of the stairs outside in ten minutes.”
We sat around the table at the local college hangout: a pancake house with “all you can eat specials”. Our laughter was loud and at times almost obnoxious as the four of us shared memories of life growing up together in the same town, attending the same school and church.
I looked at my watch, we had been there laughing, talking and eating for over two hours. I loved to watch her. Her sparkling blue eyes and long golden hair made it most difficult to take my eyes away from her.
“Stop it,” she said.
“Stop what? I replied.”
“You keep staring at me. It is making me uncomfortable.”
“Can I show you something?”
“Yeah, I guess so. What is it?”
Reaching into my pocket I drew out my wallet. I pulled out a piece of paper. I began to open it, carefully. It was yellowed with age and splitting at the folded seams. Pulling out a picture I laid both items on the table for all to see.
As the recognition of what it was crossed her mind, she sucked in a sharp breath.
It was a note she had written me in second grade, the school picture of her the same year.
“The day you gave me these, I went home and told my mom I would marry you one day. I have kept these in my wallet all these years.”
In December of this year, we will celebrate 39 years of marriage.
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