Yesterday, Wednesday, Sept. 23 was my 25th wedding anniversary.
When my husband and I first started dating, I was invited to Hubbard, Ohio, for a party in Harding Park to celebrate his parents’ 25th wedding anniversary.
I remember distinctly the silver-plated photo album I bought for them with an engraving of a Precious Moments bride and groom. It took me a long time to pick it out at Things Remembered at Westgate Mall.
On the day of the party, my mother-in-law wore a t-shirt with a kitty cat decal and iron-on felt bubble letters that read “25 Years and Still Purring,” and my father-in-law had on a shirt in the matching color, but his featured a lion and the proclamation that he was still “Roaring” after all of those years.
Westgate Mall doesn’t exist anymore. Well, not as an indoor mall anyway. And the Things Remembered is long gone.
My in-laws are still setting a good example of a long and happy marriage, though, and so are my own parents, who celebrated their 50th anniversary in June.
I don’t know that my husband Steve and I have ever dressed alike. And if someone were to pick out similar t-shirts for us, I’d probably be the roar-er and he the purr-er.
This past weekend, we had a mini celebration of our own to mark the occasion of our quarter century together.
We sat in Lakewood Park and felt the cool almost-fall breeze on our cheeks and listened to the seagulls and watched sailboats bob on the waves of Lake Erie while families rode their bikes, walked their dogs, and played games of kickball.
The whole time, Steve and I sat next to each other in canvas chairs with our computers on our laps, composing our respective writing assignments for work.
Which actually is quite fitting.
Steve and I met at John Carroll University. He was in his third year of school and I was in my second. We started dating a few months before my 20th birthday.
I had noticed him one day when I was packing up my books and heading out of one section of Dr. Chris Roark’s Shakespeare class and Steve’s class section came filing in.
Not long after that, I spied him toiling away at a monitor in the RecPlex computer lab. I knew that we had a Shakespeare paper due that week.
Because I had already written mine.
But this was my chance to make sure he noticed me too.
I breezily and attractively floated into the lab, intent on pretending that I was going to hammer out my paper while sweetly perched at the computer across from his.
I daintily dropped into my chair and alluringly rifled through my bag.
I shifted in my seat.
He never looked up.
I sighed a little more.
I dropped the contents of my pencil pouch on the floor.
He kept typing.
Finally, I tapped him on the wrist.
“Sorry to bother you,” I smiled dreamily across the table. “But aren’t you taking Roark’s course?”
“Yes,” he said, barely lifting his eyes from the screen.
“Is there any chance you have the book with you? And if so, can I borrow it? I came in here to write my paper but I forgot the text,” I pouted.
I’m pretty sure I even batted my eyes right for good measure.
Finally, Steve looked up.
“I don’t have it here,” he said. “But you can certainly borrow it. It’s back in my room.”
Oh boy, this was going even better than I had hoped.
Then Steve loaded a floppy disk into the drive and saved his paper.
My heart was racing.
Next thing I knew, he pulled out his room key, told me what his number was in Sutowski Hall and welcomed me to walk across campus by myself and dig it out of his desk.
“Just tell my roommate I said it was ok. I still have a lot of work to do on this chem assignment and I really have to concentrate,” he said, and went back to typing.
After I got back from that complete nerd’s room and returned his key, I had to sit in that dumb computer lab across from him for the next three hours, silently and angrily writing a paper that I’d already written.
I don’t exactly remember what brought us together after that, but my friends talked me into not being resentful that Steve was more interested in school than he was in me.
Our first date was in that very dorm room where I found the Shakespeare book that I didn’t need.
John Carroll had no Greek fraternities and sororities in the early ‘90s, but Steve was part of the Knights of Columbus. They were hosting a formal dance one weekend and he invited me to go.
I spent three days not eating so that I could fit into the dress I borrowed from my friend Tracey.
Then on the day of the dance, Steve called to say that Coach Schweickert told the baseball players they couldn’t be off campus that night because they had a game the following morning, and Steve was on the roster as the starting pitcher.
Since the team wasn’t permitted to leave school, Steve found a workaround: He ordered us chicken parmigiana meals from Geraci’s and made a spread with a bedsheet on top of two milk crates.
Two salt shakers he had swiped from the dining hall served as candle holders for tapers he picked up at Marc’s, and a tinny version of Van Morrison’s “Moondance” was being piped into the cinderblock-walled space through a miniature CD player powered by a chain of extension cords.
For the first half hour or so, we sat there and laughed nervously and made small talk. Mainly about Shakespeare, whose work Steve adored.
Mainly the sonnets, because “they’re so romantic,” he blushed.
At one point, he excused himself to use the restroom. He also ducked his head inside his teammate’s room down the hall to give him a report on the evening’s proceedings.
“It’s going ok,” he told his buddy. “But maybe she doesn’t like Italian food. She hasn’t touched her meal. She literally hasn’t eaten one bite.”
A few minutes later, he came back to the room and my plate was clean.
While he was gone, I picked up the chicken and spaghetti and ate it with my hands.
Because I was starving.
Also, it smelled delightful. And it was in fact delicious.
Steve tells people that’s when he knew that I was the one for him.
I stopped pretending to be cutesy and coquettish and needy a long time ago. I also stopped pretending to like Shakespeare.
Now Steve and I have three college-aged kids of our own. They have their own laptops so they’ll never have to use a computer lab. Do those even exist anymore?
Also, every book ever written is a Google search away, so they’ll never have to go searching for a dogeared paperback in a stranger’s dorm room.
In fact—kids, if you’re reading this, you’d better not do that.
Our children will never know the beautiful desperation of acting like someone they’re not just to turn somebody else’s head.
I’m proud to say that it would never occur to them to starve themselves for anyone. And we taught them when they were toddlers not to eat with their hands when forks are available. No matter how tasty the meal is.
Our son and daughters are mortified and mystified when they hear the story of what I did to try to capture their father’s attention.
But here we are, 25 years later, still writing our life story together.
Roaring and purring along.
Shakespeare could never write a line like that.