Monday, March 3, 2014

He Grabbed My Hand...and My Heart

The second week of January this year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the day that a skinny red-handed Yankee wondered into the dorm lobby at Cathcart with my friend Mark. He was a transfer student and -- back in the pre-internet day when you had to go to school to register for your classes, buy your books, and stand in line to garner a chapel seat assignment -- we always arrived 3 days before the school semester began to handle this big college chores. 

We all learned to get it over with quickly on the class and book thing, and to go together to end up sitting with someone you actually knew in chapel. It certainly made the 5 day mandated attendance a little more palatable. Big semester plans out of the way, we had a little precious time to kill before the semester began its onslaught of assignments and papers and readings and projects. 

It was in that pre-semester lull of the second semester of our freshman year that I met Steve. Cathcart was the freshman girls' dorm and the big lobby right in the middle of campus lent itself to many a gathering. Clusters gathered around the TV to watch one of the 3 channels. Groups lounged in the overstuffed chairs and sagging couches, chatting about all of the important events. Couples sought some level of privacy in a room full of anywhere from 10-30 given the time of day. Cathcart's lobby was also the mecca of knowledge. 

In the pre-cell phone days, it was where you went when you couldn't find someone, because there would always be at least one person there that had seen who had come in and gone out and in what grouping of students. I still love to see in my mind the swinging door that residents passed through to go to their rooms and that same door serving as the barricade in a non-coed dorm. The Resident Assistant on shift sat at the desk near that door, daring any trespassers to appear, and keeping guard on all the activities in the lobby as best as she could. Her perch three steps up gave her a nice lookout and those very same steps served as a warning to any non-resident, specifically male, who might approach that swinging  door.

There was a whole big bunch of us that ran around together. We didn't date per se - we did bunches of people to bunches of events. It was almost as if you had a family that was made up of 50 people at any given time. It was wonderful. When Mark finished his registration, he headed our way as Cathcart Lobby was the unofficial gathering spot for our bunch activity planning, and he brought with him a new transfer student he had met in the process. Steve and I became fast friends, and it was an often occurrence for him, Mark and I to go to the cafeteria together or the campus movie or the student center.  We were all three business majors, so our schedules and routes followed the same circuit. We became our own little mini-bunch within the greater bunch, so much so that people often quizzed us to see if we were siblings.

The three of us rocked along in this friendship thing for 2 years, over 4 semesters. I remember fondly setting Steve up for dates with girls in the dorm. I remember talking to him in the lobby about who he would like to go out with, and me running to the girls to see if the interest was mutual. I remember calling him out of the blue one July during summer school for his birthday. I can still hear his dad's sleepy voice, as I had not allowed for the central to east coast time change.

It was in the middle of the fall semester of my third year that things began shifting. He showed up on the patio of my dorm more often. And alone. He would walk me to my classes. He would be waiting for me in the student center near the mailboxes. He would angle to sit near me in the cafeteria. It seemed we were out of the big bunch more than we were in it. I took it all in stride until one afternoon, as we walked from the Mabee Business Center back toward Sears Dorm, that he grabbed my hand to hold and forever sent things sliding in a new direction.

So caught off guard was I that I stopped dead in my tracks, pulled my hand out of his, and said in a not too friendly voice, "What in the world are you doing?" What I know now, looking back, is that he was falling in love...and so was I. We had a relationship that easily and quickly slid from dear friends to casually dating to seriously courting in the span of about 4 months. By the time Thanksgiving came, I knew enough to tell my mom that I thought I was dating "the one". 

There was never any doubt in our love, never any heated argument, never a break-up one. We laughed together, we talked together, we walked together and we enjoyed each other's company as much while we were dating as we had while friends, if not more so. We learned to finish each other's thoughts and sentences, we found out favorites, and we realized that we had been given a true gift - a friendship that grew into a romance that seemed destined to last the test of time.

We are far today from those skinny college freshmen that first met in January, 1984. But, we have spent the last 30 years together building a life full of moments - memorable times, everyday mistakes, chaotic mundane. It has been truly a great gift for my heart. He is my partner like I could never have dreamed. He has pulled out of me the greater part of myself that I would never have had the courage to reveal. He has rounded out the rough edges that I would never have had the humility to conceal. He has buoyed up a heart that was fragile and wounded that I would never have had the tenacity to feel.

30 years, 5 cities, 2 sons, endless memories. As much as I like my alone time and my privacy, my heart always yearns for this man to come home at the end of his work day and light up my life with his twinkling blue eyes, his infectious smile, his spontaneous belly laugh. Of all the places I have been and all of the things I have done, anywhere with him is my favorite place. And doing anything with him is my favorite thing. Thanks, baby, for walking into that lobby and my life thirty years ago, and for grabbing my hand on that fall afternoon in 1985. Today and always, you are my favorite thing.

You Are My Favorite Thing ~ 23rd Anniversary ~ July 2010

Paper: Websters Pages


  1. Aww Penny, I love this. You've captured college days the way they were, and college romance too. How lucky for you and Scott to be together thirty years.

  2. Penny, I really think you could be a writer! You not only told the sweetest story but you also enabled us to "see" the story and time period....bringing back memories of my college days in the early 80's. Great job!