Today was a special day for me, and I want to tell you the story that made it special. Here goes.
Once upon a time in the early 1950s, a little girl with black curly hair went to kindergarten and met a little boy with light brown curly hair. The little girl was 5 years old and the little boy was 4. The little girl was much taller than the little boy. Of course, the little girl ignored the little boy (and all the other little boys), choosing instead to play with all the other little girls on the playground and in the class room.
The little girl and the little boy moved from kindergarten to first grade, then to second, third and so on until they reached the eighth grade. During these years they saw one another every day but most days they didn’t speak to one another. There was the time in the second grade when the little boy decided to kiss the little girl. When he did this, the little girl was mortified and responded to his ardor with a “yech” as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. The little girl walked home after school and told her mother what the little boy did. The little girl’s mother laughed and it was forgotten. Or was it?
As their grammar school days passed, the little girl and the little boy grew. Well, the little girl grew – taller and taller until she was taller than many of the boys and most of the girls. In fact, the girl often stood at or near the back of the line as the children waited to go into school or church. The little boy, however, didn’t grow. He stayed pretty little and was always in the first or second row. These physiologic facts made the boy and the girl a little unhappy since the boy wished he were taller and the girl wished she were shorter.
The boy and the girl went to different high schools. The girl stopped growing taller by the time she was a sophomore and the boy started growing taller when he was a sophomore. The girl went to an all-girls Catholic high school and the boy went to an all-boys Catholic seminary in Pennsylvania. After spending hundreds of hours and days studying the same subjects, listening to the same teachers, attending the same church, celebrating the same holidays and playing with the same children, the boy and girl went four years without seeing one another.
Fate brought the boy and girl together again in their freshman year of college. From working class families with limited income and for other reasons not important enough to mention here, both the girl and boy enrolled at the local community college. They did not, however, see one another in class every day. In fact, they were unaware that either were attending the same school. Then one day, the boy and a couple of friends from grammar school walked right by the girl and her friend from grammar school. The girls saw the boys approaching. As you might expect, the girls giggled at the sight of the approaching boys. The “meeting” consisted of greeting one another by their formal first names – no nicknames or abbreviated versions. I don’t think there was much visiting.
The boy left college, got a job and eventually married a girl from his neighborhood. His dream of being a priest gone, he knew he was expected to get married and “settle down.” It seemed natural to follow in his father’s footsteps and seek employment at the then largest employer in the city – known worldwide for capturing “the times of your life,” on film. The girl decided to drop out of community college and focus her attention on gaining secretarial skills from a local secretarial school. The girl believed that her career choices were limited to three professions: being a secretary, being a teacher or being a nurse. In high school she wanted to be a teacher, but she opted to become a secretary as she viewed her need for employment to be short-lived. Once she married and had children, she planned to stay at home caring for her family. At the ripe old age of 20, she got engaged and two weeks after her 21st birthday she said, “I do” to the man she thought she would love forever. She was blissfully happy and believed she was about to live the life of her girlish dreams.
Both the boy/man and the girl/woman planned to honor their marriage vows when they said, “I do.” The man and his wife had three beautiful children; the woman and her husband had one beautiful boy. Life doesn’t always go as planned however. One day the man found himself divorced and the woman also found herself divorced.
The next few years, the man and the woman went about rebuilding their lives. They made some foolish choices along the way and they made some good choices. Each loved their children with their whole hearts and each yearned to be part of a traditional family. Since both were raised by devout Catholic parents, each of them felt disappointed that they were unable to make their marriages work. Still, they persevered in raising their children and making life the best it could be. Each of them lived in the city in which they were born and raised. And, although always living within a few miles of each other, their paths never crossed.
Then one evening in the summer of 1984, their paths crossed at a grammar school reunion. Many of the almost 80 students from their grammar school attended the reunion. It was a wonderful night of reminiscing and reconnecting, a night to remember. The man and the woman visited briefly but drifted in and out of each other’s company as they partied with their former classmates. They didn’t know that fate was about to step in.
You can guess how the story ends. The boy/man and the girl/woman eventually got together. They married on June 29, 1985. They blended their families and worked hard to raise their four children to be happy grownups. After 26 years, they are still together. People who know and love them may scratch their heads and wonder how they’ve managed to make it work. Sometimes they do the same thing. Yet, when they are alone and they share their innermost feelings, each of them acknowledges their love and commitment to one another, to their children, their family, their friends and their Creator. Strongly steeped in Catholic tradition, they’ve done what they needed to do to be full participating members of their Church. They believe they’ve instilled good values in their children. It hasn’t always been the life of Ozzie and Harriet. Yet, they celebrate their years together, enjoy the love of their children and their children’s spouses and bask in the joy that their many grandchildren bring.
Life is good. They are blessed. And they all lived happily ever after. The End.
Happy Anniversary to my one and only, Franklin, (known affectionately by many other names: Nilk, Link, Ta, Bud and Budzo). I love you now and forever.