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Thu Nov 23, 2023, 10:18 AM Nov 2023
Girl of My Dreams [View all]
Last edited Thu Nov 23, 2023, 12:59 PM - Edit history (1)
It's my 44th wedding anniversary today. My wife and I married young, me right out of high school, and we had a brilliant plan to marry the day before Thanksgiving; both to get people visiting home for the holiday week to come to our wedding, and also have a date that we'd remember.
Yep, we had zero knowledge that Thanksgiving comes on the second Thursday of the month, but not on the same day. Thus confusion for years and years over whether it was on the 23rd or the 24th.
It's the 23rd (I'm almost positive, but you should humor me, because my wife thinks it's today, as well).
I dragged out up this true story I wrote out a few years back (for my wife to read again), hopefully finding room this weekend to share it with folks here, again. So, fwiw...
(Karen's self-portrait, hanging in her flat when I met her)
____Is there someone you met in the past who so captivated you that their image and the event was permanently planted into the recesses of your memory to be measured against all others? I'm not talking about some consummated meeting or relationship, but a brief, almost casual encounter which left you imagining what life would have been had you said or done something differently or pursued them more aggressively.
I was eighteen and making my first stand away from home in Cumberland Md... when I met my future wife. I had just been released a few months earlier from what the State called a forestry camp atop Mt. Savage outside of Lonaconing, Md..
I had stolen some stuff the summer before (as a juvenile) gotten caught, and had been granted the benefit of an alternative to the frightful detention center by a judge exasperated that I'd spurned his home detention ruling and skipped town to pass my eighteenth birthday with two of my best friends in a barn on the property of a girls school on an old Shaker community property right across the Mass. border in upstate N.Y..
We had taken a train ride to visit my buddy Gary's girlfriend who was in residence there; an impulsive decision to travel made after a night which began with a Neil Young concert which opened with Neil sitting cross-legged atop a massive box singing 'Silver Mountain' to a crowd which didn't stop cheering from beginning to end - and finished off with a gallon bottle of port wine shared between us in a church parking lot.
"Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you're thinking that you're leaving there too soon
You're leaving there too soon"
We spent five glorious, life-transforming days in N.Y., deep into the unbelievably colorful fall there, drinking brandy by day and Southern Comfort every night.
One of the memories which sticks out was stumbling upon what I believe was a grave site in the middle of an overgrown woods with several short stone columns arranged in a rectangle, linked by an enormous iron chain, and a short monument or marker at one end. I tripped over the chain, and unable, somehow, to regain my feet, I crawled over to the stone obelisk to read the inscription. I memorized it:
"In loving memory of the members of the Shaker community," it read, "who dedicated their lives to humanity, passed on to immortality. Hands to work, hearts to God."
That evening I took my friends to the top floor of one of the aging barns and showed them where I had taken my pocket knife and scratched each of our names into the wooden wall at one end. Underneath them I had carved, "Lest We Forget."
I eventually relented and called home to face the music right after we were discovered in the barn by someone from the school and escorted to a truck stop at the state line. Dad arranged passage for me on a plane home and I literally said goodbye to my youth (and my friends) right then and there at the airport as they went on to spend more time in Mass. and I went home to jail.
I did my court-ordered time in a state-run forestry camp cutting dead trees down with a crosscut saw and cutting them into cords with the same aggravating tools. We split the $10-$12 dollars we earned between the 11 of us . . . I took the time to study botany out of a book one of the bus drivers for the camp gave me. I made plans to be a forester and I spent my nights reading and studying from his advanced text.
I got myself admitted to Allegheny State College while I was still locked-up and, after I was released, I had my Dad drive me to Cumberland and drop me off at the Y.M.C.A. in the middle of town.
It was dingy and had a weird smell, but, when the old man put $75 dollars in travelers' checks in my hand and drove off, I was at the top of the world . . . for about an hour or so. Then I suddenly became more depressed and lonely in that room than I've ever been in my life.
Turns out, small town was indifferent to downright hostile to my presence. That was something that took this suburban boy a while to get used to. I had imagined working and going to school, but it quickly became apparent that there wasn't going to be work to be had anywhere I could travel to in that miserable place where people would yell racist things from their cars as I walked down the street.
I ended up staying on the Y.M.C.A roof for a few nights until I got caught. Desperate and running out of cash, I talked a nice lady into letting this would-be student rent a room. I got lucky. I got a nice place with a sink, stove, a bed, and a bath. I readjusted myself and headed out into town the first night.
Center Street runs down the middle of Cumberland with the hospital and graveyard up above and the railroad tracks down below. I headed up there with the few bucks I had left to see if I could buy some weed or anything other than beer. I had just turned 18 that year, but I had no ID at all, so I wasn't even in a good position to buy alcohol (even if I wanted it). So, I took a good position against the wall outside of one of the string of bars and waited . . . and waited.
After awhile, a few folks came by and walked over to me, hoping this stranger had better connections than they did. Good luck with that. I got a few promises that they'd come back if the guy they knew came through . . . I waited some more.
After an eternity, something was finally happening across the street. There came a girl in a hurry past a group of guys who were walking on the same side. They hooted and cajoled at this chick, and all at once I realized that if I wanted any action at all I was definitely on the wrong side of the street. I could've been over there hooting and whistling at the only decent girl I'd seen in the entire time I had been in town.
I was kicking myself, when suddenly, she was right beside me! The girl from across the street had gone by and doubled back to where I was leaning against the wall.
"Can you please do me a favor?" she asked. "Can I just stand here by you until they leave? I can't handle it when they do that," she said, "and I'm scared of them. Can I just stand here until they're gone?"
I was in shock, because I hadn't had more than a few minutes of casual conversation with any female in my life. Now this girl wouldn't stop talking to me. She went on and on about how she hated it when men did 'that' -- how she hated to be treated like an object, and so on, and on.
"Don't you?" she asked, not waiting for the answer. "You looked like a kind person and I knew I'd be safe standing here, I hope you don't mind."
Truth is, I did sort of mind. Here was, in all probability, the girl of my dreams, asking me to come to her house to meet her brother who played guitar and might know where to get some weed . . . "Are you coming?" she asked, now walking away toward the street where she lived. I waited until she was a few blocks down the street before I resigned myself to give up my vigil for weed and follow. She looked back and I waved her on.
"I'm, coming, I'm coming," I waved her on again and followed her home. Sure enough, her brother was there with a friend. No weed, but this girl was growing on me. She was staying in a one floor building (shack) at the rear of another larger home. Her painted art was scattered all over the place and there was a quirky self-portrait hanging right by the front door. It was the perfect hippie haven -- even without the weed.
We talked for a few hours, her brother left, and eventually, so did I - with just a memorable and careful kiss goodbye in the moonlight - but, after a long sleepless night with the impression of that kiss spurring me on, I went back to her house the next day with a couple of Grolsh beers and some carnations that I blew the last of my money on. I threw away the tacky paper they were wrapped in and presented them and myself, once again, to my future, surprised, but pleased, wife-to-be.
I remember she put a Steve Miller album on her simple stereo (Fly Like An Eagle) and our mutual tastes in music immediately put me at ease. It was my very first time in a young adult's own home, however, and I marveled at something as simple as her refrigerator full of food, and that she actually cooked with it.
We'd been eating and talking awhile and I heard this noise from the backroom. She played it off, but there it was again! I got up and opened the back bedroom door and there he was -- a little bitty baby boy.
She had been thinking the kid was some kind of deal-breaker and had kept the lid on him, I was totally cool with it, and I wondered if she would let me stay and hang out with them. I was still such a kid, myself, she being 4 years my senior. I lied to her about my age...
Later that evening her landlord delivered a letter in which he had tripled her rent. The call we got that night with a woman whispering 'n****r-lover, n****r-lover over the line put the sudden rent increase into perspective. One night and a day in her house and the townfolk had revolted against us. I resolved to stay there one more night.
I was supposed to go to my first day of college the next morning, but after a night of my first real intimate encounter, we both heard a rooster crow and realized then that her blackout curtains had hidden the full morning and afternoon which had unfolded away from our view.
I had blown my first day of college. We both then decided to leave town together and set up another house in College Park Md. She packed up the next day, gave me her last $175 dollars, put me on a bus and we promised to meet the next day when her friend brought her and her son to College Park to stay with my sister until we got settled.
What a crazy plan, as I look back on it. She was leaving the town where her mother, father, and her younger brother were living; practically her home town, given the years she had lived there after moving from Falls Church Va.. She was going to meet me at the entrance of the University of MD that next afternoon with a car full of everything she owned.
Insane. Yet, there I was on the bus back to my hometown of Bethesda, Md.. There I was, back on the street, out drinking with my buddies.
And, there I was, in jail for trespassing when she arrived the next day; me, nowhere in sight. By a hair of luck, she reached my sister, practically minutes before just heading back to Cumberland. I wrote her a poem in jail which I held up to the window between us in the visitor's room:
I am where I am
Meant to be
I am settled here
For warm currents of love
In a wide circle
Past the place
Where I am waiting
And you drift back
To me, after all.
Up in your journey
Where you are going
Like the first night
As I sat waiting
Where I had been
Drawn up in the
Warm currents of love
That carried us
We married a couple of months later -- poorer than when we arrived, but deeper in love.
Now my wife is certainly my dream girl, but I'd be lying if I said she was the only girl etched into my memories of my youth. There was one particular encounter that burned into my memory and flooded my imagination with things that might-have-been on one of those glorious summer days which never seemed to end; then ended way too soon.
My friends and I used to pile into a van or car and just head out, barefoot, to the country with our guitars, our weed, and our craziness. We'd go down to Great Falls and climb around on the rocks or track through the woods before settling in a circle somewhere and passing the bowl around. We'd go to Sugarloaf Mountain and we'd climb to the top to just look out and ride the world.
Funny thing was, my wife had also taken day-trips during her youth to most of the same spots my gang liked to hang out -- like Sugarloaf, the Falls (on the opposite Virginia side), or the quarry at the base of Sugarloaf Mt., full of amazingly blue spring water with frighteningly high cliffs to dive off.
In fact, we seemed to live dual lives, even though she lived in Falls Church, Va. and I lived in Bethesda, Md.. We both lived like our hippie idols; already (happily) out of touch with the rest of society before we met and married.
We both grew up listening to James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Rod Stewart played over and over again on WINX radio. Later, we both grew up further listening to WHFS; me, enjoying their station situated in my home town, and she, listening to the alternative folk-rock from her town in Falls Church. It kind of shaped us the same way. Kind of folky and artsy. . . hippie wannabes.
We'd seen some of the same concerts and both had enjoyed Georgetown's then-bohemian weekends in their heyday. We'd talk about those days as we grew older together as if we'd lived them together and not from opposite states. It's a blessing to share similar memories to recall together.
We'd climbed the same mountains, swam the same lakes; albeit, apart from one another; oblivious to each others existence. We'd both swam the crystal-blue waters in Dickerson Quarry at the foot of Sugarloaf, braving the high cliffs and having the time of our lives partying with the dozens who showed up there every summer.
In fact, it was at Dickerson quarry where I met one particular girl - one I obsessed on; a girl I measured all others against; a momentary encounter I had recreated and embellished in my head a thousand times a year thereafter.
I still remember that summer afternoon as clearly as if it was yesterday. Two guys I knew, Peter and Alex, had gotten wind of a fellow who was going to drive the motorcycle that had killed his buddy off of the highest cliff at Dickerson.
A bunch of us piled into Peter's van and drove to the quarry so we could see the happening and so they could film it with their new video camera. A pretty large crowd gathered on the banks of the quarry and watched the spectacle unfold.
The biker revved his engine a couple of times, hesitated, and then drove straight off the cliff into the water. He dropped for what seemed like an eternity, then finally, flipped forward over the handlebars as the bike fell out under him. Big cheers all around as he surfaced, mostly unharmed.
Not to be outdone (I was actually outdone), I took my first 'dive' off of the next-to-longest drop. I got out of the water and took a second dive off of '14', the tallest drop (not anywhere close to 14 anything - more like 100 or something).
Well, I got bored and decided to show-off for my indifferent hosts just one more time. I headed through the woods to the cliff we called the 'running-jump'. The trick to this cliff was that it sloped outward so far that you had to get a good run up before jumping way out to avoid the cliff and the little pine growing out from the rocks underneath.
I got to the top of the cliff and looked out. By that time I was shivering so badly that I could feel the ground shaking beneath my trembling legs. I was both cold and scared. I thought of giving up, but the folks I had told to watch were at '14' waiting. I paced around in the woods awhile, shivering and shaking uncontrollably now. I resigned myself to give up and walk away.
I had just hit the path when I spotted someone running towards me and the cliff. It was a girl! Yes. Exclamation point, girl!
"Hey man!" she said to me, as if she knew me. She was at least a head taller than me, and real aggressive. My sister was the only girl that tall who had EVER bothered to say more than a word to me; especially not "hey man" like I was cool or something.
But, I was cool. Cool as shit. Damn cool. But, my hair had gotten wet and I had on my uncontrollable clown hair with one side inevitably sticking up higher than the other. I felt like an idiot there, bare bird-chested, shaking like a leaf.
She didn't seem to care. "So, you gonna jump, man?" she asked me, with respect and attention that I'd never really experienced from a girl before; especially not an older one.
"Yeah, but I'm chickening out, I think." I said, not bothering to care how wimpy I sounded. "I'm cold and shivering . . . are you going?" I asked her.
"Yeah man," she said. "It's not hard. You just have to jump out way far."
"I've been practicing jumping as far as I can into the woods to get ready." I said.
"You don't have to do all that, man. Just get back as far as you can to get a good run. It's easy." And with that, we both went to the edge and looked out and down. "I'm going," she told me. "I'll wait for you at the bottom if you decide to go."
With that, she went as far back into the woods as she was able, ran to the edge of the cliff and propelled herself out and down into the water. There she waited, wading water as she called for me to go next. There was no way I wasn't going, so I loaded up whatever courage I had, made myself realize that could be my last moment alive on earth, and I jumped . . . I landed right beside her.
"Cool, man," she had said to me, or something like that. I thanked her briefly and she said goodbye and swam over to 'Beetle' -- the smallest drop in the quarry; where most of the girls drew the line if they were inclined at all to jump off of cliffs into crystal-blue water.
So, from that brief encounter, I had experienced the most time with a girl in my entire 14 years on the planet -- and she was taller and older, at that! Silly, I know, but, you see, I'd had just a few close encounters with girls before I met my wife, and, whenever I thought of Dickerson quarry, I also fantasized about what that moment would have been like, if I had had the nerve to follow her across the water, perhaps.
I had fantasized about that moment for so many years, so many stolen moments in my mind, that there I was sitting listening to music with my wife of 25 years on day long removed from that iconic summer of my youth; thinking of Dickerson quarry and remembering that wonderful girl who had made me feel less of the gangly kid I was and more the way I'd imagined myself to be.
Like I'd done a thousand or more times in my head over the years like a movie reel, I relived the magical afternoon that moment and tracked the distance in my mind across the quarry and back to where my friends had been watching.
I remember that I got back to the top of '14' and the guys that gave me a ride were nowhere to be found. I had waited until, finally, they came out of the woods with their camera and sheepish grins on their faces. As I recalled in my daydream, they'd found two girls in the woods by 'Beetle' rock and had filmed them in their immodesty. . .
Pink Floyd was playing the same song on the stereo that had consoled me in the van on the way back home that summer day way-back-when, daydreaming along with 'Breathe' of my ultimate romantic encounter with a girl.
Breathe, breathe in the air
Don't be afraid to care
Leave but don't leave me
Look around and choose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be...
Suddenly I turned off the music. Silence. Thinking. Remembering...
"Honey. Listen... I have something I want to ask you," I said to my wife. "Listen, it's important."
"Okay," she answered, not certain what confession was forthcoming; not sure if she should be interested or angry.
"Do you remember," I asked, "that you told me once that you'd seen a guy ride a motorcycle off of the cliff at Dickerson Quarry. Do you remember that?"
"Yes," she answered. "I'd driven up there with Becky because she told me this guy was going to do it, so we went to see him."
"How many times did someone ride a bike . . .," I thought to myself. "Honey," I asked slowly, taking a deep breath as I waited for the answer. I had something . . . "Did you see a couple of guys with a video camera that afternoon (so very rare in those days) trying to take your picture?" I asked her.
"Yes I did," she said, after a short pause. "I was hiding in the woods because my shirt was wet and see-thru," she explained. She had to get it by now . . . That persisting vision of Peter and Alex at the end of my mind-reel of memories from that day was the missing piece of the puzzle. Why hadn't we realized this earlier?
"I knew those guys," I told her. "They brought me to the quarry that day to see the motorcycle jump. Honey," I said, "I've got something to tell you. We met that day. No, really met, in a big way."
I told her about the running jump; the tom-girl a head taller than me, and my years of daydreaming on that magic moment in the woods . . .
"You're kidding . . ."
After talking it through, we realized it was absolutely true. Turns out, the woman I had married 25 years earlier, without realizing it, was the very woman I had spent almost 30 years daydreaming about -- in fact, dreaming about at that very moment.
She remembered, at once, a skinny brown kid with lips blue from cold; helping me overcome my fear of jumping off of the cliff; going first and waiting to make sure I was safe... a perfect metaphor for our lives together.
Much to our surprise and my chagrin over 'cheating' on my wife at that moment, dredging up memories of that youthful encounter at the quarry - memories I had held as precious and defining of my youth for years and years - I had, in fact, actually married the girl of my dreams.
Almost unbelievable, but absolutely true.
Happy anniversary, my dear.
"For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be..."
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Congratulations on your anniversary, and what a great story! Ocelot II Nov 2023 #1
You have so much to be thankful for 🙏 dweller Nov 2023 #2
Happy 44th Anniversary Mr. and Mrs. Bigtree. Niagara Nov 2023 #3
Beautiful story and very well written, have you ever tried publishing it? I really loved reading it. MLAA Nov 2023 #4
---you are two lucky people. 3Hotdogs Nov 2023 #5
Stay well. Thanks for your story. twodogsbarking Nov 2023 #6
What a beautiful story! BigOleDummy Nov 2023 #7
That is a wonderful story Easterncedar Nov 2023 #8
Thanks for sharing this and yonder Nov 2023 #9
Love your stories, Bigtree. Congrats, you two deserve more decades of happiness. joanbarnes Nov 2023 #10
I loved your story - Keep flying like an eagle. We've all lived parts of this. Thanks for bringing us together. NBachers Nov 2023 #11
Thank you for that story. Mr.Bill Nov 2023 #12
Your post is a perfect script for a movie Deuxcents Nov 2023 #13