Thursday, February 7, 2008

It Was 20 Years Ago Today...

Feb 7 1988. I drove my little 5-speed Dodge Omni to the college theater at William Paterson College. I was picking her up from work. It was our first date.

I remember staring at a painting in the lobby of some old lady (I later found out it was the person for whom the theater had been named), pretending to be interested in it so she’d be impressed with me when she turned the corner to find me. I don’t know whether it worked or not, but after a while the painting actually did grow on me.

When she emerged from the office she was every bit as lively and lovely as I’d grown to find her in our year of friendship. We made some small talk as we walked to the car, where I announced that we’d be dining at Masen’s Mountainside Inn, a restaurant I had worked in as a kitchen manager (read senior dishwasher) followed by a movie. I had planned on Masen’s not just for the familiarity, but also for the somewhat lengthy drive so we could spend more time talking our way through the transition from friends to couple. She later told me she was impressed that I had made the decision of where the evening would take us.

Dinner was wonderful- Lillian (my favorite waitress, a grandmotherly Edith Bunker type of woman) set us up in a private, dimly-lit corner booth. I don’t recall everything we talked about. I do recall that she mentioned an annoying habit her ex-boyfriend had of tossing wadded-up napkins all over the table, something I was careful never to do from then on. I recall how she told me that she could not tolerate sugar and learned about hypoglycemia that night. I recall laughing a lot and enjoying healthy conversation about family and relationships and college. I recall how fair her skin was in the candlelight, how green her eyes were and how hypnotizing her perfect voice was.

After dinner we headed over to the theater- I had selected some abominable movie like Lair of the Spider Woman, but Marie suggested Moonstruck (a movie she’d already seen, she told me later, but a far better choice for sure). We shared popcorn and held hands.

On the way home I drove her past my high school and house as we continued to talk. At some point, I believe I was turning the final bend on Otterhole Road in Bloomingdale, I found myself asking an unusual question. Since we were both former Catholics, and our families were Catholics, and I was now Baptist and she was a Nazarene, I pondered where/how we would get married.

Not kidding.

Finally, back in the parking lot of the college, we kissed an awkward soft kiss somehow amongst my bundled up ski jacket and her dress coat, and we said goodnight.

It remains to this day the best night of my life.

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