cafe mama

finding magic every day

A rare and beautiful love story . April 26, 2004

happy first anniversary to me... It was 1987 and the world was a different place. The Berlin Wall was up. Reaganomics were trickling down. Shoulder pads were hip. No one EVER showed their belly button and teenagers tied sweaters around their waists to hide their tiny behinds. I had a brand-spanking new pair of penny loafers and I was starting high school at Cleveland on 26th and Powell.

I knew about three people in the entire freshman class as I lived just northwest of the middle school fault line; most of my middle school classmates were going to Franklin. I was an unknown, a nerd and a pretty terrible dresser.

I was lucky to find a sanctuary in Mrs. Skarstad's honors composition-literature class. She encouraged us to write journals and memorize Shakespeare. I met some friends, among them Jon Hanson, and memorialized them in my journal entries. Something about a "cute Frosh football player..."

I found my niche, slowly, and went on to be a cheerleader, play basketball and run track, get involved in student government and the newspaper. I was still nervous around boys, though, always getting crushes on out-of-reach upperclassmen and boyfriends of other girls. Jon Hanson and I stayed friends, flirted, but never quite managed to go out. Once I got the nerve to ask him to the girl-ask-guy dance. He said yes, then backed out when he made a simpler love connection. She was in his league, he thought, she drank beer and hung out with his friend's girlfriends. I was a little, o.k., a lot, miffed and went on to hate the beer drinking usurper with a passion reserved for the rivals of high school girls.

Cut to 1997, when I'm living in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a serious boyfriend, a great job, lots of friends, generally good clothes and a hopping social life in which I drink beer, wine, scotch, drop $75 at the gourmet grocery on a regular basis, and even smoke the occasional cigar. Out of the blue I receive a card from Jon Hanson, Portland, Oregon. He tells me that he had a dream: I was "this big exec living in DC." He wants to say "hi."

The next time I come back to Portland, I call Jon, and we go out to lunch. He is in a very different place than me, working for a real estate agent, driving a vintage Cadillac, also dating someone seriously. We drink margaritas at the Ironhorse. We say goodbye.

Maybe we think about each other from time to time. Maybe we are too busy with the other drama in our lives. Jonathan has a messy breakup with his girlfriend and takes a detour to Dallas, Texas. I go to business school, buy huge quantities of fabulous shoes, work on Wall Street, and wind a terrible long relationship down. Our 10-year high school reunion is approaching and both of us look forward to it, maybe for the same reason, maybe just to "see."

In July of 2001 we both arrive at the high school reunion, see people that we forgot we liked so much, and people we forgot how much we didn't like. We see each other, across the room. Suddenly we are together, with large glasses of mediocre red wine and all the memories. That night Jon confesses that he always thought he'd marry me. The die is cast.

Two months later, a few days after September 11 (my 27th birthday, which I spent a few miles from the Pentagon, in my apartment in Reston, Virginia), I pack my car with all the belongings that fit and drive across the country to move in with my parents back in Portland. Jon and I spend long nights talking, drinking, eating, celebrating. We decide we want to get married and have children as soon as possible. In early November I take a test: I'm pregnant.

So we put off the wedding, in favor of buying a house, birthing a baby, working, figuring things out. A year ago, April 26, 2003, was the culmination of 16 years of courtship, done awkwardly. We're doing the marriage with much more grace.