Many moons ago (and I’m not telling exactly how many… mainly because I don’t feel like doing the math), this gorgeous, dark-haired hunk walked into my high school cafeteria after classes were done and waited for me to walk out of the gym where I had been playing intramural volleyball. As I exited the door, he shouted “Hey, Hyde Tools!”, a reference to the t-shirt I was wearing at the time. As I shyly walked towards him, my heart beat faster. Even though I knew him (he was my brother’s friend) and even though I knew he was going to ask me out (because he asked my brother’s permission first), I was still skeptical. What would this good-looking guy who had already graduated want with a dorky, 16 year old junior with a bad 80s perm? Sure enough,however, he asked me to a party that weekend and I said “yes”.
Later on, he would tell me that he had been trying to get his sister (a friend of mine) to set us up on a date for two months prior. He had seen me at a high school football game on my first official date (because I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16) with a mutual friend. (That date, as fate would have it went nowhere, and in fact, the boy left me mid-date with the couple we were doubling with to go to another function. Some foray into the dating world, huh? No hard feelings, though, and he is still a good friend to this day.)
As my husband would tell the story, he was smitten from that moment (my word, not his – his was a bit more R-rated) and asked his sister to talk to me at school the following Monday. She didn’t. Nor did she speak to me any of the other dozens of times he asked her to, and to this day, I’m unsure why she didn’t. But it doesn’t matter, because when my brother came home on leave from the Army, he set us up. Prior to setting me up on a date, however, my brother set my mother up when he asked her what she thought of A. “Oh, he’s a nice boy,” she said. She would later say that she was admitting that he was a “nice boy” as a friend for my brother, not as a boyfriend for me, but it was too late. The rest is history, as they say.
On that Friday evening, A picked me up after work at my job at the grocery store in his parents’ “Big Blue Caddy” as we called it – one of those giant boats from the 1970s with crushed velour seats, everything in baby blue. Looking back, it was a bit of a pimpmobile, but I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew is that it was a “luxury” car at a time when everyone I knew either drove a Pinto or a Gremlin. He opened the car door for me and then got behind the wheel. After a few minutes of driving, he told me I didn’t “need to sit all the way over there” when I found myself wedged against my door. I really was that shy and nervous, but the seats on the Cadillac were so wide, that even when I moved back to a more normal seating position, there was room for probably two more people in between us.
We went to the party at his friend’s house and never looked back. Ten days later he asked me to “go out”, a strange turn of phrase that simply meant being exclusive, because wasn’t a date already going out? We were nearly inseparable at a time when it was more difficult to do so – there were no cell phones or internet. When we called one another and got a busy signal, we had to keep calling until the line was free. If one of us wasn’t home, there was no way to reach us again until we returned. And even though we only lived one town over from each other, it was a toll call, so I was only allowed to stay on the phone for 15 minutes at a time. (Now I’m really showing how many moons have passed by… and for those of you young folks, a “toll call” meant that the call was considered long distance and you were charged by the minute to talk, and there wasn’t such a thing as an “unlimited calling plan”.)
When I called his house, one of three things usually happened: he would answer (or be there) and we would talk,; he wouldn’t be there and his brother would refuse to take a message, essentially implying I had no right to ask or know in no uncertain (vulgar) terms; or his YiaYia Maria would answer saying “no home…. No home”, her very limited English preventing her from saying much more. I loved it when YiaYia would answer, and would quietly ask if she could “ummm… tell him Cheryl called?” She would suddenly become very animated and shout “Oh, Cheryl!” followed by a string of Greek that to this day I have no idea what she was saying. But apparently, it was a good thing because my husband told me she would wait at the top of the stairs for him to get home and excitedly tell him “Cheryl called!” in Greek before he even ascended them. She practically pushed him to the phone to return the call that very minute. So, thank you, YiaYia Maria, for accepting me so unconditionally from the very beginning and for sharing your grandson with me for 32 years. I hope I did you proud.
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