The story continues.
We’d go to Hensley Park which was set back into the woods. We’d play on the equipment or simply sit and talk. Sometimes we’d go to Teague Park and feed the ducks. Often we’d drive to his grandparents house on Leona Street to get ice cream from her freezer and say hello. I think they liked seeing young kids and didn’t question that we were suppose to be in school. A few times we drove to Lake O’ the Pines. We climbed the rocks on the dam or sit at the picnic tables. It didn’t matter what we did, we weren’t in school and we were having fun together. We were so free! There wasn’t any cell phones, so no one could find us.
We also worked at the same place. Back in the day when there was a twin theater in the mall, I’d work concession or ticket booth and John was one of the ushers. We also worked at the River Road Drive In in the ticket booth or concession stand there. Which meant we were up late. My friend, Arlene, worked there with us. We had so much fun! Sometimes after the theaters closed on the weekends, we’d drive to the restaurant, Hot Biscuit, on the corner of Gilmer Road and the loop where the current Walgreens is now. They would usually sit us in a round booth in the back and we’d talk and laugh until the wee early morning hours. Even back then I’d order the same food at restaurants. I’d order a fried chicken sandwich with sour cream and hand breaded onion rings. I can almost taste it to this day.
The summer before our senior year, John wanted to change our friendship into something more. Our friendship was wonderful and I was unsure if I wanted it to change. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. That was also the summer that the mall had the Disney characters come in for a promotion. They contacted our drama teacher about people to wear them. I remember having to go in for a ‘rehearsal’ to see if we could fit into the costumes. I was lucky enough to be the size to fit in Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, so I got to wear both costumes that week. John was Goofy and my younger brother, Johnny, was Pluto. Part of it was fantastic. We’d walk around the mall and wave. I’d hate it when people would put a pen between our plastic gloved hands and we’d try to autograph a paper. The most boring part was having to sit in the photo room in the chair and take pictures with kids. I don’t know how many babies I almost dropped. What were those moms thinking! They were putting kids in the arms of people wearing rubber gloves. We didn’t have grip for goodness sake! During this time, John and I were still friends, but I could tell our relationship had changed. He was moody and sometimes he’d be unkind. I was torn and I missed our easy camaraderie.
Our senior year started and I knew I had to make a decision because I could tell I was hurting John’s feelings. I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll try it.” Our first date was going to see a movie, Flash Gordon. The movie was pretty terrible, but it was the first time we held hands. He took me home, no kiss. We went out a few more times and two weeks later, still no kiss. I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with me. Then one night, when we were working in the concession stand, he pulled me to him and the rest was history.
We continued to date throughout our senior year. I wore his senior ring with tons of masking tape wrapped around it to keep it on my finger. During the end of our senior year, he took me behind the curtain of the little theater at the high school and presented me with a promise ring. It was a gold rose with my birthstone inside the flower. It was appropriate to give it to me there since we met due to my initiation to the Thespian Club and he was given to my to be my ‘big brother.’ He used to say that he married his ‘little sister.’ He told me that when he saw me the first time on the steps dressed as Dorothy, God whispered to him, “That girl is going to be your wife.”
John used to say that he never asked me to marry him. That may be true. We did talk about marrying after high school, but I don’t recall him proposing to me. We picked out rings and set a date. I’d respond back to his statement saying, “Well, you showed up!” We were married June 12, 1982, a year after our high school graduation. We were both 19 and so very young. Two friends who fell in love and enjoyed being together. Our future wasn’t set, but our life together had started.
We had no idea the challenges ahead or the joy and tears that would be ours. No idea how long we would have together. No idea that time wouldn’t seem long enough.