Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and Jim and I always use that day to recall how we met. Well, I always use that date and, bless him, he always goes along with it.
What I remember most is what he bought me that day – an individual packet of Planter’s Peanuts and one small Coke.
I actually had it all planned out about when I would meet the man I would marry. It would be in my junior year in college. We’d get engaged then and marry after graduation. What’s that old saying? – “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
Well I met Jim during Christmas break in my freshman year. We were both taking the Georgian train from Chicago to Atlanta. He was a sophomore at Notre Dame and was heading for Augusta, Georgia. I was going back to Atlanta after my first semester at St Mary’s College, across the highway from the Fighting Irish.
We traveled on a college commuter train that stopped every hour or so to let students off. We all rode in the club car all the way south and sang Christmas carols all night. We sat at the same table and he treated me to the snack mentioned above. I learned later this took all the money he had on him.
The train trip took all night and I stayed with him and the rest of the crowd rather than go to the roomette my dad had reserved for me or eating a steak in the dining car, which he had also funded.
We started dating after the holiday break and four short years later we married. We had to finish school and he joined the Air Force and completed flight school and then we marred and began our his first USAF assignment – moving 22 times in his 25 year career.
We were both new to the military and both enjoyed the life. Our four kids had some wonderful experiences and opportunities during that time.
One of our favorite assignments was the fighter squadron that was once at Charleston Air Force Base and we fell in love with the area and came back to settle here when he retired. We’ve never wanted to live anywhere else.
But it’s Valentine’s Day that brings it all back.
My mom and dad had the same tradition – celebrating their meeting every February 14th. They met when mom was a bank teller and dad stood in her line – no matter how long it was — to cash his paycheck every week. One of his friends said “Bob, why don’t you just go up and kiss that girl and ask her out?” He did. She accepted and they recalled that on dozens of their Valentine’s Days.
Three are lots of special days to celebrate in marriages – especially long ones like ours – 62 years. But somehow, one of the most special is remembering that time we first met.
But even more special is that I know what I’m going to get tomorrow – red roses – with peanuts and a Coke on the side.