The idea for this post was inspired by my middle son Joey and his girlfriend Megan, who just posted a video where they talk about how they met and how they have changed as a result of their relationship.
April 28, 1978 is a date that will forever be etched in my memory, and one that my wife and I still celebrate. It was my junior year in college at East Stroudsburg University (ESU) and I was at an off-campus party in Lake Valhalla, a small community about 10 minutes from campus.
It was the typical college party – a few kegs of beer, music blaring from the stereo system, and lots of young adults enjoying each other’s company. At some point in the evening a friend of mine, Bo, introduced me to a girl named Mary. He introduced us by saying “This is Dear Quincy”, which was in reference to a fake advice column I wrote for the weekly student newspaper.
Mary said she was a fan of the column (my first fan!) and we ended up talking to each other the rest of the evening. I’m fairly certain it’s the most I ever talked to a girl in my life, and when the night was over she gave me her phone number. As it turned out, Mary not only went to ESU, she had grown up in Lake Valhalla!
I called her up in the next day or so and she invited me over to her house and we took a walk down to the lake. I had no recollection what her last name was, but I was too embarrassed to admit it and ask her what it was. As luck would have it, the beach area by the lake had a wooden sign that listed all of the members of the lake, and I thought I was being clever when I said “I don’t see your family’s name on there.” She said, “Yes it is, right there,” and just pointed vaguely in the direction of the board. I must have mumbled something because she then said “You don’t remember my last name, do you?”
I sheepishly had to admit that was the case, but I’ve never forgotten it since
We started to see each other around campus and at parties over the next couple of weeks. We even had our first “informal” date, a visit to Bushkill Falls, the Niagara of Pennsylvania. Things seemed to be going well so I decided to try and get a job at the college so that I could see her over the summer. Fortunately I got a job cutting lawns for the college, but then I found out soon after that Mary had decided to take a job as an arts and crafts counselor at an overnight summer camp about an hour away. (I’ve always assumed one did not cause the other…)
But then fate intervened. I was walking back from dinner one night that summer, and I saw Mary’s sister driving through campus. She stopped and told me that Mary couldn’t stand her job, and that she was going to visit her to cheer her up. She asked me if I wanted to go, and I said sure.
So about an hour later we arrived at the camp, and when Mary saw us, she burst into tears (again, I’ve always assumed that they were tears of joy, not sadness). She told us how bad the living conditions were and after talking with us she decided to quit within the next couple of days.
As I recall, Mary has told me that my visit to the girl scout camp was a key moment in our relationship. It’s amazing how something that was completely unplanned became so pivotal.
Once she got back home, we started to see each other more frequently, and at that point I finally got up the nerve to ask her for our first “formal” date, a Boz Scaggs concert in Philadelphia. The concert was great, a perfect evening, until…
Until we got back to my car (a 1964 Ford Falcon with three on the tree!) and realized I had locked the keys in the car. What a way to impress someone on your first date! I tried a few different things, none of which worked, and I noticed the parking lot getting emptier and lonelier by the minute. At that point I started to get a little nervous, since the concert was not in the best part of town. Then out of nowhere, inspiration struck. The oil dipstick!
I opened the hood, took out the dipstick, and amazingly enough, I was able to slip it inside the window and unlock the car. Mary told me later how impressed she was with my clever solution, and that this was another changing point in our relationship. So I took to calling myself MacGyver for a while…
The summer of 1978 was a great one, and by the time my senior started that fall, we were a couple. I remember wanting to celebrate the first anniversary of meeting each other, so I made a reservation at a local restaurant. Unfortunately, I did not realize until we got there was outside of my price range. I tried to not let on, and so I tried to act nonchalant as possible, but I remember when the waiter asked if we wanted appetizers I quickly said no, and did the same thing when he asked us about dessert. I later found out that Mary had figured out early on what the issue was, but was kind enough to never let on.
None of my friends could understand how I had managed to be dating such a beautiful, nice girl, and I had no answer for them. I was certainly no ladies’ man, and it only took until the end of our second date, that Mary had become the girl I had had the most dates with my entire life. For whatever reason, she was attracted to me, and the feeling was definitely mutual.
Other memorable moments in those first couple of years – going to a Harry Chapin concert where Mary got to kiss Harry, the first time she came to visit me while I was at grad school in Pittsburgh, and then asking her to marry me on the banks of the Delaware River at the Shawnee Resort in the Poconos near the end of the summer of 1980.
We’ve had 35 great years since that moment, and there’s no doubt that Mary is my best friend and confidant. She has taught me the importance of kindness, recommended hundreds of books to me, and been the best mother to our children that any child could want.
Anything I’ve accomplished in life is the direct result of her love and support. She has helped make me the person I am, and for that I am forever grateful.
And who would have thought that having a car that constantly needed to have oil added to it (thus enabling me to know what or where an oil stick was) would have led to 33 (and counting) years of marital bliss…