Nineteen and Counting

Nineteen and Counting

As those of you on Facebook know, yesterday was the 19th anniversary of the day Buds and I met. One of the children asked for the story of how we met, and I’m going to write it down here so the grandchildren can read it in my words someday.

Those of you who are not my children are welcome to ignore this story since it is going to be long and rambling and filled with mushy.

Here’s the extremely long version, and the reason I truly believe Buds and I were destined to meet, and I even believe that God was directly involved because I did several things that could have changed the events, but they traveled forward despite my best efforts.

As part of the process of earning my Masters Degree, I had to be the full-time teacher of record for one year. Our Masters Program Head made sure that all of us had jobs, to the best of his ability. St Louis Special School District was always willing to interview his students, and we all were interviewed by them, if only for the experience.

About a week after those interviews, he told us, “They said they’d be happy with any of you, all the positions they have available are high school or middle school, so write your name on this paper if you are interested in working for SLSSD.”

I had no interest in living in St. Louis, and I certainly didn’t want to have a high school or middle school position, so I didn’t put my name on the list. Two other Jennifers in my class did put their names on the list. (Always there are at least two other “Jennifers” in my class.)

Lon came back a week later to tell people who had gotten the 5 jobs. He read off the names, then pointed at me and said, “And they have an elementary school job for you.” Dead silence in the room. Several people had wanted elementary school jobs, and only one of the Jennifers had gotten one of the available jobs.

I said, “Do you mean Jennifer X, because I didn’t put my name on the list?”

“No,” he said, in his “FOOL!” voice. “I mean you.”

I interviewed with any other school district I could, but none of them offered me a job, so I was headed to St. Louis.

The plan was to live with one of my best buddies: Steffer Ragsbottom. (Not her real name.) We hoped for a home that was between our two school districts, and that would allow dogs. I was determined to get a dog!

She found us a great place, at a great price, and we moved in.

About a week after our schools had started, I got home from work and she greeted me with, “You need to go to apartment 1A for a surprise.”

“What?” I was very confused. I thought possibly a package had been left down there for me.

“Just go see,” was the not very helpful response.

I knocked on the door of apartment 1A, and it was opened by a college friend: Katie. Katie had been the Vice President on my floor my last year as an RA. I hadn’t seen her in two years and had no idea she was moving to St. Louis.

Well, she was starting law school at Wash. U., and she just happened to move into the same apartment complex, in the same building, two floors below us.

This was not a small apartment complex, by the way. At least 400 apartments spread across 40 different buildings. Oh, and we were in St. Louis. A major metropolitan area with ample apartment housing.

Katie’s roommate was Kristy, a Math Ph.D. student that she had found through an apartment share program. They had never met before they moved in together.

Fast forward several months: Katie asked if I’d like to go Ballroom Dancing with a big group of people. I asked my guy-friend, Nathan, if he’d like to go with me. He didn’t want to go, and when I talked to Katie she said there were a couple guys who wanted to go who didn’t have dates so I’d just go on a blind date with one of them.


Friday, February 4th, I went from work to the gym, and zipped back to my apartment to get ready. I was borrowing a little black dress from Steph because I didn’t have anything suitable.

Right before I left to meet my future.

I skipped down the stairs to Katie’s apartment, which was filled with people. I was the last to arrive, was quickly introduced to Barry and Ben, the two “eligibles,” then Adrian (the other female singleton) and I jumped into the car with Katie and her boyfriend, John. (They were married exactly 2 weeks after Buds and me.)

On the drive to Casa Loma Ballroom, Katie asked Adrian and me if we had a preference about who we spent the evening with, Barry or Ben. I said I didn’t care, and Adrian promptly said, “I choose Barry!”

In the weeks to come, I would realize how fantastic this was because Barry was one of Chris’ best friends in the Economics Grad School program, and it may have been a wee bit awkward if he and I had been paired up that night.

Casa Loma Ballroom-St Louis. From here:

There were 18 of us in our group this night. Ben and I paired up for the ballroom dance lessons that were given before the band started playing, and he seemed very nice.

There was another couple there: Holly and Chris. Holly was Kristy’s best friend in the Math Program. (Remember Kristy? My friend Katie’s totally random roommate she had gotten paired with…randomly.)

I was very drawn to Chris. Even though he and Holly were there together, it just didn’t seem like they were “together.” There was no spark between them, and she was wearing this long skirt that…anyway, I had on the little black dress, and I felt very sparkly, and I was very interested in this guy, “Chris.”

Three parts of the night remain very clear in my memory:

1) Ben and I sat down together at a long table. We were seated on one side, next to each other, and Chris came and sat down right across from us, even though his friend Barry was seated at the table right next to him. (I didn’t know they were friends yet, but looking back I realized that Chris had chosen to sit by Ben and me, rather than by Barry. Chris, introverted Chris, chose to not sit by one of his best friends. Just making sure you got that.)

Chris and I were talking, and several things happened: Ben held my hand, in some sort of claim-staking, and Chris made me laugh.

He was talking about his pain-in-the-keister roommate, and how he was moving the next school year. “Who are you going to live with?” I asked, innocently. (It really was innocently at the time, though as I look back over the years it makes me smile that I asked.) He pointed over his shoulder at Barry and said, “That guy.” It made me laugh because I didn’t realize he and Barry knew each other.

2) Chris and Holly offered to lead a group lesson on swing step for any of us that were interested. We went upstairs at Casa Loma to find some free space, and this was the first time I got to dance with Chris. That was the first time I touched him. That was the first time I held his hand.

The one flaw of the little black dress was that the buttons would slip out of their button holes, so we would execute a nice swing move, and then we’d have to take a break so I could fix my dress. Chris looked at me like I was some specimen of being he had not seen before. I felt even more sure that he and Holly weren’t a couple.

3) After this, I decided I really needed to talk to Katie to see what she knew about this guy, Chris. During a dance break, I asked her if she wanted to go to the bathroom. Yes, she would go with me, but as is often the case, once one woman decides to go, they all go! We got to the bathroom with at least 6 women, including Holly.

We walked into the bathroom and she turned to me and said, rather aggressively, “What’s this about, anyway?!”

I had to feign ignorance and said, “I have to go to the bathroom.” (Insert quiet indignation here. I didn’t know if this woman was going to be the enemy or not.)

As we all left the restroom, I pulled Katie to the back of crowd.

She said, “Things seem to be going well with you and Ben!”

“Yes, yes, Ben’s very nice, but, that guy, Chris. Are he and Holly dating?”

“I don’t know,” she said, “but I’ll find out.”

I don’t remember much else about that night, but the next day Katie and I had multiple conversations as she confirmed that Chris and Holly were only friends. Then, we had several Junior High moments where she had Kristy call Holly to get Chris’ phone number. Holly had to call Chris to make sure it was okay to give out his phone number, but she didn’t tell him who wanted it. He said it was fine to give it out. I called and left a voice mail message asking him to go out to a movie with me the next day.

An aside, the movie tickets were from wonderful friends, Kurt and Carla, who had been given them as a wedding present, but they’d never been able to use them, so passed them on to me. It made for such an easy hook.

“I have these movie tickets I need to use, and I wondered…”

Chris called back…but that’s a story for another day.

He told me later that he was hoping it was me who wanted his number.

One month later, we were engaged.

Nineteen years later, it’s still the best dance of my life.

May I have this dance?