Once upon a time, a girl met a boy.
It was the summer of 1990 and the girl had recently graduated from her small town New England high school. She was just eighteen and beginning a wonderful new phase of her life. She was an adult now, but still carefree and young and free of the weight of most adulthood responsibility. She would be starting college in the fall. She'd be living, on her own, away from home. The world was hers to own.
One summer evening, she went with her girlfriends to a party. It was a small group, so perhaps it would be best described as a gathering rather than a party. She saw the boy walk by. He was tall and lanky with deep brown eyes and almost black hair. He was handsome. He looked at her, but said nothing other than, "hello." She turned her attention to another boy in the room. A boy who was shy and awkward and somewhat nerdy. She felt bad he was alone and began to talk with him. A while later, the boy walked by again. There was a swagger in his step and he had a black leather jacket flung over his shoulder. The girl watched him head for the door. She decided he was cocky.
One week later, the girl was at another party. this time, it was a large party, attended mostly by the Latin students of the nearby engineering school. The music was loud and everyone was dancing salsa and merengue. The girl did not know these dances so she watched from the sidelines. She was shy and afraid to try to dance out of fear of making a fool of herself.. The boy, the cocky one with the leather jacket, asked her to dance. She replied that she didn't know how. He offered to teach her.
"It's too crowded in here," he told her. "Come outside and we'll teach you there." She gathered her friends and he gathered his and they headed outside onto the quiet street. The boy and his friends taught the girl and her friends to basic moves.
The boy and the girl headed back inside and danced for hours. When the girl had to leave (she was eighteen, but still lived with her parents and still had a curfew), the boy asked for her phone number. She reached into the glove compartment of her Plymouth Horizon and pulled out a scrap of paper and scrawled down her number. She told the boy she was leaving in the morning to volunteer at a camp for children with cancer and would be gone for a while. She decided the boy wasn't so cocky after all and hoped he would call her.
The day she returned home, he called.
The made plans for a double date. Forgetting the friends they were with, they talked for hours that evening. It was new and exciting, exhilarating even, but at the same time familiar and comfortable. The evening ended and the boy asked the girl if he could see her again. She said yes.
"Tomorrow?" he asked. She nodded. The next day, they were together again. And the next day. And the next. The boy and the girl, each working summer jobs, would meet as soon as their work day was done. They would spend the rest of the day together, savoring the moments until the hands on the clock got close to midnight and the girl was due home.
The summer was amazing. They spent lazy days at the beach. They indulged late night cravings for Mexican food at a local eatery. The took long drives to nowhere in particular and talked and learned everything they could about the other. The boy told her all about the far away places he had lived. The girl, raised in New England, showed the boy the collection of places that had formed her memories.
To this day, the boy and the girl will both tell you that the summer of 1990 was the best one yet. THe summer was perfect. It was beach sand and sunburn after days on the Massachusetts sea side. It was the crisp mountain air of New Hampshire. It was lazy summer afternoons and evenings filled with friends and dance. It was a clock whose arms traveled too quickly about the face. The kind of summer when you turn on the radio and a certain song will take you back to that time and fill your brain with a memory so vivid that you can hear the music and taste the air. A time that was captured in near perfection by grainy 35mm photos. A time commemorated by movie theater ticket stubs and love notes scrawled on paper restaurant napkins and prizes won on the boardwalk by the beach. Precious memories still saved in a shoe box decades later.
One evening the boy and the girl were standing by her car, saying their goodbyes before the girl had to leave. The girl did not want to leave but it was getting late and she was pushing it close to her curfew and knew she better not walk in her parent's house late one more time. The night air was warm and humid and the sky bright with stars. The boy was holding the girl close. "I love you," he whispered quietly, gently, into her hair.
The girl knew it then. She knew in that one moment that the words just spoken to her had rolled off the lips of her future husband.