My idea of a romantic date? What’s a date? Oh, yeah, I remember. Vaguely. It’s been a long time. But we’re talking about ideas here, right? So I’d vote for a good meal and a long conversation.
That’s not exactly how my first date with Jack went, several decades ago.
We’d met, at least enough to nod and say hello, in an 8 AM anthropology class at Florida State. It was a graduate level class. I was a senior and had the prerequisites to be there. Jack was a junior (although he was twenty years older than me, a returning student) and didn’t belong in the class. I have no idea how he managed to register, but he could talk his way into (or out of) just about anything.
I think the class was Ethnology 401, rather sleep-inducing at that hour, and I paid very little attention to the students around me. Jack noticed me, but when he decided to look me up, he ran into a problem. My name wasn’t spelled like it sounded, and he couldn’t find me through the registrar’s office. So one day he followed me home from school. Today that sounds like stalking, but back then it was funny, not strange or scary.
I’m sure we talked a bit, maybe had a coke or something, but our first date was a visit to the North Florida State Fair. That was fine with me—junk food, animals, carnival rides, the fair had it all.
We started out by getting in the wrong line. For everything. No matter where we were, the other lines moved faster. But what the heck, it was a lovely fall night, and we were in no hurry. We wandered around, admiring enormous hogs and baby lambs, and watching the other people, as many local folk as students. We ate junk food. We went on carnival rides.
I love carnival rides (well, I did back then—it’s been quite a while), the music, the feeling of flying through the air. I didn’t find out until much later than Jack hated them. While I was soaring through the heavens, he was frantically examining the structure, looking for loose bolts or tie bars about to fail.
We topped off the evening with a flat tire on the way home, on a country road with no artificial light and a moon that insisted on hiding behind passing clouds. Good thing Jack was driving a little two-seater Fiat at the time. I watched him change the tire while I held a cigarette lighter to illuminate the detail work.
It probably says something about our marriage that in later years he watched me change a tire or two. That first date may not have been traditionally romantic, but it was the beginning of a relationship that lasted thirty-three years, until Jack died in 2002. We must have gotten something right, to share all those Valentine’s Days.