Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Love at Spencer's Butte, and All Around the World

Clearing out our attic for a garage sale last weekend, my husband and I stumbled onto a box with his old high school memories. Inside were Nick's mortarboard and tassel, photos of homecoming "Spirit Week" activities (that he would kill me if I posted) and an old calculator. There was also his autograph book that everyone signed the week of graduation. Perusing through the pages, we laughed over the typical "Stay sweet! Let's keep in touch!" messages from people we now only see in passing on Facebook.

Beyond that, we quickly noticed two themes from our high school buddies: "Good luck in the Air Force!" and "Take care of Crystal." And I marveled that even then, we were seen as one unit, one item, one team -- two lives woven together as one.

Not much has changed since that perfect summer ten years ago.

Well, maybe Nick (AKA Boy Band, and yes, Bieber totally ripped him off) doesn't look like this anymore...

                              And I don't look like this:

And we no longer date by sitting on my mama's back porch with chaperones, secretly wishing everyone would magically drop off the planet so we could be alone together.

But we're still here, still together, still going strong and growing as a couple. As one unit, one item, one team.

So as I waded through the overcrowded garage, mountains of domestic flotsam surrounding me, my mind drifted back...and I was 18 again.

Staring at the gate swung shut across the parking lot’s entrance, the “X” shape of the padlocked crossbar said it all: no one’s getting out of here until morning. My 16-year-old brother Dustin, mirroring my own thoughts, helpfully pointed that our parents would probably kill me. At least I now knew how I was going to die.

With my high school sweetheart leaving for boot camp in two days, the night had started full of teenaged promise. My boyfriend and I planned a romantic midnight hike up Spencer’s Butte, Nickolas riding shotgun…and two required chaperones (Dustin and Nick’s best friend Andrew) in back.

I saw the sign saying the parking lot closed at dusk, but I wasn’t worried. My brain promised the opposite, while I was too busy envisioning one last perfect evening with a boy I had completely fallen for.

Now, I faced a night spent in the Spencer’s Butte parking lot cramped in my little Corolla with not just my boyfriend but Andrew and my little brother. We had no blankets or food. Plus, what would my parents do when I missed curfew?

I sat on the curb, threw my face to my knees and cried over dashed expectations and fear of an unknown future. Three teenage boys stared at me awkwardly, but I didn’t care.

Suddenly, I heard steel guitar and Tim McGraw’s smooth voice. I glanced up. Nickolas, his deep-green eyes grinning, pulled me from the curb and close to him. Gently, he swayed and twirled me back and forth to the music dripping from my car, a buzzing streetlamp complementing the moonlight’s glow.

Dancing in the dark
Middle of the night

And I laughed — at the perfection of the “It’s Your Love” lyrics, the gnawing anxiety over upcoming college, the gift of a boy who couldn’t operate a dishwasher but could make me relish life’s unexpected curves.

Andrew and Dustin quietly smirked, their hands stuffed in cargo shorts, hiking boots awkwardly kicking dust while Nick and I danced.

Thirteen months later, exactly nine years ago today, they smirked while we again swayed to the same song. This time, however, the cargo shorts and hiking boots had been replaced by tuxedos and dancing shoes. Nick dipped me, taking care not to trip on my wedding dress.

“You know,” he whispered before he kissed me, “I think I prefer the Spencer’s Butte version of this song.”

And I think I agree.

Now, we're headed to England -- far, far away from that Lane County landmark where we twirled and swayed. No matter. The locations may change.

But the dance partner won't.