My Mom is forever the matchmaker. I assume it has something to do with her Irish ancestry. Before she could grasp how the high school dating scene of the '80's differed from her high school experience of sock hops and soda shops, she innocently encouraged me to call a boy and ask him to the Turn-a-bout dance. This vote of confidence was all the encouragement I needed. For a brief minute, I believed in myself. I felt self assured and thought Mom was right, any guy would be lucky to attend a dance with me. I neglected to do the homework necessary before asking a guy out. I failed to inquire, if this kid had a date to the dance. He was cute, well liked, a year older than me, and was known as one of the nicest guys in school. We had recently led a retreat at our high school together so unlike most of the male population at my high school, I had spoken to him. I remember it so vividly. Standing in my parent's room (before the cordless phone or cell phone was introduced privacy was hard to come by) I paced until I got the courage to call him. After I stumbled around realizing what I had rehearsed sounded lame, he explained that he had already been asked to the dance. Ugghhh!!! What was I thinking? This super nice guy was most likely one of the first snatched from the pool of available dates. Fortunately, he was a class act and the news of my out-of-my-league invitation didn't spread around the school. Awkward.
Years later in the summer of 1993, I invited a few girls that my brother and I befriended while studying in Ireland my junior year in college to stay with us. My folks had agreed to allow them to offer them shelter at our house in the suburbs of Chicago and work summer jobs. I had just graduated from college, and they spent the summer working as waitresses at the golf course where my brothers caddied. It was very 'caddy shack-esque'. Under my father's supervision, they also worked to earn their drivers' licenses, since it was easier to do this in the States than in their native Ireland. (There is a hilarious story as a result of this project, but it is worthy of it's own post - I will most likely title it 'ode to . . . crash course'). I spent the summer looking for a job and hanging out with the 'Irish girls', as they were called by my family members. My Mom heard they were coming and lost no time in claiming that one of them would most likely be interested in the cute boy down the street who was a high school friend of my brother's. "Oh, I bet they'll just love the boy down the street. He's Irish and so cute."
One of the first weekends they were in town, my parents threw a pig roast graduation party for me. After the party, many of us walked down to the local drinking establishment to continue the celebration. This 'boy next door' aka BND had moved out of state in 1989 with his family when I was starting college, and he was begrudgingly beginning his senior year of high school. My parents had offered to let him stay with them, so that he could finish out his senior year with his friends. Mr. and Mrs. BND were stricter than my folks, so it came as no surprise when they turned down the offer. His family rented out their house down the street, since they knew in advance that their stay in New York would only be temporary. At any rate, I hadn't seen BND since the summer of '89 when I departed for college. Although his family moved back to town just before my senior year was starting, we hadn't crossed baths until my graduation party in June of 1993.
It was a great pig roast. The weather was perfect, the keg refreshingly cold, and the pig delicious. A number of my college friends turned up just for the occasion. I recall that one of them was loaded into the trunk of his friend's car for the return trip seeing as he had been 'over served.' The sober driver assured me that they would let him out after a few blocks, but it made for a dramatic exit. My brothers and sisters, and a few other local friends continued the celebration into the night at the nearby bar. I sat next to BND at a cocktail table, and chatted about his time in New York. We compared college experiences. He had just completed his junior year at a college in the Midwest. Hours felt like minutes as we laughed, joked, and became reacquainted; although to be honest, we were never overly acquainted in the first place. Although we were in the same car pool, I was forced to gracefully flip over the back seat of the station wagon in my plaid Catholic school skirt in order to land in the 'way back.' Conversation was limited to grunted greetings as we all played it cool and quiet in the wood paneled wagon. BND was around the house now and then to hang out with my brothers. We would exchange the occasional smart ass remark, but that was about it. Anyway, we hit the dance floor, drank our fill, and eventually stumbled home with the rest of my siblings, and of course . . . the Irish girls.
The next morning I awoke with an odd feeling that I couldn't shake. It only took a minute for it to register. Why had I not thought of this last night? I should have been more careful. I should have covered my bases. I bolted from my bed - maybe I didn't bolt, not because the situation didn't require a good bolt, but because I was feeling a bit burdened by my drinking from the night before. At any rate, I raced downstairs as fast as I was able. The Irish girls slept in the guest bedroom on the first floor. I arrived a moment too late. My mom was questioning the girls as to which of them found BND cute. I stepped silently into the room behind my mom. I tried hand gestures, waving wildly at the girls who were still sleepy propped up on elbows in the antique double bed that they shared. I was signaling them not to reveal too much information to my mom. She would assume too much. BND and I were just catching up, weren't we? Anyway, I couldn't have her jumping to conclusions. They were amused at my attempt to silence them, but they spilled the beans nonetheless in their Irish brogues. "Ah, but we couldn't get a word in edge wise Mrs., sure Ernie spoke to him all night long!" With this, my mom spun on her heel, hand raised to her cheek, chin dropped open, "Oh, really?! I always thought you liked BND!" declared the matchmaker I call my mother.
The rest is history. I played down the evening as an opportunity to become reacquainted with an old neighbor, all the time wondering myself if there was really something more happening. My stomach did flips to think about it. What if he wasn't interested? Was I interested? How would I know? Would the next time we saw each other be awkward? I spent the next few weeks urging my brother to invite BND to every touristy outing I concocted for the Irish girls. "Would BND want to attend a Sox game with us?" "We are heading to a bar, do you want to call BND?" Finally my brother told me to call him myself. Each time we were out, BND and I ended up sitting near one another, talking, laughing, forgetting we were with a group. Eventually I accused him of being lame, since he was refusing to go to the St. Pat's block party with the Irish girls. I was, after all, just trying to show them a good time. He finally looked at me squarely and quipped, "Maybe I just want to go out with you and not always with the Irish girls and everybody else." I was speechless, a state that I rarely find myself in. What else could I do, I challenged him - "You aren't going to ask me out".
If I recall correctly, I asked him out on our first date. My brothers were taking the Irish girls somewhere, and I called up BND. He agreed to pick me up and we would go out. Funny to think that back then thee wasn't much of a plan. Now that I am a mom when Coach and I go out, there is always a specific plan, a number to leave, a destination, a time we will return. Back then, it was a discussion that unfolded while my date and I drove along. That night of our first date, I got ready and told my Mom I was going out with friends. I lurked in the family room, and lunged quietly for the door when I heard his car in the driveway and called out a quick, "See you later." There would be no coming to the door and speaking to my folks. I jumped in the car, and told him to hurry up and go . . . but we were too late. My Mom was at the screen door hollering, "Have a good time BND!" I knew she was proud of this maneuver, and probably smiled to herself in the kitchen for an hour after I left. My next disappointment happened when I turned around and discovered a boy in the back seat. Joey, BND's next door neighbor and a fellow graduate from my high school class, perched in the back seat like a dog eager to be taken to the forest preserve for a walk. How cozy. BND explained later that Joey had invited himself along. We met up with BND's sister when she was done waitressing, and we went to a karaoke bar. Later, BND's sister drove Joey home. That left BND and I to drive home without a chaperone. She practically had to paint Joey a picture as she steered him to her car. That boy was never much for picking up on subtle clues.
At any rate, that is how it all began. On August 10, 1996 I married BND - now Coach, but always the boy next door!