February 27, 2020

Backstory to one of the coolest stories ever unwritten - till Monday, that is

Coach and I met when I moved to his neighborhood the DAY before my freshman year of high school started.  Technically, I don't remember exactly when we met but our paths crossed once we lived in the same Chicago suburb.  

His family lived at the end of the street from us.  He was basically 'the boy next door.'  My younger brother, Pat, was enrolled in the Catholic grammar school.  Well, Coach ended up being Pat's 8th grade classmate and one of his good friends.   

Pat played on the 8th grade basketball team and so did Coach.  Pat made friends at the new school, and when he had guys over to hang out Coach was usually there.

Coach and I are both the middle of 5 kids.  We each have 2 older sisters and we each have 2 younger brothers.  Since I am older than Pat by less than a year, I was a sophomore in high school when Pat and Coach started high school the next year.  

I was the sophomore with the unfortunate boy haircut (thanks, Mom), the slouchy posture (thanks low self-esteem and trickle down effect compliments of that same homemade haircut), and ill-fitting wardrobe (thanks to my tall genes that skipped my older and shorter sisters and gifted me with their short hand-me-downs).  

Coach never noticed me.  Pat and I carpooled with Coach and his sisters.  I don't think Coach ever realized that I was gracefully flipping over the backseat of his sister's station wagon to sit in my sanctioned 'way-back' seat while trying to hold my Catholic uniform skirt in place.  It was 1986 and chivalry WAS dead as Pat, Coach, and Coach's neighbor, Jay, who was my age monopolized the back seat row while I tried to keep my skirt from giving everyone a show each morning.  

I kept busy in high school faking my talent on the basketball team.  I made the team following tryouts where I exhibited the best basketball skills of my life, and honestly many other lives combined.  These skills were unquestionably completely ill-representative of my true lacking talent.  

Woe is me, even my BK uniform pants were floods.
 This is me walking to work and NOT
wanting to be photographed. 
Can you blame me?
I also held down a job at Burger King where hours after I was done with my shift my Mainstreet (department store now known as Kohls) perm remained formed in a fluffy circle exaggerated by the indented curls that were flattened by my Burger King uniform visor.  

People, I was a catch.  

There are many in-between stories here, but I think we should jump ahead to the next chapter:

Coach moved to Rochester, New York with his family during his senior year of high school while I was busy being a college freshman with long hair at long last and contact lenses.  He and I did not cross paths again until after I graduated college and his family moved back into the house at the end of my street.  They had rented it out for 4 years.

The night before my college graduation pig roast a group of us walked to a nearby bar.  Two of my college friends who I met while I studied in Ireland my junior year were in town from Ireland and were living with my family that summer.  

I was blessed with an Irish match-making mom who instructed Pat to invite some of his friends to go out with us.  Mom hoped to surround 'the girls' (her pet name for my Irish friends) with cute boys.  

That night before we left for the bar, Mom debriefed the girls after Pat told her that Coach was joining us.  "Oh, girls!  Wait till you meet Coach.  He's a very cute Irish boy."  The girls found Mom entertaining.  In their estimation actual 'Irish boys' were fellas who hailed from their home country.  They were not as hell bent on meeting an 'Irish boy' as Mom assumed they were.

Coach and I ended up talking at the bar most of the night having not seen one another since back in high school.  I was a recent college grad and he had one year of college left to complete.  

The next morning I raced downstairs despite a slight headache. The girls were staying in the first floor guest room and I suddenly realized that I had failed to give them specific instructions about leaving out certain details when speaking to Mom.

Timing:  impeccable.  Mom had already entered the room to wake the girls up.  It was an all-hands-on-deck kind of morning to prepare for the big pig roast.  The two of them sat propped up in bed and I stood behind Mom out of her line of vision.  I waved dramatically to signal my so-called friends NOT to tell Mom that I had been all chatty-Kathy with Coach.  Too late.

'Well, Mrs. R.  We couldn't get a word it edge wise with yer man, Coach.  Ya see, Ernie was after talking to him the WHOLE night long.'
This is a photo of 'the girls'
in their waitress uniforms.
 I took the photo while the pic remained in my
 album surrounded by other photos of
 our adventures.  Not all of which were
 snapped during the soberest of times.  

Mom spun around and saw me.  Her mouth dropped open.  She got this glassy-eyed look on her face and I swear for a minute she was not able to see me.  That was because she was distracted by the vision of that 'cute, Irish boy, Coach' walking down the isle with me at our wedding.  

I tried to downplay it to undo her excitement.  "Mom, we just hadn't seen each other since his folks moved to Rochester.  No big deal."  

For the next several weeks, every time Pat and I took the girls out on the town I CASUALLY suggested to Pat that he reach out to Coach and see if he wanted to join us, you know- for 'the girls' benefit.  

At a bar one night, I suggested to Coach that we plan to take the girls to the Old St. Pat's block party downtown in a few weeks.  

Coach:  Why do we always have to invite the girls to go places?  Why can't we ever go out just me and you?

Me:  (trying to play it cool, like he hadn't just admitted out loud that we had a THING for each other)  Well, I would go out with you, but it's not like you're ever going to ask.

Coach:  I think I just did.  Tomorrow night.  Pick you up at 8.

Be still my heart.  

The next night I hung out in my front hall.  Mom was busy in the kitchen.  I did NOT want her to see Coach pick me up.  Pat had already left to go somewhere with the girls.  Our house was at the end of the street, so I could see Coach driving straight for my house.  

Me:  Bye, my ride is here.  (screen door slams as I jog out to Coach's car)

Mom:  (who has never moved so fast in all her life and was at the screen door probably before it even slammed shut)  HI COACH!  Have fun!  Good-night, Ernie!

I hopped in the front seat and sighed.  Coach chuckled as he waved to Mom, "Hey there, Mrs. R!"

From the backseat I hear ANOTHER greeting.  "Uh, hey there, Ernie.  How's it going?"

Me:  (in my head) WHAT ON EARTH?  

I spun around and there sitting in the middle of the bench in the backseat leaning slightly forward towards the front seats was Coach's neighbor, Jay.  Why the hell had Coach invited his goofy neighbor?  

Me:  Oh, hi Jay.

Coach:  So, should we go to Buffalo Bar?  My sister Flo said she would meet us after work.  

Me:  Sure.  (WTF is wrong with Coach, does he not know what a date is?)

We hung out at the Buffalo Bar and we ALL had a good time.  Flo is super fun, and when she finished waitressing at Ruby Tuesdays she met us at Buffalo Bar where there was karaoke happening.  I don't think any of us sang, but we laughed at the people who did.  
This was a different night, but this is Coach
and his sister Flo dancing.  In a bar
- I think that was implied.

When it was time to go, we all walked to the parking lot together.  Jay angled himself towards Coach's car and began walking with Coach and I to where we had parked. . . until my now favorite sister in law called to him from where she was walking towards her car, "Jay.  Come on.  You're driving home with me."  

Coach parked down the street from my house.  He said he didn't want Mom to hear the car engine pull up.  After a nearly covert mission of avoiding Mom's tuned in ears and dodging driving home our third wheel, Jay, we shared our first kiss.  

The rest is sorta history.  I share this with you in order to give you some backstory to an interesting twist.  This story gets a whole lot nuttier and downright unbelievable in the most unexpected way EVER when certain paths cross and certain blog posts are read some 25 plus years after our first, ahem, date (?). 

TUNE IN MONDAY (I know not one of my posting days, but this is a special edition), AND BE PREPARED TO BE BLOWN AWAY! 


Busy Bee Suz said...

Oh my goodness. I can't wait to read the MOST INTERESTING STORY EVER. ;) I'm usually all, let the weekend last forever, but not this weekend.
You two are so cute. I love your love story. Serendipity? Fate? Chance? It's all good!!

We met on a blind one and only blind date.

Bibliomama said...

That is a good story. I love your description of yourself in high school (as a fellow Catholic school-skirted student). Why is he called Coach? And at least Pat was good for something once, right? How trippy that you're both the middle of five kids. Is that how you ended up with six kids? I've always wondered if you decided before starting or as you went along.

Ernie said...

Suz - the Monday portion is truly unbelievable. Happened forever ago, but just came full circle. I guess. Anyway, yes it is a cute story - if I don't say so myself. At our wedding, pat gave a toast. "I always thought Coach was my friend, now I realize he was just using me to get to my sister." Clever, huh? Coach now sees Pat's true color. Good guy, but whoa thinks he knows everything.

I cannot believe you met your Coach on a blind date seeing as you two (based on the photo you posted recently) met when you were SO young. I always thought blind dates were for last resort kind of people.

I look forward to the crowd's reaction on Monday.

Ali - Ah, a fellow Catholic school plaid wearing friend. I always assumed our kids would go to Catholic high school. Till I found out the price these days and almost choked.

Coach is not my husband's real name. It is a blog name, but I gave him that because he was ALWAYS coaching our kids in basketball and soccer at the YMCA or the local town's teams. In real life he and his father and one of my brothers all share the same name. Confusing? Parents always raved about how good he was at keeping his cool while coaching. After being raised by the world's biggest ass, no one really gets what a major effort it was/is for him to NOT lose his cool. Now at home with our kiddos, well - tempers flared at times. Still can occasionally.

Yes, both middle children - but remember he is the first born son. In his family though it wasn't as big a deal. His parents were not biased towards the boys. Everyone took a turn cleaning up the kitchen. In my childhood home, my brothers did not load a plate. No sirrreee!

Um, I always wanted 10 kids. 6 is the new 10- in case you had not heard. We planned on a big family but never really put a number on it. Coach would have been content to end at 5. I was like, oh come on - what's one more? So very glad Mini got her sister. I had 6 total miscarriages along the way so it was not all that easy. Feel really blessed to have been able to have any though when I think about all the things that could have gone wrong. Later learning that I had celiac disease and that miscarriages were a symptom of diagnosed celiac hurt like hell. If the damn doctors had figured it out, maybe some of that sorrow could have been avoided.

Anonymous said...

I can’t wait to hear part 2! You are a fabulous story teller and definitely keep us hanging on for more!!
So sorry to read of all of your pregnancy losses and the Celiac connection, that would be heartbreaking to learn and to experience.

Gigi said...

What a sweet "meet" story!

Kari said...


So. Many. Things. To. Say.


Ernie said...

Anon - thanks! I do enjoy a good story. There are many surrounding our dating years, engagement, etc. This next one is not going to be at all what you expect. Promise. My comment above should read 'undiagnosed' celiac - not gonna lie - those losses were hard. I would not wish it on anyone. There are so many couples who experience loss and never get to have children. Grateful that we were able to have the six we have. Truly blessed.

Gigi - love: 'sweet meet story' - well said. Funny that we knew each other for years but didn't date until after college. This was before texting, so when he went back to finish his senior year and I was living at home and working in my first (low paying) job at a bank, I wrote him a letter just about every day. Ah, young love.

Kari - I am excited for Monday. So funny/mind blowing.

Nicole MacPherson said...

This is a very sweet story! Very cute :) Boy, you two come from large families - your extended family must be huge! And I thought I had a lot of cousins!

Ernie said...

Nicole - I grew up with 8 cousins - only 6 still living. Considering I am of Irish descent that it not many. Coach has a ton of cousins, but our kids do have a lot of cousins. 18 on Coach's side and 16 on my side. Add my 6 to that and both sets of grandparents have a butt load of grandkids.

Aside from blogging names, Coach and my youngest brother share the same real name. I once called Coach's folks house while we were dating and asked for him by name. They thought I was asking for my brother who happened to be hanging out there at the same time. My brother got on the phone and I spoke in a sweet voice to him, "Hey . . . what's going on?" Then my brother busted a gut laughing and I was like "Put 'Coach' on the phone!" It is a fun story. The next chapter - posting Monday - is very unreal.

Cheryl said...

I just love to read "how we met and joined together" stories...swoon!

On another note...Rochester, as in Rochester, NY? Cool! I live there..actually, a small town outside of Rochester! Where did he go to school here? Hmmm...if he is Catholic he may have gone to McQuaid.

Did Coach's dad move for a job and how fortuitous (love that word, hope I spelled it correctly!) that his family rented their home down the street from you as opposed to selling it! This story may have had a different ending!

Ernie said...

Cheryl- Yes McQuaid! His dad knew the position was only going to be a few years so they rented. They had moved around a ton and finally felt like they were going to stay put. So renting it out made sense. Our folks were good friends so we COULD have still ended up together, but you are right- maybe not? Note my use of 'were' friends. Not friends now. His folks are what I consider religious zealots. My parents are extremely religious. Attend daily mass, mom was in the convent before marrying my dad, etc. But his folks were so upset that he wanted to marry me while he was in physical therapy school that they had a big fit. Threatened to not invite anyone to the wedding, etc. Why? Because to them it is sinful to get married and not be prepared to welcome children from day one. If he was a student, they assumed we would be postponing children. Ass. Holes. Whose business? Side note: Lad was born before our 2nd anniversary. Before Coach was done with school. Why? Because I am a machine (not THAT kind of machine) I owned my own condo and had enough money to pay for Coach's grad school and my folks invested our $ pre-college and I had paid for my own college education so I had no student loans. In a word his folks are IDIOTS. Oh- and they were so incredibly rude while we were engaged that my parents were appalled and no longer count them as friends. His folks acted like I was some trashy girl who was tricking him into marrying me. Friendship over.

Ernie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl said...

Well...they were/are wrong about you. You are ambitious, funny, smart kind, a good mom, a loving wife, pretty and even having a lot of children, in good shape! And, I know all this and have never even met you! lol!

They are lucky to have you as a daughter-in-law and we are all lucky that you are such a talented writer!

Ernie said...

Cheryl- you are too kind. It is funny though. My friends and I used to talk about how annoying it was thst I was mostly glossed over in my immediate family and how MOST inlaws would have been thrilled to welcome me to the family. Instead I ended up with one dimensional peeps who could not see past their obsession with their religious rules- which is why I mentioned my folks' and their strong faith. They never felt like Coach and I were sinning because we GOT MARRIED and might not have been ready to procreate from day one. Seriously- I have NEVER heard of anyone with a similar in-law struggle. Statistically that has to be a crazy stat to formulate. Without the challenges though, who would I be? What does not kill you, etc.