April 24, 2023

the Coach & Ernie love story: a move, a pig roast, another move, the Irish girls, & a dare

I'm switching gears from basketball and the awfulness that has cropped up. I'll fill you in soon, but I'm doing a little digging and processing so I have more to tell. 

Mess with my kid? Dumb move, DUMB move. (and Toad is not the culprit)

I've told the story of how Coach and I started dating to friends a few times recently, and - well, it's pretty funny, cute, etc. OK, if I'm honest, it's the stuff ROMCOMs are made of. I can't believe you don't know this yet. 

When I was in 8th grade, my dad's company was bought out. He was THRILLED to still have a job as stress from potentially being laid off haunted him and his budget-conscious self. The buying company and his position were not located in Racine, Wisconsin. Near the Wisconsin/Illinois border. My folks had built four houses, some out of state. They thought they were done moving and that our well-loved house was 'IT'. We'd lived there for 8 years, our longest. We were all very sad to move. 

*read between the lines:  I wonder if something good might come from this move? 

My folks looked at houses in Racine. "Hell NO." They couldn't live in the middle of nowhere. They both had parents living on the south side of Chicago, so they opted to move to a northern Chicago 'burb, a half way point between Dad's work and their folks. Dad ended up with a long commute and a perpetual grumpy attitude. 

Ann, a college student, and Mom toured area schools prior to our move. 

Ann:  Pat, I saw the cutest Irish boy. I think he'll be your best friend. He didn't seem to know the answer when a teacher called on him, so he stood there making everyone laugh while he tried to guess the answer. It was so funny.

We moved into our house the day before the first day of my freshman year of high school. Pat was in 8th grade. Pat naturally became friends with the class clown Ann spotted on her visit. His name was Coach Shenanigan. Our folks became friends - they lived down the street from us. 

Remember, Mom cut my hair with a flat edged razor blade. I looked like a boy. I wore my older, shorter sisters' hand-me-downs. The first 3 years of high school were not my most attractive years. No exaggeration. I managed to get contact lenses without passing out and grew my hair long the summer before my senior year of high school. 

Pat's friends came to the house to hang out regularly. I resembled Igor's bride, schlepping around, grabbing a cookie from the kitchen while they were gathered eating pizza, etc. and had few, if any, conversational exchanges. 

Fast forward, towards the end of my senior year Coach's parents announced they were moving -transferred to Rochester, NY. My folks offered to have Coach live with them to complete his senior year. I would've been a freshman in college. His folks said no. They wanted to keep the fam together. They rented out their house, knowing they'd be back in a few years. 

I went away to college. Coach's folks moved back into their house in August 1992, but we were both heading back to our respective college I guess - didn't cross paths until the following summer. 

After I graduated in '93, my folks threw a pig roast grad party for me. We hosted two girls from Ireland that summer. Pat and I had become good friends with them the year we studied in Ireland. My brothers and Coach caddied at the golf course and the Irish girls waitressed at the country club. It was all very Caddy Shack-esque.

Caddyshack pic compliments of FanBuzz.
This Irish girl thinks she might be preggers, if you haven't seen the movie. There was NONE of that kind of drama in our very innocent version of Caddyshack.

The night before the pig roast, a group of us walked to a local bar. Marie flew in town with her boyfriend, who's now her hubby. He asked Dad for her hand that weekend. LOVE WAS IN THE AIR . . . see where this is going? 

At the bar, I leaned up against a cocktail table and chatted with Coach, the boy-next-door the boy down the street who I hadn't seen in 4 years, for HOURS.  You all KNOW I'm capable of a long chat fest, right? 

The next morning, I woke up a bit hungover. Something occurred to me in a SHIT, WAIT NOW? WHAT ABOUT? sort of way. Mom is the eternal Irish matchmaker. The Irish girls were sleeping in the guest room on the first floor. 

Me in my achy-breaky head:  OH NO, THE GIRLS!

I raced down the stairs, slow motion (this is more effective in the *forthcoming* movie version of this story) running through the kitchen towards the guest room. I was a few steps behind Mom.

Mom:  (throws open the door to their room) Good morning, girls. Chop, chop. You've gotta pitch in and help get everything ready for the pig roast. But first, TELL ME . . . WHICH OF YOU LIKES COACH SHENANIGAN? ISN'T HE CUTE? SUCH A NICE IRISH BOY. I KNOW ONE OF YOU MUST BE INTERESTED . . . 

The girls sat up in the antique bed rubbing their eyes. I stood motioning like WILD behind Ms. Matchmaker. Hand gestures that included:  *SHHH!*  * (hands in praying position)BEGGING THEM NOT TO SAY NOTHING.*  *hands slitting my throat to signal . . .  IF YOU DARE*

The girls:  Well, Mrs. Maiden-Name, we couldn't get a word in edgewise. It was your one there, Rin (their nickname for me, if you know, you know. My real name translates to the Ireland version of naming a kid 'America' in the States) - she was talking to him THE WHOLE NIGHT LONG. 

Mom spun on her heel. *more slow motion* Her hand went to the side of her cheek, eyes WIDE with excitement. She turned to look at me behind her, where I was now shaking my head in disgust with my friends who were twittering with laughter, knowing they'd done me in.  


Me:  Oh, Mom. Stop it. We just haven't seen each other in four years. We were just getting caught up. Don't be ridiculous. 

The rest of the summer, me to Pat:  Why don't you call Coach? You know, we need some of your guy friends to hang out with us, so the girls have a good time.  

Every time Coach met us out, he and I would talk and flirt the ENTIRE time. 

Finally, Pat snapped at me:  If you want to hang out with him so much, why don't you call him yourself? 

Me:  Fine, I will. *I still used our need to entertain the girls as my premise. 

One night I told Coach while we were all out at a dive bar called Morgan's:  We should take the girls to the Old St. Pat's block party in the city. They'd love that. 

Coach:  I don't know why we ALWAYS have to do things with the Irish girls. Why can't you and I ever just do something without them?

I was thrown off my A game. So, I did what I knew best - I got sassy:  


Bam. So it started with a dare. We've been together ever since. Married in '96, Kari remembers - she was at my wedding. When I saw my girlfriend in Ireland, the one who was in our wedding and who woke up in our guest room that pig roast morning, she was like YEP, I WAS THERE WHEN IT ALL BEGAN.

What'd ya think? ROMCOM-worthy? Anyone else barely survive a matchmaking mother? Guesses on whether or not our parents are still friends? 

There are some other funny chapters to this saga, but this is the foundation. Thank goodness those Irish girls didn't try to snatch him up, right? 


mbmom11 said...

Very rom-com. Transformation at college to come home to win the boy.
And I sympathize completely with short hair issue. And looking like a boy. My mom kept our hair short- but I never looked like Dorothy Hamill or Pat Benetar. I looked like Velma ( old Velma not the newer versions.) And an older sister had hair down her waist- caramel colored and lush, and another one with vibrant curls- hard to feel good about a boy hair cut.
Funny thing is when I was bald temporarily due to medication, I looked even more like my brothers! Which is why I keep my hair long even if at my age it would probably look better shorter.

Nicole said...

That was so cute! What a fun story. Awww.
How neat that Kari was at your wedding! Such a small world.

Beth Cotell said...

I love hearing how other people met their spouses! And I also love that you grew up in a busy loud house with kids caddying at the golf course and throwing graduation parties and hosting a various assortment of other kids - it all sounds just like your current house! :)

Ernie said...

mbmom11 - I do think the story would make a sweet teen-centric love story movie.

Your short hair story is SO relatable. Same, sister. SAME. I, too, had sisters who were allowed long hair. Ann, mostly had short, but Marie was allowed long hair for YEARS and it was thin and whispy and she was super skinny and it was not a good look, but yet? Long hair - that trailed down to her butt in a gradual point, because THIN. What on earth? My hair would most likely look better short too, but I just can't do it.

Pat Birnie said...

What a sweet story. I can also identify with the short hair. My mother kept all 4 daughters’ hair short until we wrestled control. My last “pixie” cut I was 11 and came home sobbing because a boy in my class pointed out that my hair was shorter than his.
Sooo...did coach really have his eye on you all those years or were you just ‘the little sister’ until that magical evening?

Ernie said...

Nicole - Ah, young love (and the mother who was so focused on being sure everyone FOUND young love). The fact that Kari was at my wedding is STILL mind blowing.

Ernie said...

Beth - It is so fun to hear how people met and how they ended up together. I'm surprised I've never shared it here before.

When I grew up, our home was full of working teenagers and grad parties. My current home is a lot more cluttered and 'up-for-grabs'. My mom required order. I also think having 3 girls first vs having 3 boys first impacted how neat and tidy or messy and cluttered the house was.

Fun fact that I initially included in the story, but cut it because it was lengthy . . . I wasn't allowed to have friends over very often. Like, never a spur of the moment, come-on-over kind of thing. My brothers, on the other hand? Their friends were ALWAYS welcome. I believe Mom worried that girls would judge her house if there was dust. DUST? What on earth? Our house was always put together. My kids invite friends over ANY time. We are 'comfortable' people. I leave it up to them to run down and be sure the basement is ordered and the basement bathroom is clean.

Ernie said...

Pat - Oh, the short hair trauma so many of us have survived. I gave Mini a bob haircut a few times and she LOVED it when she was little, but now she claims she hated it. Huh?

That's a good question. Um, he didn't notice me, or think of me as a being cute while in high school. I did have long hair and contact lenses when he was a junior and I was a senior - the year before he moved away, so maybe he thought HUH? SHE'S NOT SO BAD, but I'm not sure. I might have to clarify that. BTW when I entered homeroom senior year with long hair and no glasses, my good friend (who ended up being my best friend, but who hadn't seen me at all in the summer - back in my day I didn't hang with friends much in the summer, I was busy working) elbowed another girl in homeroom and asked her HEY, WHO'S THE NEW GIRL?

Kari said...

This is such a sweet story 💕

I've been to Morgan's many times, but only for lunch with my ex and his father and brother. They had excellent bar food.

Because BRAIN FOG, I don't remember much about your wedding, but I do recall there were Irish dancers at one point.

Ernie said...

Kari - It is a sweet story, isn't it? Morgan's serves food? I had no idea. I wonder if that was the case in the mid 90s.

The Irish dancers definitely stole the show. So funny that we eventually met here. ;)

Colleen Martin said...

I love a good love story and this one was GREAT! Come to think of it, my love story kind of started with a dare - a friend had her boyfriend ask her to the valentine's dance then said she didn't want to go to the dance without me, in front of Phil, and then he asked me. It was all planned by us girls :)

Bijoux said...

It is just so SMALL WORLD that Kari was at your wedding! I love that. I also loved hearing your love story. Mine is more of a 'if this didn't happen, and this didn't happen, none of this would have happend.'

So, did you think he was really cute the first time you saw him? Do you remember the exact first time you laid eyes on him? I sure hope your parents are still friends.

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

Awww this is so cute! What a great story!

I'm sorry to hear things with basketball are going so poorly. I hope there is a beneficial outcome.

Ernie said...

Colleen - Life gets so busy, but it is so fun to occasionally reflect on how this whole Shenanigan thing started. Ha. Hooray for girl power, and working togther to make it happen.

Ernie said...

Bijoux - It is SOOOO small world that Kari was at our wedding. What are the actual chances that I'd one day end up reading her blog? I was so angry that we were moving, but if we hadn't moved . . . I wouldn't have crossed paths with Coach.

Coach is a cute guy and was a very cute kid, so I do beileve that I thought he was cute. He was around the house so often that if he hadn't moved away for awhile, I'm not sure I would've seen him in a different light. Like, maybe I would've thought of him as more of another brother type. I don't specifially remember when I laid eyes on him.

Sadly, no. Coach's parents were upset that he was getting married while still in PT school and they were really short fused and abrupt with me. ME! There are layers, but the bottom line - my folks were very hurt that they behaved the way they did after they'd known them for YEARS.

Ernie said...

Suzanne - Thanks. I do think it is a fun story. I think I told Mini's friends over Easter how Coach and I met and then I thought - sheesh, not sure I've shared this on my blog.

It isn't a basketball specific issue - it is bigger than that and so upsetting. Things in the classroom have taken a distressing turn.

Bibliomama said...

i think for a rom-com you need more stupid misunderstandings - like you somehow end up thinking he likes one of the Irish girls, or he thinks you've decided to take a job in France or something. It's nice that your mother's attempt to make you unmarriageable eventually failed, along with all the various moves that conspired to make you never actually meet your husband.

Busy Bee Suz said...

I'm smiling ear to ear. I knew some of your romance beginnings, but not all these details. I love it! You guys were meant to be, for real.
This is such a fun story, I'm sure your girls get a kick out of it too.
Ummmmm....since I know both sets of parents are super weird about stuff, I'm gonna say they don't get along as well as they once did. Right?

Ernie said...

Ali - Well, there was the time I called his house and my youngest brother was hanging out there. He and Coach have the same name, so they put my brother on the phone instead of my husband . . . and I started to speak sweetly to him. Bingo - misunderstanding. Ha.

You raise an EXCELLENT point. My mom the matchmaker contributed to my being marriable. ;)

Ernie said...

Suz - I think I have hinted at this story, but I'm surprised I've never told the whole story. I'm not sure Curly knows the story in great detail. Mini probably does. There are a few more other funny components that I'm gonna have to share because some of them make me laugh out loud.

His folks were downright grouchy about us getting married. The were upset and behaved like I was 16 and 8 mos pregnant. His dad yelled in my face when I asked him if he wanted to be involved in planning the wedding, as in MAYBE THEY JUST WANT TO BE INVOLVED IN THE PLANNING AND THEN THEY WON'T BE SO UPSET, aka as olive branch. After the horrendous way they treated me, my parents washed their hands of them. They are civil at family gatherings, but no longer count them as friends. Like, we know you and this is how you treat our daughter?

Jenny in WV said...

A wonderful romance story!
I was thinking about you last night and wondered: at weddings there is always that one person who has to teach everyone how to do the electric slide, I was imagining at your wedding the Irish Dancers got up and taught everyone how to do a hornpipe jig!

Ernie said...

Jenny - I do think it is a pretty good story. I'm waiting for a screen writer to call me for the rights to it. ;) There is more to the story. Maybe I should write the next chapter for Thursday.

There were Irish dancers at our wedding, but there were no lessons for the guests. I'd say a good number in attendance already knew the jig.