3: The Girl for Me
3: The Girl for Me
Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.
People often ask when it was that I knew that my wife of twenty-five years was the girl for me. I always tell them that I knew it before I even knew her name.
It happened on a bright, crisp, autumn afternoon on my first day at college. In fact, it happened in my first class. I was a theater major and was taking Theater Crafts 101. My college advisor had assured me that the class was a great way to meet all the kids who would be in the program with me over the next four years.
So there we were—forty boisterous, nervous, excited teenagers in their first college class. None of us knew what to expect. We didn’t know each other. All of us were determined to show off how talented we were. I managed to get to the lecture hall a little early to check out my classmates. There was a pretty blonde over here, a gorgeous redhead over there, and a cute brunette sitting with her best friend towards the back. I slowly strutted my way to the far side of the room and picked a chair by the windows. I was convinced the girls couldn’t help but notice my natural “leading man” good looks.
Of course, Theater Crafts 101 wasn’t an acting class. It was an “Introductory” class. So, after an hour and a half of being lectured on the history of Western Theater, our professor announced it was now time for some practical experience. We all hoped that meant we’d get on stage. Well, we did get on stage. Then off it again. In fact, our professor marched us downstairs to the main auditorium, up on stage, out the back, and into the workshop. The groans of disappointment could be heard in the lobby.
“All right,” our professor said, barely suppressing his laughter, “I know all you future Academy Award-winning actors would prefer to be in front of the curtain right now (ironically, one of my classmates would go on to win an Academy Award), “but here,” he declared, “is where the magic starts. This is where you get your hands dirty. Theater isn’t just about glamour and applause. Theater is hard work. It’s pitching in when things need to get done. And speaking of pitching in, your first assignment is to clean out the storage area and pitch all the trash in the Dumpster out back.” People started groaning again.
Now, the assignment didn’t really bother me, but some of the girls weren’t very happy about it. They’d come dressed to impress. Their make-up was flawless, their hair was carefully sculpted, and their hands were freshly manicured. They hadn’t planned on getting dirty in pursuit of their craft. So the guys got to show off by hauling the larger items while the girls stuck to the smaller more manageable pieces.
Since the Dumpster was in the parking lot, and that meant going down a series of hallways and out a fire door, it became apparent that we should form a bucket brigade. One person would grab a piece of scenery, haul it down a hallway, and pass it on to the next person, who would go down another hallway and hand it off to someone else. On and on it would go until the piece reached the guy perched up on the Dumpster who would drop it in. That was me.
I’d been up there about twenty minutes and was getting pretty good at it. The blonde I’d seen in class brought down a two-foot piece of wood that I gallantly tossed one-handed into the Dumpster. The redhead had found a small piece of canvas that I flipped over my shoulder with flair. Then Catherine appeared. Only, I didn’t know her name just then.
Catherine was the friend of the cute brunette who’d been sitting in the back of class. She’d actually paid attention during the lecture and had asked several intelligent questions. She was also dressed in a plain flannel shirt and blue jeans. Her make-up was understated and she hadn’t groaned when we were told to haul garbage.
Catherine was carrying a two-foot by six-foot flat. Flats are wooden frames covered in canvas. Once painted, a flat could be used to represent anything from a garden wall to a sunny sky. Though not really heavy, they can be cumbersome to maneuver. I was just taken by the fact that she’d opted to pick up something that weighed more than three pounds.
“Thanks, babe,” I said as I leaned down and reached for the flat. I think it was the “babe” that impressed her.
“That’s all right,” she said. “I’ve got it.”
“Hey,” I replied with my best Brad Pitt smile. “I’m here; let me help.”
Catherine gave me a small shake of her head and then said: “Duck.”
Catherine repeated her instruction, slowly. “D-u-c-k.”
I was perched on the side of a commercial Dumpster and the lip to the steel container was a good six or seven feet off the ground. I wasn’t sure what she intended to do. “Look,” I began, “why don’t you just let me…?”
Without another word Catherine reached back, grabbed hold of the flat with both hands, and proceeded to swing it around. I dropped down in time to watch the two-foot by six-foot frame sail neatly up over my head and into the Dumpster. The steel container clanged when the wood hit the bottom. I turned in time to spot a hint of a smile on Catherine’s face as she gave me a nod, dusted off her hands, and walked away. I remembered crouching there, having nearly been conked in the head by flying scenery, and thinking: “Strong girl.”
In that instant I learned all I ever needed to know about my future wife. I learned about her strength (both physical and of character); I learned about her stubborn streak of independence; and I learned about her wicked sense of humor. It would be two more years before we started dating and five till we got married. But on that day, by that Dumpster, I met the girl of my dreams. I just had to wait for my knees to stop shaking in order to realize it.
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