Thursday, June 14, 2012

the duck.

I've written before about the day we fell in love,

and maybe I'm just feeling nostalgic because he is out of town for a few days, but this is the story of my first date with Ben.  


It was senior year, I was 17, he was 18.  It was October, the leaves were changing colors and the chill had begun to set in around every night at dusk.  Halloween was just around the corner, and with the holiday came a girls' choice dance.  I wanted to ask someone who I knew I could be relaxed and have fun with, and immediately thought of Ben.  

He and I had been sitting by each other for a couple of months in choir class, he was in-between myself and one of my friends, on the front row.  My friend and I used to talk around him, whispering things and making jokes.  Most of the time he would patiently endure our chattering, but every now and then he would chime in, saying something that would cause both my friend and I to crack up, and then we would hear it:


The booming voice from our choir teacher, her short, poofy, bright red hair bouncing, her enormous, owl-like glasses slipping down her nose as she yelled his last name.

"Whoops, sorry,"  he would say apologetically, holding one hand up humbly in the air as he spoke.  

She would stare him down with her brown beady eyes, her round, full cheeks turning a bright shade of pink. And just sit there, staring, while he would nervously shift in his chair during the uncomfortable silence.  After a minute or so, she would finally move on.

Everyone in the room would exhale.  

{I watched this choir teacher take down many of my peers, even witnessing one 17-yr old student body officer cry huge crocodile tears in front of our enormous, co-ed choir.  She was a talented woman, and one whose talent I respected, but disagreed with the way she ruled by fear and humiliation.}

As soon as she had turned her back, my friend and I would immediately apologize to him.  He would shrug and act like it was no big deal, then tease me about the fact that I rarely got in trouble, even though I was often the trouble maker.

"Teacher's pet,"  he would whisper, and smile as he playfully poked me in the ribs. 

We were also in English class together, with a joke of a teacher who was the school's volleyball coach, and just moonlighted as an english teacher.  When she hadn't planned the day's lesson {which was often}, she would hand out color-by-number pages and colored pencils.  Seriously.  We were in the middle of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and were given the pleasure of doing a color-by-numbers portrait of each of the characters as an assignment.  

There were a few times that Ben, myself and another friend would "study" together.  I say "study," because we would work for about 20 minutes, and then spend the rest of the two hours laughing, mostly about our English teacher's lack of abilities, like the time she had asked the students that day in class how to spell the word "renaissance" and then misspelled it three times on the board before the class s-l-o-w-l-y helped her to get it right.  Or the day that she tried to tell us a historical fact about America in the 1300's and Ben raised his hand to remind her that Columbus didn't sail the ocean blue until 1492.  

I loved that Ben didn't take life too seriously.  He was intelligent and kind, working after school with me in the "Best Buddies" program to assist handicapped students in school.  We didn't hang out much outside of those common classes together, and I didn't know any of his friends, they were all older than me.  But I was always comfortable around him, he had a way of putting me at ease and we complimented each other's sense of humor.

So when the Halloween dance was a few weeks away, I went along with tradition and found some funnyslashobnoxious way to ask him to go with me, and he found a way to return the favor when he said yes.  

It was a costume dance, and I had the great idea to have us dress up as His & Hers towels. I had heard of a girl at another school doing it, and at the time totally thought it was a genius I wonder what on earth convinced me that it was cool, but luckily he was a good sport about it.  We wore towels wrapped around us, shower caps, and a rubber duck hanging on a rope around our necks like a necklace.  

I don't remember the entire date, but two things about that night are still vivid in my mind:

One:  Dancing with him.  I never knew what to expect dancing with someone for the first time, and I was always nervous.  

Thoughts that raced through my head before we danced went something like this:  What will we talk about?  Should we talk?  Or should we just stare over each other's shoulders and look like we're pondering the meaning of life?  That's so awkward.  I hope he talks to me or it's going to be so uncomfortable.  He's not going to dance the stiff, formal way with one of our hands clasped together, the other wrapped around each other's shoulder blades, is he?  That's so lame.  Uh-oh, a slow song.  Here we go....

I remember being surprised because once we started dancing, my nerves calmed and I relaxed.   He held me close, but it wasn't in a creepy-pervy way.  It just felt nice, and he seemed confident.  We talked and laughed, making fun of other students' costumes, and then making fun of our own.  

"Who makes a guy wear a shower cap?  And a duck necklace?" he asked.  I laughed and replied by telling him the shower cap was the only thing that was big enough to cover his huge mop of curly hair.

I remember really liking how it felt to dance with him, to be close to him.

Two:  After the dance, we went to a friend's house for brownie sundaes.  She had decorated her kitchen table with a Halloween table runner and tiny, plastic spiders.  Ben and I took turns sneaking the spiders into each other's sundaes when the other person wasn't looking.  When one of us would take a bite with a spider in it, we would yell "SURPRISE!" and laugh like it was the funniest thing we had ever seen.  Soon we started to hide the spiders in the other brownie sundaes and yell as each person would bite down on the plastic buried under their ice cream and hot fudge.

I remember loving that part of the date the most, Ben's humor was constantly encouraging me to let loose and act like an idiot, and not care what anyone thought.  And when we did that, others would join in and we would all just have a really good time, whether or not we were being immature for a few minutes.

When the night was over, I walked him to the porch, still laughing as we threw plastic spiders at each other and yelling "SURPRISE!" We hugged good-night, and even though it was one of the best times I had had at a high school dance, that was the last date we went on for 4 years.  


A while ago, I was going through some old boxes and happened to come across one that held things I had collected from when I was a teenager.  I spent an hour going through it, looking at pictures, notes, my graduation cap.  Then I saw it.

A yellow rubber duck, tied to a rope.  I smile as I picked it up and turned it over.  On the bottom of it I had written:

I {heart}

Totally cheesy, and I had completely forgotten that I had written on it.  I walked over and showed it to Ben and we talked about our first date, and how we still can't believe that we're here now, living this life with children and school and years together under our belts.  

I love that he and I have this history, of knowing each other and spending time together long before we fell in love.  I have journal entries where I've written about him, small and scattered things that I commented on along the way of our friendship, how I thought he was funny and nice and so fun to be around.  And now my journal is filled of him and the life we have built together.

I put the rubber duck in the bathtub with the other toys, until one night Caleb picked it up and read the bottom of it.  

"I love B---what??  What does that say, Mom?"  he asked with his nose scrunched up as he tried to make out the word I had written in black magic marker.   

"B-FUNK,"  I said back to him, and then asked him to hand it to me.  For some reason, I couldn't put it back in the bath tub.  I'm not normally a nostalgic person, but I saw the words that represented a night so long ago and suddenly couldn't bare to see my children slobber on it, possibly rubbing away those black letters that held so much more for me than they would for them.  Instead, I put it up on a shelf, right above a jewelry box holding the rock heart that Ben had given to me on another memorable night.   

I wonder if people who come into my house even notice it, and if they do, if they're curious as to why there's a rubber duck put up on a shelf, out of reach from where kids could reach it to play with it.  Oh well.  I can't part with it yet.

And that is the story of my first of many dates with Benjamin....or should I say....B-FUNK. 


Rachel Chick said...

I love this post. A lot. And I love you both so much. Thank you for letting me be part of your life.

ohmylanta said...

I want to see the dance picture of you two in towels and shower caps!!!

Come on now. Dig it up!


Hey.... I kind of knew both of you in high school and I'd say you were a match made in Heaven!

ohmylanta said...

As a wierd side note....

I have been cruisin through your blog. You are such a beautiful lady. And I think your wardrobe is so cute. So.... I am thinking the next time I am in AZ you can take me out shopping and teach me how to dress!

Objective number one: Add some color. (not everything can be black. or can it?) :)