The year was 1988.
The date: January 31st. New Year's Eve.
It was 5 days away from my 18th birthday.
I had agreed to go to a New Year's Eve party that night.
I was not looking forward to it. I was not the party type.
I was shy and there would be few people my age(or that I would know) there, but it was also a surprise 30th birthday for my horse trainer's(C) husband(T) and I had promised her I would attend.
The party thrower wanted the birthday boy there at 9:00 p.m. sharp, and I drove over in the truck with him(T) and C.
T knew as soon as we pulled into the driveway that something was up, even though people had parked way down the street so he wouldn't become suspicious.
Some late party goers had pulled up at the same time we had, carrying gifts. He instantly knew that the party was for him, ruining the surprise. C was pissed.
We entered the house to the shouts of "Surprise!", and I instantly snuck into the kitchen so as not to draw too much attention to myself.
That's where the kids were corralled. Even back then I had always felt more comfortable around the children than with the adults, or even people my own age.
I sat down and started helping the kids with a craft project.
Pretty soon the kids began to get bored and wandered off into the garage to play Ping Pong, leaving me alone in the kitchen at the kid's table.
People came in and out of the kitchen to grab food and drinks, then drifted back into the living room or garage where the party was taking place.
I sat awkwardly in the kitchen alone. I wanted to go home. It was only 10:00.
Most of the party guests were in their late 20's and early 30's, and aside from C and T and some of T's family, I did not know any of them.
All of T's nieces and nephews were there. Most of them were under the age of 7.
Soon T's sister arrived(late as usual), with her children, a boy, 12, and a girl, 16. The boy headed out to the garage for a game of ping pong. T spotted me sitting in the kitchen alone, and quickly paired me up with his 16 year old niece.
We had met several times before, at various functions. I did not like her. I don't even remember her name. Let's call her "Alexis".
Alexis was loud and obnoxious and wore lots of makeup and tight, revealing clothing. She liked to be the center of attention and had had a boyfriend for a year already.
I was shy and quiet, slightly preppy, and liked to blend into the woodwork. I had never even been on a date or kissed a boy before, let alone had a boyfriend.
She dragged me into the living room, where the majority of the people were, and pulled me down on the love seat next to her, right in the middle of the room, facing the front door.
She talked(loudly) about school, and her friends and how she had just gotten her driver's permit. She confided to me that she had broken up with her boyfriend recently.
I mostly smiled, and nodded, and made the appropriate sympathetic sounds.
I don't know how long this went on. It seemed like an eternity. People continued to show up for the party. We had a bird's eye view of the front door, watching people arrive, bringing gifts for T.
T's good friends arrived, E and M, and T saw me sitting on the couch and asked me to come over and say Hi. I knew E, as he owned an R.V. repair shop and he had fixed my parent's RV many times. He had even come out to meet us on the road when our RV broke down on the way to a horse show. I had been to his shop many times.
With E was his wife and son, whom I had never met.
T came over and introduced them to me.
"Michelle, you already know E, but this is his wife M and their son Joe.
I stood up to greet them. Glancing briefly at Joe, I saw the most beautiful brown eyes. I shifted my gaze back to the floor then smiled shyly and inched backwards towards the safety of the love seat.
Alexis sprang up from the love seat and came to stand next to me, giving me a look as if to say "Who do we have here"?
T introduced Alexis to Joe.
She smiled flirtatiously and said Hi.
We stood in a small circle in the middle of the living room, Alexis standing very close to Joe, me with my arms crossed in front of me, hugging myself as if I were cold.
They chatted for a few minutes while I stood uncomfortably, staring at the floor and not following the conversation.
Joe turned to me and asked "Are you cold?". I suppose because of the way I had my arms wrapped around myself.
I sputtered "Uh, no. I'm not cold". I was wearing a turtleneck with a sweater over it.
He asked if either of us would like something to drink. I said No thanks, but Alexis told him she would love a Coke.
He left us to go into the kitchen in search of one and we made our way back to the love seat and sat down. He returned shortly with the soda for her and a plastic cup for himself. The love seat sat three people comfortably. Alexis shoved me over to the opposite end and invited Joe to sit in the middle with one of us on either side.
We were sitting very close together. Our thighs were touching
I was nervous. We made small talk for a few minutes. I noticed that Joe was turned facing me, with his back to Alexis, and most of his conversation was focused on me.
I thought that was strange. To me Alexis was pretty and social and experienced and why in the world would he want to talk to me instead of her?
After a several more minutes of being ignored, Alexis left the couch to wander into the garage, leaving us alone. This made me very, very nervous. I excused myself to go to the bathroom, hoping I could ditch him.
He was waiting for me outside the bathroom door.
Darn, but he was persistent.
I said I was hungry, and headed for the kitchen, hoping once again to lose him. He followed me.
I decided there was no way I was getting rid of him, so we stood in the kitchen chatting while I pretended to eat something.
It was getting close to midnight. People were starting to congregate in the living room to watch the ball drop on the television.
We stood among the throng of people, me nervously nodding and smiling and Joe making conversation.
Suddenly it was 5 minutes until midnight and we were watching the countdown on the t.v. begin.
At the stroke of midnight, as everyone around us threw confetti and yelled happy new year, Joe turned to me and said "You're supposed to kiss me now".
I froze. I didn't know what to do. He came closer. And closer.
And then he leaned in and kissed me. And I kissed him back.
My very first kiss.
I thought I was going to be sick afterwards. I excused myself to go to the bathroom again, where I took deep cleansing breaths until my heart rate returned to normal.
I went back into the living room where he was waiting and told him I was tired and maybe I would go home now.
He offered to drive me. I declined. I had brought my own car.
He said he would like to take me out on a date.
I told him that would be okay. We decided on the following day(New Year's Day), as he was on a week's leave from the Navy and would have to return to duty in a couple of days.
I didn't think he would call. I sat by the phone all morning though, hopeful that he would.
At 2:00 p.m. he finally called.
He picked me up shortly after and we went on our first date.
I was less nervous. We went to the beach and sat on the sand and talked and talked. When we were all talked out, he took me miniature golfing, then back to his house where we watched a movie.
We spent the entire rest of the day together. When he dropped me back off at home, he promised to call me the next day.
And he did.
And the rest is history.
We don't have any special plans for tonight. After the kids go to bed we will lift a glass of champagne and toast the journey that has been the last 20 years. It has been quite a ride.
I love you Joe. Happy Anniversary. I'm so glad you took a chance and was persistent on that New Year's Eve night 20 years ago. I hope we have many, many more New Year's Eves to celebrate together.
This picture was taken a little more than a year after we met. 1990. My how we have aged! :)
Thank you to those that left a kind comment on my last post but I felt that I should take it down. I'm afraid I gave away too much personal information. The media has given it enough attention as it is and I don't want to add any fire to those flames. Thank you for keeping my friend and her children in your prayers. They are going to be facing a very difficult time in the months ahead and they will need them.