It's hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of 2008. What a year!
Our Christmas ended up being a little different than I've ever experienced. As mentioned earlier, we did Christmas with Jon's family on the 20th. We went over and opened gifts and had dinner and spent some time playing games with Jon's parents, his older half-sister Ginny and her husband Nathan, his older half-brother Ed and his fiancee Jen (as of August 1st of 2009 there will be two Jennifer M. Leahy's) and his younger brother Mike and Mike's girlfriend Nikki. A great time was had by all and we were bushed when it was all over. Here is a picture of all of us in front of the Christmas tree.
We decided not to go to Indiana this year as we usually do because there was a family reunion this summer, and apparently it took my aunt quite a while to recover. My mom and her siblings are getting older now and too much celebrating really takes it out of them. So with the wedding and everything, we figured it was best for everyone to stay home. I really missed it though. When we go to my aunt's house, which isn't very big, everyone sleeps either in the same room or in rooms nearby so that everyone wakes up around the same time. During the waking hours it's constant chatter, usually between my mom and her sisters. (Can you believe that even I can't get a word in edgewise?) Even in years past when we haven't been able to get to Indiana, Christmas has always been celebrated on Christmas morning. This year, however, Linda was going to be at her brother's Christmas Day, so we did Christmas on Christmas Eve right before Jon and I sang and played at the 10pm Mass. We had fun, but it seemed a bit short and rushed. Gina and Vic were there too. Linda got Jon and I tickets to Wicked which we are very excited about. We wanted to go but couldn't afford it, so this was a great surprise.
All of this meant that Christmas Day was just Jon and I. While I missed my aunt's and celebrating with all the family, it meant a lot to just spend a quiet day with Jon. We started out by going to church and then came home and I napped while he watched the Christmas Story DVD I had gotten him. Well actually, I and the two cats on top of me napped while resting on Jon as he watched the DVD. Despite that lack of excitement, it was a great day.
And as New Year's Eve approaches, I am amazed at the mysterious ways in which God works. Parts of this year have been heart-breaking. Linda's cancer and my being unemployed for 3 months took a toll on my spirit at times. But moving back to the Fox Valley and getting engaged to a man that I am desperately in love with makes the heart-breaking moments bearable. I have re-connected with friends that I had lost touch with. I especially enjoyed the time that I have spent with Sarah, especially since we didn't talk all that often while I was in Milwaukee. I am grateful to have had her company, as well as many trips to the zoo, to keep me distracted from hard times.
And then there's the fact that Wendy is singing with us at LifeTeen. It is funny how music has brought so many important people into my life. Going back to high school where I met Deb, Sarah, Julie, Ryan, Greg, etc., to choir camp where I met Wendy, and finally to college where I met Jon. And now it all seems to have come full circle.
When I have time, I write stories about my life. But instead of writing them from my point of view, I write them with pronouns and no names. For some reason tonight I am reminded of the first of these stories I wrote. It is about my first kiss with Jon. It is called "The Blue House," because so much of the beginning of our story took place in the shabby, blue college house he lived in when I met him. You don't have to keep reading, I just think it's a fun reminder of how the rest of my life started.
The Blue House
The beginning is murky at best. One could argue that it started during the music literature class they had together in which she swore she hated him for playing devil’s advocate. Or perhaps it was later that spring when he showed up to the birthday party with his roommate, the one who was actually invited. Then again, she wasn’t interested and he was engaged to someone else, so how could that be the beginning? No, it must have been the following spring - May 14th to be exact. The night she attended the end-of-semester party at The Blue House where he lived. She went with friends, again intending to be with the roommate. The roommate who had nothing but a need for comfort and a slight physical attraction. That was really how it started. They were a part of the same “unrequited love” club that spring, each pining for a friend of the other. She doesn’t really remember when they started spending a lot of time together. It was some time after her birthday party. He came over with the roommate again. There was a card game, a lot of liquor and a mutual connection. They didn’t talk much that night. He called her a cunt, she made him drink a tumbler of Schnapps, but that was the extent of the conversation. Even so, they shared a connection of loneliness; of wanting something they couldn’t have.
She would call him on the phone. “Let’s go for a walk,” she would say, and he would agree. They would talk until four in the morning about what to do about their prospective regrets. She would often go home and think about her new friend and how she felt bad that he felt bad. She would think about how she was glad to have a new friend, but she was not attracted to him at all. There was nothing there and she couldn’t imagine there ever would be something there. She didn’t want him to feel like she was using him to get to his roommate, but then, let’s be honest, they were using each other. June 15th was an average day. She went to her camp job, building forts, cooking food and keeping 60-some children entertained for the day. He had not started his construction job yet. When she came home she called him. “Let’s go for a walk,” she said. “Ok, meetcha halfway.” he responded. They walked down the street past the park they had been kicked out of a few nights ago. They walked around the curve in the road and turned, ending up at the school. They played like five-year-olds for what seemed like forever. They played on the swings, climbed the apparatus that looked foreign to both of them, and pretended to cross the monkey bars, even though their feet were on the ground.When they were done, she didn’t want to go home yet. The thought of sitting in her room, alone, filled her with anxiety. Thinking back, she doesn’t remember the details of the movie they watched, or if they even watched a movie. They seemed to have a talent for filling hours of time with conversation without a single awkward silence. When the hour neared midnight, she felt the pressure of time again. “I should go home, I have to get up early,” she complained. As they had done so many nights, they climbed into his minivan, a highly sexy car for a 22-year-old college guy, and he took her home. He was always the chivalrous type and insisted that she not walk home alone. He pulled into her driveway and put the car in park. Driving home never meant the night was over, for they always seemed to have more to say. After a few more minutes of conversation she leaned over to give him a hug. “I love you,” she said, intending the most innocent of compliments. “I love you too, you’re a good buddy,” he responded as he patted her on the back. Within that five seconds of exchange she felt a wave of panic rush over her. Something was off. Something in his tone, in his words, in his actions, stated more than he had intended. “Did you just really call me your buddy?” she asked. “Uh, yeah,” he answered nervously. “Ok, to me that says that either you have more-than-platonic feelings for me, or you think I have them for you and you want to make sure I know that you don’t.” she said. (She was known in their circle of friends for being unabashed in stating her thoughts.) “Well remember when we talked about my roommate only having a physical attachment to you, but not an emotional one?” he asked.“Yeah,” she answered with hesitation.“Well, I have the emotional attachment.” he answered.It was then that she realized that it was not just his attachment, but hers as well. “Get out of the car,” she said, “we need to talk about this.”They went to the porch and discussed the landslide that had just hit them. It didn’t take her more than five minutes to realize she had the same feelings for him, and had had them for quite some time. But what the hell was she supposed to do? He hadn’t been out of his engagement for all that long, and she had a friend that had feelings for him. You just don’t do that, and yet her heart had already started to take over the negotiations. She sat in a chair on the porch and he idly leaned against the porch wall. She stared down at her elbows resting on her knees, her hands clasped in front of her. When she looked up at him again he was smiling at her.“What?” she asked.“You’re pretty,” he answered.Right then she felt like she would explode if she didn’t touch him. She stood up and walked the three feet over to him and threw her arms around him. Her body felt like it was on fire, and she wanted time to stop. She didn’t want to worry about anything, or know anything, she just wanted to feel this moment. After a 30-second span that left her world spinning, she stepped back. They agreed that they would talk more tomorrow, although by then it was tomorrow. He promised to call when he was done with work. She walked him the 50 feet back to the van in the driveway. They stood staring at each other and maybe it was just the combination of the late hour and the light from the lamp post, but she swore he looked different. As she continued to stare he took both her hands in his. He leaned over and kissed her. For her it was the kiss that every girl dreams about after seeing their first black and white happy ending. He was gentle and sincere. It was, perhaps, the most romantic moment she had experienced up until that point. They both were completely vulnerable. Then he got in his van, smiling, and drove away. She climbed the stairs to her room in a fog of disbelief. What were all these feelings she had? Were they real? Were his real? She hadn't really felt this for someone in five years, and she wasn't sure what feelings to trust. She was excited and scared, but as she drifted off to sleep she smiled at how much she didn't know.