We had been schoolmates for five years and I didn’t know her. I didn’t know her name but her face was recognizable. I spotted her sitting on the bleachers in the gym, crying. This was our last dance before moving on to high school, and I couldn’t stand by and watch her be so sad. I figured someone had broken her heart or maybe done something to wrong her. I went to her and asked if I could help. “No,” she quickly rebuffed me, but I knew something between us had changed.
The summer between middle school and high school was an eternity and I found myself praying to find her; to find out who she was and what her name was, things I had to know. I’ll never forget my first day in high school because my prayer was answered – we were in four classes together, and we had the same lunch period. And in one of those classes, our desks were paired together in the very back of the room. After being around her for five years and not really ever “seeing” her, it was like blinders were lifted and there she was. In fact, it turned out we lived in the same tiny Levittown neighborhood, and I had walked right past her house for three years on my way to and from grade school, never knowing who lived there.
Getting to know Carol was the joy of my life, and still is. That year, day by day, I couldn’t be more impressed by a young lady and found myself praying again, that someday she would marry me. I had been shot down by just enough hot girls to know to be quiet. Instead, I figured I should build a relationship and develop a friendship – and anything that might build my case. And I did try to be her friend and kept my desire for her a secret.
One bright spot was English class. We had to give speeches, and Carol noticed how nervous I seemed on the day of my speech. She reached into her purse and pulled out a four-leaf clover she’d found, which was wrapped in cellophane. I don’t know if it was the lucky clover or the boost of confidence from the girl I adored from afar, but I got an A on my speech. I stopped by her house later to return the clover, and she told me I could keep it. As 9th grade was ending and the last dance of the year was planned she asked me if I was going and I said no. I didn’t have the guts to say I wanted to go — with her — and was afraid to hear the dreaded “let’s just be friends.”
I found a gorgeous angel and decided I would do nothing to ruin this. After breaking the ice by going to her house to return the clover, I found other reasons to stop by every once in a while, usually on holidays to deliver leftover flowers from my job selling them on the street corners of Philly.
At the same time, over those next two years of high school, my life just got harder, especially as time pulled us apart. Carol had her first serious relationship – and so I was sidelined, again. I thought I’d missed my chance and ruined everything by saying nothing.
As 11th grade was winding down I learned about her break-up and knew it was now or never to tell her how I really felt. Walking past her house as I often did, this particular night I saw her bedroom light was on and got the courage to tap on her window to ask her to the 11th-grade prom. She told me she couldn’t go to the prom because sometime after her break-up she realized she was pregnant. At that moment, once again, things between us had changed. But for only a split-second I thought it was over. That’s when I realized nothing could change the way I felt about her.
I told her if she had to get married, “don’t marry that jerk; I’ll marry you.” I had prayed for years that we would marry and her news didn’t change anything. In fact, it only made me more certain that all of this was happening for a reason. She told me she wasn’t sure what she was going to do.
She told me that night at her window that I should not make her problem mine. Just like the 8th-grade dance she rebuffed me once again.
But over the next few months we continued to talk about what could be. I told her how I’d loved her for so long from afar, and prayed that one day we would be together. I told her I already loved her little one, and that I believed nobody could love that baby like she would; like we would.
On June 25, 1976, I went to her bedroom window once more and told her nothing should keep us apart. She finally realized how much I cared and that’s when we kissed and she agreed that we should be a couple. What started as the best day of my life is still my happy-ever-after. And 44 years later, whether it was the four-leaf clover, the confidence from a girl I adored, or something from above all that, I’m am the luckiest man I know.
Jim Robidoux is father of four, lives and works in Manchester, and writes about life in The Life Section – specifically, his own. He enjoys bicycling to work, urban gardening, exploring his Christian faith, and watching the Phillies at Billy’s. And he happens to be married to Manchester Ink Link editor Carol Robidoux. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.