I was hoping Rick would be there, and he was, working on a project I can’t remember now.
I do remember the jumbo-sized box of colored pencils he had next to him, and how they scattered everywhere when he saw me walk in the room and jump up on the drafting table next to him. He smiled, reached to pick up the pencils, and wacked his head on the concrete column next to the desk.
“Aww… poor baby!” I said, and opened my arms wide for a hug.
Just as he reached for me, he impaled his crotch on the corner of the table. “I love him,” I thought.
We met at Oregon State University, in Fairbanks Hall. The Mustard Mansion. It’s not mustard anymore, but it was in 1989. This was just before the Mac changed graphic design into the pixilated wonderland of the 90’s, so we learned how to “count characters”, how to order a “chromatech”, and the correct way to fill in color spaces on project comps with Pantone markers ($5.00 per marker, even back then); all skills we wouldn’t use again… ever.
I knew pretty quickly Rick might just be “the One”, even though he was clear about how he was never going to get married, and how he would end up with his long-time girlfriend from his home town, Baker, Oregon. I thought I was probably in love, He was just confused by me. I didn’t fit into his plan.
So, that’s more or less how we ended in the Spring of 1990 when we graduated. Rick had his reasons for rejecting me: We didn’t share the same faith, he had committed more strongly to said girlfriend, and he didn’t believe I was interested in much travel, to name a few. I was tired, and a little angry about being rejected and was ready to move on. So, that’s what we did.
Rick took a convoluted route to New York City, first as a nurse’s aide in Mazanita, Oregon (on the coast), then living with his mother and brothers in Fort Collins, Colorado, then finally to New York: Jobless, sleeping on girlfriend’s couch, and praying for the best.
I spent the first few months out of college living with my parents. I worked for a political consultant in Salem, Oregon, helping create campaign materials for people I knew nothing about. After that, serving coffee and cake to shoppers at the Mall. I moved to Portland on New Year’s Eve to share a house with my good friend, Suzy. I was temping, answering phones, and keeping an eye out for any design openings. I eventually got hired at 53rd Street Advertising, an in-house ad agency for Soloflex. So, I had my first “real job”. When Suzy married, I moved out of the house, in briefly with my brother and his wife and baby daughter, then into my own studio apartment in NW Portland. This is where I was living when I received Rick’s first letter from New York.
He had written while sitting in the midst of a Hare Krishna festival. He hated the concrete jungle. Things hadn’t worked out with the girlfriend. He had his “eye on the scam”… Maybe he would move to Europe next – find what he was looking for there.
I wasn’t sure what to do with that letter, but all the emotion I had felt for him in college flooded in. I called the number he had listed and a woman answered (at 3am). So, I hung up and wrote him back. I remember feeling like I could say whatever I liked and it really didn’t matter because he was so far away and I had nothing to lose. So, I wrote about the woman who had answered his phone, and about how I was living for the first time on my own and loving it, and how it seemed like life was just a little too amazing to be completely random, and did that mean I was starting to believe in God? I also wrote that he should be careful what he wrote to me because love doesn’t die that easily. Yeah… I really wrote that.
So began our postal courtship. Our letters took 5 full days to travel. When you can only communicate with someone in two to four pages once a week, you make sure to cover the important stuff. And, by the way, maybe this is an advantage to texts, chats, fb, etc… maybe you think more about what you mean before you say it?
At the end of five months, Rick called one night to tell me he loved me. He called a few days after that to say he was coming home to marry me. He drove (the girlfriend’s car) back to Fort Collins to see his mom, then on to Baker City to see his dad (and drop off the car), then to Portland. I remember thinking that day that I had only hours left in my life to be a single woman, and that everything was going to change. When I saw him at the bottom of the stairs to my apartment, I could only make it halfway down before my legs gave out. That was our beginning – December 4th, 1991.
We were married June 20th, 1992, just six months later. I remember we had our first fight about two weeks into married life: We were arguing about dish towels, a classic first year battle. He said something sarcastic and I stormed out the front door, slamming it behind me. It seemed like that was what one was supposed to do (isn’t that what they do on tv?)… but halfway down the block I had an important realization: I was still mad, and he was glad I was gone. Back I went, slammed the door on my way back in, and announced that we would be resolving our differences NOW. So sassy! Back then, Rick was happy to avoid conflict whenever he could, so we both had to learn how to fight fair and fairly tackle differences that would separate us.
We’ve been married twenty-one years now. It seems insane to think we’ve been together this long – that it was twenty-one years ago when I received Rick’s first letter from New York. It’s been a good story, and we hope to continue telling it together.
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