It was an early April afternoon in 2011 when I got the email from the dating site. An interest notification. I wasn’t all that interested in the notification.. I was still grieving the relationship with Goose. But I signed onto the dating site as a diversion that afternoon. Something to focus on besides being sad. Just for awhile.
One message exchanged and then another. Soon it was a phone call. He was on his lunch break when he called me. Sitting in his pick up in the parking lot as he dialed my number. His stomach filled with nervous energy, and no room for lunch. The conversation was cheerful. Fun. He followed up with a witty text. (You know how I love those!)
We set a day the next week to meet. Half way. A two and a half hour drive to meet in the middle.
But when that day came.. a different text message arrived. From Goose. It was a test. I failed it. Instead of driving to meet this new man, Scott, I cancelled and apologized. Then I waited. And I hoped. And waited. And waited. Then I gave up. I gave up hope and waiting for Goose. I gave up.
Two weeks later, I did drive two and a half hours to meet in the middle. A warm, sunny May afternoon met me in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Over the bridge and a turn to the left. I found the parking lot he had described. A park along the river. (He got points for the location.) I arrived first. I like to arrive early and get my bearings.
His dark green truck rounded the corner with a glint of sunlight stuck to the fender. The glare momentarily blocked my view. His tall, slim frame walked out of the sunlight and into my life. It began with the usual smile and hello. Followed by “it’s nice to finally meet you.” We walked together through the park. First along the river and then deeper into the park exploring. He took my hand as we walked. It felt warm and safe to stand beside him, our fingers intertwined.
The other people in the park faded away as we walked and laughed and talked in the gentle spring sun. We explored and discovered some renovations being completed on a gorgeous brick building. He shared with me about his love of architecture and we ventured toward the building, climbing over building materials in order to peek inside the windows.
Inside were big round tables set with flowing silk table cloths all in shimmery white. A walkway had been formed to mimic a spool of movie film. Proudly perched upon each table was a shiny gold statue… the Oscars! Surprised by what we’d peeked into, we rounded the building to find limousines pulling up to the entrance. As the door opened, four couples emerged. The young men dressed in tuxedos and their dates decked out in full prom attire. Corsages proudly perched upon their bosoms.
We stood aside for a moment watching as if it were a performance just for our entertainment. Slowly, still holding hands, we walked toward the park ranger station. Scott pulled my right hand, gently turning me toward him. His eyes looking seriously into mine as he kissed me. Lost in his kiss, I felt as if I’d known him forever. I didn’t want the afternoon to end.
He led us back toward our cars in the parking lot and instructed me to follow him. There was another park on the Iowa side of the river to explore. Five minutes later and another parking lot that held the anticipation of new adventures about to begin.
As I walked toward his truck, he waved me around to the driver’s side.
“Hold this” he asked as he threw an embroidered quilt in my direction.
Oddly enough, even with my lack of grace, I caught it, as Scott gathered together items for a picnic that he’d brought along for us to share. A cooler and a bottle of wine.
We walked up and over a small hill and then onto a slightly worn pathway through the new bright green grass peeking through last fall’s leftovers. Scott kept walking as if he knew the way. I followed holding onto the quilt. Every now and again, I’d say, “Here’s a nice spot.” But he wasn’t certain. It wasn’t just right. And up another hill we’d go. Until finally he put down the cooler and the wine.
Taking the quilt from my arms, he tossed the edges high into the blue sky, shaking out all of the folds. The quilt floated gently to its resting place on the grass and our picnic began.
Scott kneeled down on the quilt, his bare knee poking through the worn spot of his jeans. He unlatched the top of the cooler and out came fresh red strawberries and Wisconsin cheese curds, a box or crackers and napkins. Then from his pocket, Scott fumbled with a cork screw, inserting it firmly into the cork. With a ‘pop’ it released from the bottle. Scott turned to me for the wine glasses. He hadn’t given me any while we were standing by his truck.
We both laughed and decided it was better to take turns drinking from the bottle than to walk all the way back for the glasses. Scott unwrapped the cheese and I opened up the strawberries. I eagerly bit into a ripe red berry with its juice running across my lips. Scott handed me a napkin and leaned back on his elbows. He raised his head up toward the sun and squinted his eyes. I sat to his right and took a sip of wine. It ran sweet and moist down my throat. I handed him a berry and took a cheese curd for myself. Scott turned on his side and talked about Italy where he’d travelled when he was in the Marines. He talked about relationships there and how different they are from here. How the afternoons are for carefree romantic interludes like the one we were having today. I laid down on the quilt beside him. Only the berries and cheese and wine between us. I looked up into the stunning blue. Squinting into the sun I could see eagles soaring high above us. A perfect beginning.