It was supposed to be like any other first date: Go to a movie, get to know each other, maybe have a couple of drinks, and, if lucky enough, share a kiss goodnight. I wasnâ€™t looking for a relationship. This was only going to be a fun night out with the pretty co-worker whose smile had a way of warming the dark corners of the store we worked in and whose laugh was infectious and full of life.
The summer of 1992 was full of pivotal moments in my life. College graduation. The wedding of my brother and his wife. More significantly that the precious two examples was the quintuple bypass surgery that saved my fatherâ€™s heart and his life. By the end of July, the plan I had set in motion was going the way I wanted. With my college degree in hand, I was building a savings account for a move to Los Angeles that fall. As I said, I was not looking for a relationship. I certainly wasnâ€™t looking for love. With no agenda, on August 1, 1992, I went on my first date with Julie Flynn.
At that time, the two of us worked together at the same produce store in Lakewood, Ohio. Julie worked weekends and one day during the week. I generally took Sundays off, so we saw each other twice a week. That year, the 1st was a Saturday. The previous Wednesday I had surprised her by, seemingly out of the blue, asking her on a date. That scene went down like this: As she was manning the cash register, alone in the store, I popped in from the alley and stood just past the doorway. With half a store of fruits and vegetables between us, I blurted out my request to go out. She smiled, excitedly, and said â€œyesâ€. I replied, â€œcoolâ€, before returning to the alley to sweep up or pump my fist triumphantly.
On Saturday, off Julieâ€™s suggestion, we went to a movie that night. It was the Kurt Russell, Madelaine Stowe, and Ray Liotta thriller, â€œUnlawful Entryâ€. Ironically, this is the type of movie Julie dislikes. To this day, I have a hard time convincing her to watch creepy films about stalkers. Whatâ€™s not to like?
She picked me up at my parentsâ€™ house (where I was house sitting with my younger sister, Heidi- Mom and Dad were on a recuperative vacation in Hawaii) and we drove to the now defunct Great Northern Theater in her Volkswagon Fox (also now defunct). The film was above average. Despite the presence of the great, underrated Russell, the ending was a bit cliched. Afterward, with the night still young, we stopped at Frankâ€™s Place, one of the several dark, smoke filled watering holes in North Olmsted. Frankâ€™s Place is notable because it is located in a plaza directly under the North Olmsted water tower. Over some beers we began to talk, slowly stripping away some of our guarded layers and revealing parts of ourselves. Soon thereafter, we drove to Arturoâ€™s, another dive, this one with a kitchen, so I could get something to eat. As the night carried on, we just kept talking. It wasnâ€™t what we talked about that effected me; it was the ease in which we were able to open up to each other. It was natural, like Iâ€™d known her my entire life. Nothing felt forced. I remember thinking, â€œThis girl is specialâ€ and â€œman, I want to kiss her.â€
The evening came to an end and Julie drove me back to my folksâ€™ house. The Fox pulled into the driveway and Julie stopped the car. Then, for only the second time in my life, I asked a girl if I could kiss her. Even before weâ€™d left Arturoâ€™s, Iâ€™d felt a real connection with Julie, something magical was occurring to meâ€¦ to us. I didnâ€™t want to screw that up.
â€œMay I kiss you?â€
â€œIâ€™d like that.â€
Our lips met and thatâ€™s when the thunderbolt crashed down from the heavenâ€™s and opened up my heart. In actual time, I donâ€™t know the duration of that first kiss, but in a grand sense; it has lasted 15 years.
We said goodnight and I walked into the house, dazed, floating, and changed. When Heidi saw me enter looking wide eyed and confused, she asked, â€œWhatâ€™s up with you?â€
â€œI think I just went out with the woman Iâ€™m going to marry.â€
I saw her the next day at work and every day after that for the rest of my life.
Three weeks into our bliss, I did the obvious thing and made her, yes, a mix tape. Cut me a little slack. Iâ€™d just bought a new stereo. Plus, what better way for someone to discover whom you are than by exposing them to the music in your collection? So, in went the Maxwell XLI and on went selections from my LPâ€™s, cdâ€™s, and cassettes. That tape still exists somewhere in a box crammed in the rafters of our garage. I couldnâ€™t tell you what songs are on it, save for one composition, Bruce Springsteenâ€™s â€œBook of Dreamsâ€. Taken from his â€™92 release, â€œLucky Townâ€, this song represented the new Bruce: Happy, married and a father. The music is simple and direct, sparse and mostly acoustic. I love the â€œLucky Townâ€ album and â€œBook of Dreamsâ€ touched my heart at the exact moment that thunderbolt was crashing down on me. Perhaps â€œIf I Should Fall Behindâ€ is the better written song of his ballads on this album, but â€œBook of Dreamsâ€ represented everything I felt and everything I wanted to say to Julie.
Falling in love so quickly and discovering my soul mate raised thousands of questions. I did some heavy soul searching for over a month. Meanwhile, â€œBook of Dreamsâ€ played over and over in my head. This song made sense to me. Julieâ€™s love made sense to me. Being with her is what I wanted deep in my soul. Anything else, we would figure out down the road. The day I gave her the tape, I pointed to that song, as if to say, â€œthis is how I feel.â€ When I finally found the courage to spill my guts, I was amazed to learn that Julie felt the same way as I did. Wherever I was going to go in life, she wanted to be with me on that journey.
Jump ahead to November, the day after Thanksgiving. My parents were throwing an East Coast reception for Budd and Karyn at the house. The whole family was in the same place for the night. In the months between that mix tape and this reception, Iâ€™d asked Julieâ€™s parents for her hand in marriage, decided to wait a year before moving to California, and had secretly bought an engagement ring. I also had Matt teach me to play the guitarâ€¦ well, one song on the guitar. Julie once told me sheâ€™d love to be serenaded with â€œYou Are The Womanâ€ on guitar when being proposed to. Matt, in his infinite wisdom, suggested something else. Iâ€™m sure the conversation went something like this: â€œUh, dude, isnâ€™t there something, like, better that you could learn?â€ â€œThis is what she wanted.â€ â€œCome on. There has to be something more personal.â€ I didnâ€™t even have to think twice about it.
On the last Friday in November of â€™92, I took Julie away from the family and friends gathered in my parentsâ€™ house and lead her into the basement. There, I played and snag the only song Iâ€™ve ever learned on the guitar, â€œBook of Dreams.â€ A year later we were married.
Fifteen years ago today, I went on a date that changed my life. The movie wasnâ€™t memorable, the beers and wings were bland. But that kissâ€¦ Oh man, that kiss rocked my world. When the thunderbolt struck me, it not only opened my heart; it opened a book of dreams with new chapters being written every day.