Some might ask why I call my bride The Queen. That’s a simple question with a deceptively simple yet subtly complicated answer.
First, the simple part of the answer. I tell young people who are thinking about getting married that, instead of worrying so much about the wedding and being prince/princess for a day, they should be more concerned with whether or not their chosen spouse will treat them like a king/queen for a lifetime.
Now, for the complicated part of the answer. My parents divorced when I was 10 years old. To be perfectly blunt, it was not a pleasant experience for a young child and didn’t get any easier as I grew older. As a result, I have very definite VIEWS about marriage. I think a major cause of the alarmingly high divorce rate in this country are people getting married for the wrong reasons: shotgun weddings, young people with no clue who are in “love”, people who really have nothing in common with the person they’re with, the whole prince/princess for a day thing, etc. Based on my experiences growing up, I told the Queen in no uncertain terms that divorce would never be an option for us. In fact, I told her not to promise “until death do we part” unless she had picked out the spot in the back yard where she was going to bury me as I would never go through nor put another human being through what I experienced as a child.
In light of that background, you might be curious as to how someone with such definite VIEWS on marriage came to find the perfect woman in the first place.
To say that I was not always the best at selecting dating partners prior to meeting the Queen is probably an understatement of such colossal proportions that metaphors or similes to adequately describe my lack of skills in that area simply fail me. I still cringe at the thought of a certain memory from high school involving me bringing a girl home to meet mom for the first time.
The Scene: Typical 1970s era galley kitchen. One painfully thin yet very tall 17 year old young man with longish hair (okay, okay…it was a mullet…don’t laugh, you know you liked them) quietly stirring the spaghetti sauce at the stove. Mom leaning against the counter, arms crossed, eyeing the young thing with intentions towards her son. One tallish, 17 year old female of the species wearing tight jeans, boots and big hair (yeah, you know you liked the big hair, too), sitting on the counter next to the sink looking mostly innocent.
Mom to girl: So, tell me a little about yourself.
Girl to mom: Well, I’m a recovering drug addict, and I go to Alcoholics Anonymous.
(5 seconds of stunned silence interrupted only by the “blop” sound of a large sauce bubble popping while my brain locks up after trying desperately to become invisible)
Mom to no one in particular: Oh, that’s nice. I think I’ll go set the table.
I still, to this day, have no clue as to why this particular girl decided to withhold such vital information from me until the all important parental introduction; however, I can only assume it was a perverse test of some kind. Now, I know some people might be thinking that I had some prior knowledge of this little tidbit of information or that the girl was making it up to get a reaction, but you would be wrong on both counts. I went to a suburban high school of approximately 3500 to 4000 students. It’s not like everyone knew each other from birth. I had only known her a short time when this event took place, and at no time during our brief acquaintance prior to that moment did the subject of her adventures in recreational pharmaceutical use or self medication come up. Perhaps she just assumed that I knew these things since her best friend’s locker was next to mine. Perhaps the mullet gave her the false presumption of shared habits. I will never know. To Mom’s credit, all she said to me after dinner was “be careful.” Oh, yeah. You think?
So, the story of how I met the Queen should come as no surprise to anyone. The fact that she turned out to be a genuinely decent person who later, for reasons that still escape me, agreed to marry me is nothing short of a miracle.
It was a gloriously sunny but not unbearably hot day in early June 1997. I decided it was a perfect day to go rollerblading at the park. Some friends of mine had just recently introduced me to rollerblading as a form of exercise, and I was probably out there trying to get some exercise and improve my rollerblading skills. That, or I was “sightseeing”. I mean I was a hot blooded, American male with a pulse after all.
As I’m rolling along, I happen to overtake a breathtaking red head rollerblading with, shall we say, a woman with more life experience. Courtesy demands that a person overtaking and passing another give them a warning. I said, “Passing on the left.” The red head immediately responded with, “Well, passing on the right.” Passees don’t normally respond to passers. At least, not in my experience. So, naturally, the future Queen made an immediate impression beyond her obvious physical attributes.
Well, I continued on my merry, solo way until I ran into a friend at the parking area. He and I chatted about nothing in particular for a bit until, lo and behold, the red head and her partner turned up as well. I’ll be honest; I was rude to my friend as my attention was immediately drawn to the conversation between the red head and her partner as they were parked within earshot of where we were standing.
By shamelessly eavesdropping, I determined the following:
1) The woman of experience with the red head was, in fact, the red head’s mother.
2) The red head was teaching her mother how to rollerblade.
3) The red head’s mother was tired and had decided to go home.
4) The red head was going to stay at the park and continue rollerblading.
Now, some might say I’m a bit shy. Others might say that there are wallpaper patterns more outgoing than I am. Perhaps. I prefer to think of myself as reserved and selective. I mean, really, how do you maintain the aura of the tall, dark, mysterious stranger if everyone knows you? At any rate, I heard myself asking the red head if she wanted some company. Who said that? No, it couldn’t have been me. Well, yes. Yes, actually, it was me. Maybe it was the fact that we had actually already exchanged a few words. Maybe it was God pulling the strings for a lark.
Regardless, I heard the red head utter the now infamous words, “If you can keep up.” Then she was off like a shot. I can’t recall for sure whether or not I said goodbye to my friend, but I think he got the picture. It took me about 50 yards to catch her again, but I did. I may be quiet and reserved, but I have a competitive streak a mile long. There’s also the fact that I’m about a foot taller than the Queen, and my stride gives me an edge on the rollerblades. She didn’t have a chance.
We spent the next couple of hours rolling around the park. We chatted and joked and had a great time. Or, at least, so I thought. At this point in the story, she usually claims that I asked for her phone number. While there is a distinct possibility that this occurred, I have no firm memory of doing so. So, of course, I deny it. I do recall giving her my business card with my numbers. Which she didn’t bother to use. And here I thought I had made an impression.
What’s a smitten man of means and intelligence to do? Turn stalker, of course. I started hanging out at the park a little more frequently hoping to catch sight of her again. I did manage to catch up with her briefly one more time in June when she was at the park with her best friend. That event was memorable as she slipped at the water fountain and imprinted the back of her white t-shirt with a muddy full moon. Kodak moment missed except in my mind’s eye. I wish I could print that memory.
Still no calls, though. Time for drastic measures. Even though she had never revealed her last name to me, the future queen had made the mistake of letting it slip where she worked. She claims she didn’t know she had told me where she worked. I think it was her way of testing me to see how persistent I would be. I finally worked up the nerve and looked up the phone number to her place of employment in the phone book. I called and asked for the future Queen by her first name and was greeted with the response “Which one” in reply. I asked for the red headed one and was transferred by the receptionist. Apparently, there were two red heads at this company with the same first name as the lady I was connected with had no idea who I was and said something like, “Oh, you must be looking for the other one.”
At this point in the story, I would like to report that I was greeted with an “Oh, hi, it’s nice to hear from you. I was just thinking about you.” Didn’t happen. Unfortunately, the truth is that the future Queen answered the phone in a surprised and incredulous tone with a “How did you find me?” Score one for the stalkers. To her eternal credit, the future Queen regained her civility and composure quickly and informed me that it was her last day at that particular place of employment. Score two for the stalkers. When I asked the Queen to be if she would be interested in going out on a date, she actually accepted my offer since I had shown such persistence and resourcefulness. Score three points and the hat trick for the stalkers.
Not one to let an opportunity to make a better impression go wasted; I made reservations at an awesome restaurant. Reata in downtown Fort Worth. At the time, this restaurant was situated on the top floor of the Bank One building 30 something stories above the streets of downtown (on a side note, they had to move after a tornado struck downtown a couple of years later and caused major structural damage to the building). The view was spectacular at least as far as billiard table topography allows, and the food is phenomenal. It didn't hurt that a business associate had given me a gift certificate which helped cover the check. Don't roll your eyes at me. At least it wasn't a BOGO coupon at Whataburger.
Apparently, I made a good enough impression to warrant further dating. The Queen to be and I dated for 6 and a half years before I proposed to her after dinner in the rooftop dome at Reata’s new location a few streets over from the old location. From the moment she said “Yes”, we planned and held the wedding in under 4 weeks. Mainly because we didn’t spend a lot of time sweating details and delegated a lot of things. We knew each other, and we knew that the wedding was going to be just one day in a lifetime together. We wanted to have fun and did things very spur of the moment. Wedding cake? How about a baker’s dozen of hand decorated cup cakes? The wedding recessional? How about the fanfare from the throne room scene where Hans and Luke get their medals at the end of the original Star Wars movie? I can tell you it was a hoot to walk back down the aisle hearing people laughing and saying, “Hey, that’s from Star Wars isn’t it?”
Yes, yes it was.