In honor of Valentines day, I wanted to share the story of how I met my wife. But I wanted to start at the beginning.
And as near as I can tell, it all started with soccer. In elementary school. Most of the boys in the town where I grew up did youth sports, including a kid from the other side of town named Justin. Me and Justin had a similar sense of humor, and were good friends from the time we met, through high school. We used to like to stand on the hill, overlooking the field, and yell “Have no fear, Gary and Justin are here!” Then we would take two steps down the hill, fall down, and roll the rest of the way down the hill. Good times. No, Mellissa was not in the crowd that day, and fell madly in love with my antics. In fact, she was in Alaska at the moment.
At the end of sophomore year of high school, Justin wanted to do this college summer program up at SUNY Potsdam. He invited me to go with him, and I did. It was a two-week program in geology we would be taking, living in dorms on campus. Now, I had never been very popular with the girls back where I grew up. I had never even been on a real date up until that point. I kept falling for girls who had no interest in me, and was far too shy and awkward to get noticed much. But for whatever reason, at functions like this, or 4-H activities away from home, I was always more relaxed, and seemed to get more interest from girls. And that was the case here. Within the first day, I met a girl named Diane, and we hit it off really well. She became my first official girlfriend. We held hands, it was awesome. The next day she dumped me. Something about the fact that she lived near Rochester, and I was all the way on the other side of the state. So maybe my luck didn’t change yet.
Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet, so me and Diane spent the next year writing each other letters from across the state. We were friends, but there wasn’t really any romantic interest there anymore. During a 4-H trip to Albany, I met this girl named Amanda. We also hit it off fairly well. She was from the Catskills, so we ran into each other at a few functions. I went up to visit her at the ice cream stand where she worked once. But it wasn’t much of a romance yet. In the spring, I received an invitation from both of them. Diane was graduating from HS, and invited me to that. Amanda asked me to go to the prom with her. I decided I would only take one of them up on their offer. And the decision came down to handwriting. Diane’s letters were always fun to read, and just looked nice. This was the first time Amanda had written me, and well…. her penmanship looked like something from a not quite advanced 5th grade class. But I’m thankful for her poor writing skills, because if not for them, what happened next would have never happened.
I went to Diane’s graduation as a friend. I took the train out to Rochester, and two days later, my father came to pick me up, and as we had planned, we went visiting colleges on the way back home. We stopped at Geneseo, which was highly favored by me, and probably was the best fit for me. But the campus just wasn’t that interesting or impressive at the end of June. Neither was Ithaca. Some of my top contenders were out of the running very quickly, but I was still in central new york with a lot of time to kill. So we decided to stop at a college that wasn’t on my original list, but was in the area. That college was Colgate University. And while Geneseo did not look good in late June, Hamilton NY and the college on the hill looked great. I was hooked within minutes. My choice was pretty much already made. People warned me it was a party school. I didn’t care. People warned me I didn’t exactly have the fashion sense to fit in at Colgate. So what? My mind was made up. I applied early decision, and spent 1998-2002 as a
I suppose from the viewpoint of meeting my wife, it’s a good thing I didn’t fit in so great at Colgate. I spent a lot of my first semester not really making connections with many people. Even my roommate moved out partway through the semester as he had made some new friends who had an open bed in their suite. I cured my loneliness with watching lots of sports. Which is what made me aware of the pep band. I played trombone in high school, but had no interest in playing anymore. But these guys looked like they were having fun, they were going to games, playing good music. I decided I wanted in. So I joined up in the spring semester of my freshman year.
The trombone section was a zone of strong personalities at the time. You had Dave and John, who didn’t always get along so great. So that’s where “Buffy” as in buffer zone aka Michelle came in. Michelle would physically stand between them, and often diffused a lot of the tension in the section. She became my closest friend in the band, and from my entire time at Colgate. But her days in the band were numbered. Michelle also had a strong personality, and so did another friend of ours, Kevin. Kevin and Michelle were friends, but when Kevin became the bands drum major, tensions were brewing. Kevin’s leadership style just didn’t match Michelle’s following style. And she eventually left the band. Not a good thing at the time, but it would pay off for me in the future.
Michelle still really liked sports. I’m pretty sure her majors were religion and math, but her passion was sports. And since she wasn’t in the band anymore, she started working for athletic communications. She learned how to keep game stats, write stories, and soon became indispensable to the department. We both graduated in 2002, and Michelle decided to continue to pursue athletic communications, and became a student at New House at the nearby Syracuse University. I moved out to Queensbury NY, where I began my career as a teacher.
New teachers have very little time and energy. I wasn’t coaching yet. I wasn’t taking night classes for my masters yet. I was just teaching. There were a lot of late nights, and I would usually just come home and go to sleep. Not much chance for a social life. fortunately, Michelle was about to help me out. She had met Mellissa at college, and the two of them became friends. Michelle saw the potential if the two of us got together, so invited me to come out for a visit to meet her.
It literally took one date. Mellissa nearly burnt down her apartment, we played Monopoly and watched movies, and that was all it took.