So, it all almost came to an end before it really got off of the ground. I’m speaking about this long love affair between Julie and me. “Bonehead” is how I would describe me then looking back from now. But then, well, I thought I was doing something pretty swell for our first birthday celebration together.
You know, that first birthday/holiday is a weird affair. You can’t skip over it like nothing was happening. But you don’t want to overstate anything that might put too much pressure on the new relationship.
I should have just bought her a new album or three. We both loved music so much. I was smart enough to remember that later, but not this first time. Having no real plan, I went to the farewell party for a reporter leaving WSOC-TV. It was kind of a combination party/yard sale. The stuff looked good in her place and I was in need of something to make the right statement and show my understanding of Julie, and, the point in which we stood in our new relationship. I thought that I found it. Actually “it” was a pair of matching beautiful (I thought) living room lamps. Julie and her roommate, Diane, had the coolest apartment, very well furnished mostly by Diane courtesy of her recently ended marriage. I thought Julie would enjoy getting and having something of her own in the scheme of the apartment décor. It was that, combined with having nothing in hand and no real plan, and, this sounded pretty good to me. I mean, who wouldn’t want a matching pair of yellow lamps?
I found out pretty quickly when I presented them as her birthday gift. Shortly thereafter, she cooled our relationship and then, cut it off.
Now, I’ve told this story many times in our 38 years together. Why? Because I’m still a bonehead. It usually doesn’t ingratiate me well to Julie. She feels a little embarrassed that she stopped our relationship because of her dislike of my gift. I know this and yet still I trod where I shouldn’t.
But, the truth is, I love this story. I love how young we were when it occurred. I love how dumb I was. And how my stupidity insulted her sense of thoughtfulness and caring. It gave her good right to question whether she wanted to invest her future into such a thoughtless, if endearingly handsome, bonehead of a guy.
I usually tell a little more of the story just to dig my hole a little deeper.
See, she broke it off just before Thanksgiving when my folks were driving down to Charlotte to enjoy the holiday with my sister, Marti and me, and to finally meet this wonderful girl that I’d been talking about since, well, early summer.
That was a tough one to explain to the folks. I’m not sure that I connected the lamp part of the story in explaining to Mom that, well, things had cooled and they weren’t going to meet the girl of my dreams…at least not yet. Thanksgiving was not so great that year.
Oh, have I mentioned yet this critical fact: Julie lived next door to me. Our townhouse apartments shared the same common entry. Her front door was directly across a 10-foot space from mine. Hard to be that close and broken up.
But we were. The next week I could hear her leaving for work in the morning – I worked the night shift. I watched her get in her yellow VW Super Beetle and drive off with my heart. But I left her alone, which turned out to be the hardest and smartest thing that I’ve ever done. See, although I left her alone, I lived next door too, and she felt my presence as well. The happiest day of my life was when, a week later, she knocked on my door, told me she missed me. I told her that I was sorry. She told me she was sorry.
It tells the story of our lives together. That’s the hardest patch we’ve ever had to endure. That one week apart, unhappy with our relationship, gave us both enough time to realize that we were meant to be together. And we have been ever since.
And that’s why I love telling this story the most. And why I love yellow lamps although I don’t own any. It’s a story with a happy ending that keeps on going.
Happy Birthday Julie Hazelton Riley. You’re the best thing ever to come into my life.