She didn’t need to say yes. Looking around, I could see dozens of better choices than me. But, for some reason, she agreed to a date.
Thirty-nine years ago this week, my wife and I went out on our first date. Two students fumbling through our first semester of college, and in a weak moment, she agreed to join me for lunch. Lunch led to an afternoon walk, an elevator ride and a date that continues to this day.
I don’t know why I leaned in and stole a kiss in the glass elevator. Shy and nervous, I probably didn’t know what to say. At a loss for words as the elevator rose a dozen stories into the building, she met me halfway — most likely a result of us both feeling the need to fill the air.
If asked to identify the top three most life-changing moments — the ones where you swear you can still feel the temperature and taste the smells around you — this is at the top of the list. Time travel by way of an emotional vortex.
A kiss is simply two sets of lips touching. Nothing inherently magical — until it is.
Either the elevator was not properly grounded or magic happened in space the size of a walk-in pantry. I felt the spark, and so did she. I can relive the moment in raw detail, mostly as the kiss closed and we withdrew from each other.
We both knew something had happened, and it wasn’t a jolt on the elevator cable.
We have adult children today, yet we feel as if we are mentally entombed in amber. The moment fused us in time, creating an indelible marker from which our life transformed into vivid color. There is life before the kiss — and everything after.
Today we sit down and joke about the moment and where the nervous kiss led us over the years. Over a half-dozen states and no two in our family born in the same state; we’ve lived nomads’ lives. Home is simply defined as wherever we are as a family at the moment.
From that kiss came my understanding of learning to live for someone else. To evolve to understand true happiness is found by striving to make the other feel happy, appreciated and needed. I can tell you the guy on the elevator was a long way from that point, filled with youthful selfishness and insecurity.
But then, one step at a time, we learned to grow together. Life came at us hard and fast, at times threatening to break apart what the moment in the elevator brought together.
Kids, careers and splitting $10 in a Walmart and walking in different directions to buy each other a Christmas gift are moments that shape you forever.
But here we are 39 years later. The sight of her walking in the room still gives me butterflies. And I continue to wonder, why did she say yes?