Smile for the Camera
From The Wonder Years
Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day, you’re in diapers; next day, and you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul.
Well, here we are kids, the final episode of the little mini drama I’ve been calling my Kim Saga. For any of you new readers who might have accidentally stumbled onto my story blog while looking for your favorite recipe, kitten video or porn site, welcome! My story blog is all about me, my own personal life documentary. Inside these couple hundred accounts is one long one about how I first encountered my wife as a 14 year old, (link
), all the way to this point here; getting married.
Though a marriage is anything but an ending, it is an ending to the question of whether or not I would manage to snag my little thunderbolt into matrimony. For the few of you constant and loyal readers, you know that there have been doubts – doubts to everyone but yours truly. When I set my mind to something, it gets finished.
When I left Miami University to take on the exciting role of taco stuffer, my mom cried. She didn’t cry because she wanted me to go to college; she cried because she couldn’t afford to send me, (either that or she really dreamed I’d one day work for Ronald McDonald). Money is the reason I left. I had to work to finance the tuition, books and transportation, but working kept me from being able to study for the difficult classes. I only had time for work and classes and when you’re trying for something like a degree in mathematics, you’d better have twice as much study time compared to class time. I had maybe 3-5 hours a week to study and half the time I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
As I’d shared in the last Kim Saga episode, now we were engaged to be married, (the second engagement), and were planning an October wedding. Quitting Miami, taking the promotion and getting engaged all occurred within the space of about five months. Soon after our engagement, Mom shared with me information about a commercial she had seen on TV, something about how I could earn an Associate degree in Accounting via correspondence. At first, I didn’t feel I had the time or even wanted to listen, but I did – I listened to Mom’s sales pitch. She had written down the phone number and said that she would call it for me if I wanted. What did I have to lose?
What? Become an accountant??
So she did and sure enough, a trusty vacuum cleaner salesman guy showed up at a predetermined day and time to discuss my future as an accountant (yuk). The company was ICS, International Correspondence School out of Scranton, Pennsylvania
– you know, the place where Dunder Mifflin Paper Company is supposed to have gotten it’s start. Maybe I could be the next Dwight? Back in the day, ICS was really ‘the’ place to learn via correspondence.
They had a separate company, CDS (Center for Degree Studies), that offered degree programs while ICS main attention was against teaching trades or classes such as shorthand, bookkeeping etc. Before meeting with the ICS rep, I had telephoned, (no internet yet), the University of Cincinnati Evening College to find out if the ICS program was accredited. It was, and always being the future finance guy, I calculated that not only could I study on my own timing, (I was working mostly nights), by completing this program and making a transfer, I could save a whole lot of money versus taking the same classes at UC.
I agreed to purchase the new Hoover vacuum and went onto an affordable payment plan. So there we were. Kim had won a scholarship and was going to be making minimum wage from the state sponsored LPN program (link
). Now I had a plan too. I would work at Taco Bell as an Assistant Mgr while studying for my Associates Degree in Accounting. Even if I was promoted to Store Manager before completing the program, I could still study at my own pace. (As it turned out, I did get my own store, even before getting married – I was the second youngest store manager in the country at that time, only 20 years old.)
“Getting married” was just sort of a nebulous thing to us as teenagers, a concept we really didn’t fully comprehend. It was sorta’ like the stock market, something only adults participated in. Kim and I had of course talked about it since we were engaged, (marriage, not stocks), but I don’t think either of us were experienced enough to grasp what those two words really meant; it was just something that was out there in our futures. Now that a date had been set though, the wheels were in motion.
We weren’t quite this young, but might as well have been
Guys – if any of you males out there happen to be reading right now, sweating out what the heck to do in order to plan a wedding, forget it. My advice is to play a lot of golf and take a lot of cold showers because you’re not going to be spending much time with your bride-to-be. She’s going to be off with her mom, her sisters and her grandmother, planning all the details to the wedding and assessing whether or not you are fit to be wedded to their kin. Even though fifty percent of us will never be mature enough to treat a woman how she’d like to be treated, one hundred percent of them will swear up and down that you are ready and that they see a lot of potential in you.
A week before the big day, your future bride will come crying to you, saying that everything won’t be ready in time and/or she is not ready to be married. While the latter is likely the most sane thing she’s said in the past six months, you will take it upon yourself to calm her down, (likely trying to get sex from her in the process too since you’ve not seen her very much lately).
I barely remember a thing from the summer of ’78. I remember getting promoted, my own store – that was a really big deal. My direct supervisor was called a Regional Manager. His boss was a District Supervisor. Normally the DS had authority for store assignments but I was only 20 and so he had to get a vice president’s approval. Some dude flew out from California, sat and talked with me for an hour and I guess I satisfied him because later that night I got a phone call from Larry, (the RM), telling me I was in. That was when he informed me they had a younger 20 year old out in California with his own store, making me the second youngest in the country. It didn’t mean much to me then, those words, but today I can see the significance. Store Managers back then had much more responsibility and power than today. They had full charge over payroll, hiring and firing, procurement, bank deposits, safeguarding of deposits, petty cash and the store’s assets. Putting a 20 year old in charge of all of that sounds scary to me today.
The other thing that sticks out for me from that summer is that it was ‘the summer of Brown Mom’. Brown Mom was the nickname given to Kim’s grandma on her mom’s side. She was living in California at the time, was attractive and yes, she was brown from the sun. Every family has a character, someone with their own ‘eccentricities’. Brown Mom was very outgoing, outspoken and relatively wealthy. One of her favorite sports was hide and seek; she’d hide things she liked in her big purse, things such as fancy salt shakers from a restaurant. If an employee from the restaurant didn’t ‘seek’, it was hers.
Both have seen a lot of action over the past 38 years (note both made in USA too)
Brown Mom was generous too. She did quite a lot for Kim and the wedding. She bought a beautiful dress that ended up seeing several weddings. She also bought us a number of doodads and articles for our first apartment. We arranged our first apartment when we got very close to the wedding date, (but never ‘lived together’ beforehand – there was no need). To this date, we still have a few of these useful kitchen doodads. Offhand, I can think of an ice cream scooper, you know, the kind with the liquid swishing around inside of it? That baby has gotten a lot of use over these past 38 years, (‘someone’ here eats a lot of ice cream). Another useful item is a big copper jar opener. That thing opens when all else fails. I associate memories with items so I still think of Kim’s grandma whenever we use the jar opener or ice cream dipper.
October was quickly approaching. A couple of weeks before the big date, Kim and I met with the church reverend who was going to do the official knot tying. His name was Reverend Paulson, a soft spoken, gentle and kind man who preached at the church Kim attended when she was younger. In addition to performing a dry run a week before the big date, he had us meet with him in private. I don’t recall the full content of that meeting but my general recollection is one of kindness; his wanting to provide marital guidance and advice. I felt awkward at first, but walked away feeling good – he was a genuine, thoughtful and kind man.
Please, no Napoleon Dynamite jokes
The big day was almost 38 years ago. It’s a bit of a blur now, we were twenty year old babies. I remember seeing my girlfriend walking down the aisle, already in tears. I remember the gentle feel and tone of the reverend’s ceremony. I remember crying from joy myself. I remember walking arm and arm down the aisle, now husband and wife. I remember opening the car door of my Camaro for my wife and driving across the river to the reception.
Kim was still in nursing school so the honeymoon didn’t occur until the following summer. So that night after the reception we went back for our first night together at our apartment. We were both so exhausted that neither of us were awake enough for a marriage night ‘marital bliss’. We went to bed, promising each other an early wake up call. As it turned out, our wake up call came at two in the morning. A slightly inebriated friend of Kim’s mom called to ask us how our kitty was. (Oh yeah, I had gotten a beautiful Himalayan kitten for Kim – “Precious”). I answered the phone, (land line, no cell phones and no texting back then). I remember the call as if it was yesterday:
LTD (her nickname) – How’s the kitty?
Me – what, huh? (very groggy)
LTD – how’s Precious, how’s your kitty?
Me – you’re drunk and we’re in bed, trying to sleep….goodbye LTD.
LTD – good night
Huh, now I’m awake. What should I do? (This is the PG, use your imagination time).
We were only 20 years old, I repeat, only twenty years old. What chance of making it together for a lifetime do twenty year olds have? Huh, I guess you’ll just have to keep on checking in with me to find out.
She’s my genie in a bottle
All of our young lives we search for someone to love. Someone that makes us complete. We choose partners and change partners. We dance to a song of heartbreak and hope. All the while wondering if somewhere, somehow, there’s someone perfect who might be searching for us.
– The Wonder Years