The Summer of 1988. I had finished up a 2nd year of Jr College. It was the bomb year in Rexburg Idaho. Go ahead and laugh. Those of you who know Rexburg are saying... how can anyone have "the bomb" kind of fun in Rexburg Idaho? Well I'm telling you, 2 of my favorite years on this earth were spent in Rexburg Idaho. Anyway I had been dating Travis all school year and had convinced him to go on a mission. It's one of those things you know is the right thing to do... right up until they do it, and then you wonder to yourself...
"why did I do that?"
Perhaps is was knowing he would be leaving for 2 years that made it such a great summer. We did some really fun and crazy things: Racing in the water fall fountains at the church office buildings. Rearranging the construction worker cones and barricades at construction sites at night. One night we jumped the fence at the beehive house and walked around looking in all the windows. That was eerie... because it was almost as if you could see the ghost of those who lived there peeking back at you. At one point we did see a shadow of a man cross one of the hallways to the room. You'd think that would be enough to scare us away. Nope, we just kept on peeping. It turned out to be a security guard who later creeped up behind us in the night and scared the crap out of us. He then gave us an official midnight tour. Later we found a small patio set up on the roof of one of the levels of the house and had a little picnic. That was a summer of college love and adventure.
The last evening we spent together we had gone to Liberty Park in SLC.
It was rather late but we wanted to squeak in those last few moments together, before he went home to Texas for a month. When he returned it would be with his Family: A father and mother who didn't like black people and weren't to crazy about him dating one. And he would have been set apart as a missionary. So it would be arms length and hand shakes when we saw each other again. I remember sort of walking hand and hand at the park, neither one of us saying much of anything. I think it was because if one of said anything we'd both break down and the goodbyes would then become real. We spread a blanket in the grass and had our little boom box. If nothing else the summer jams would fill the volume of the silence.
I sat there going through the passed year in my mind. He was a shy, quiet boy from Texas and I was a loud obnoxious girl from Michigan. I couldn't stand him when I first met him. He was put in my FHE group at Ricks and never said or did anything really. He was just there like a rug or end table or fly on the wall or something. One day I decided if he was going to be in our group he needed to liven up some. So I made him my project. I would do things just to get a response from him. If I saw him walking across the court yard I'd yell at the top of my lungs....
" Hey Travis, ya big stud! Come over here and gimme a sample of that Texas lovin!"
I'd crack myself up as he'd just blush and hurry along his way. After a couple of weeks of that he started to respond. I mean he responded in ways that left me jack-jawed and bug-eyed. Within about a month, Travis was like a suprize package waiting for me to open each day. Eventually we were always together. In our apt complex directory we were voted most unlikely couple: A loud black girl from Michigan and a quiet white boy from Texas who's parent didn't like blacks and grandparents didn't like blacks or Mormons. We didn't care, obviously. To everyone else he was still a quiet guy. But I knew better and it was fun.
I went over each detail of the year as to what brought us to this point. I thought it was funny how quiet we both were. We just sat on the blanket, side by side. Not looking at each other, not touching each other, not speaking to each other. I was sad. I knew things would never be the same. I knew he or myself would never be the same either. I wanted to memorize those last couple of hours before the world would make the needed permanent changes that go along with growing older and taking different directions.
Then it happened. Richard Max came on the radio:
Time was all we had until the day we said goodbye
I remember every moment of those endless summer nights.
How fitting. I looked over at Travis and he was choking back his emotions. I slipped my hand in his and he covered it with both of his and started playing with my fingers. I started to chew my lip as I do when I get emotional. He slipped an arm around my back and I laid my head on his shoulder and just breathed him in. He had worn my favorite cologne at the time: Polo and had a faint scent of Irish spring . I couldn't tell you how long we sat there not really saying much, just feeling each others thoughts and emotions. We didn't speak but we were in sync and not willing to break the atmosphere until the last possible moment.
When the moment finally came to say that last goodbye we had decided we were more concerned about losing the friendship then losing a boyfriend or a girlfriend and that we would each do what was needed for him to have a successful mission. He thanked me for getting him to this point. He said he never planned on a mission until he met me. And he thanked me for encouraging him to take that path instead of many others. He held me close. I finally couldn't take it I broke the hug. He was always telling me I broke away from our hugs first all the time. I had to this time while I still could. We got up, packed up our blanket and headed back to the car. I drove him back to his place. He kissed me one last time. Soft and long and deep. Brushed my tears away with his thumb. Whispered "I love you kare-baby." As he walked into the house, he became "Elder." to me...
Time was all we had until the day we said goodbye.
The Summers of 1993 & 94. My daughter, sister and I were living in Provo, Utah. We had been assigned Brothers Steve and Warren Jones as home teachers. It was Craziness from their first visit. They were assigned to us the fall of 1992. I don't know how we got on the subject but we got to talking about Pork and Beans. Why do they call it pork and beans when there's just beans and a one inch scrap of fat in the beans? Was that the pork?And why do they have the nerve to put the word PORK on the label first, as if it's the ingredient there's most of? We laughed about stuff like that for hours.
Their 2nd visit was around my birthday. They walked in with a 20lb restaurant size can of Pork and Beans for my birthday present! The label had been adjusted to say.. "Scrap of fat and beans!" This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, I could tell.
By the next summer Warren and I were inseparable. We would remain that way until he would go to Washington DC for an internship a year later.. For some odd reason we became very popular in our ward. He and I would plan dinners and outing and it would literally end up being a ward activity. It got so crazy that the bishopric had asked to come to our outings and they would bring their families along. We had camp outs, trips to lagoon, the zoo and so on. ,We had made up nick names for each other: Since we laughed alot about Eddy Murphy playing Buckwheat on Saturday Night Live singing "nookin' pa nubb in all da wong paces" I called him Nook, he called me Nubb. We were both on the ward softball team, he in left field and I in center field. The two lefties. We hung out together on a daily basis. We both loved to cook so we were often in his kitchen or mine some portion of every day or evening. We were both interested in being cops and secret service personnel. We even made up code that he and I would only understand. Eventually he would be a cop AND is now in the secret service. Of course when he shares with me his adventures it's followed by... "you can't let this out of the bag, or I'll have to kill you."
A typical day would go as follows:
I'd receive a phone call about 10:am, It would be Warren...
" Just calling to check in, and see what's on the docket for later. Talk to you soon."
We'd go throughout our business of the day and then I'd receive a 2nd phone call that would say...
" Hey! Movie starts in 45 minutes, I've got tickets and will pick you up in 20!"
" Hey, I got a raw chicken, some onion and peppers. I don't know what to do with this thing, but I'll make some rice and you take care of the bird and we'll call it dinner!"
At least once a month I'd hear...
" We're doing a session at the temple 6 be ready!"
We would find new and exciting ways to exterminate the box elder bugs in his house, dig up dandelions roots in his yard with screwdrivers and spoons, lay sod, wash cars, pull up tree stumps, and he'd tell me the most fabulous stories about he and his brothers growing up in the different embassies around the world.
His family and my family loved the M*A*S*H series. I came on every night at about 10:pm. We each knew the other was watching so the first one to call the other with the favorite tag line of the show was the winner! If you were at my apt 10:pm at night and Warren was calling, you'd here me answer the phone screaming something like... "THE WIND JUST BROKE HIS LEG!" and fall out laughing! We'd then watch the show together via the phone with our famous commentations. We were closet Barry Manilow and Karen Carpenter fans. They both sing those old sappy heartbroken love songs perfect for a bad day. (yeah we went to see Barry Manilow when he was in town.) If he were having a bad day, he'd call and leave this simple message "Karen Carpenter" That was my que to pick up a half gallon of Mint choc chip ice cream, our favorite, and 2 spoons and rush over that night. My code for having a bad day was "Barry Manilow" and he'd do the same for me. His brother Steve was just as awesome. He was quiet but man was he HILARIOUS. I'd find out month after my birthday it was his idea to get the infamous can of beans that we passed around for years. It would show up as birthday and Christmas gifts, side dishes for dinners, camp outs, and even wedding gifts... Today, if one of us got an anonymous can of beanies & weenies in the mail, we'd know who it was from.
As the summer of 93 was rolling to an end, we had just finished dinner at his house. Ali had fallen asleep on the couch (she was only 3 years old and uncle warren had read her a story and she had fallen asleep on his couch.) I was sittin on the back steps to the porch watching meteors shoot through the sky. He turned off the porch light so I could see them better and sat next to me. We sat there shoulder to shoulder. And watched the Meteor showers together joking and laughing the way we do.
He sort of nudged me and said...
"you know, you have made this one of the best summers ever!"
I sort of elbowed him back and said..."It's all in the beans, man! All in the beans!"
We sat their laughing the rest of the night. So fitting for he and I. A year later before he left for an internship in Washington DC, He and I were asked to speak in sacrament together on what would be his last Sunday in that ward. I would speak first, he would speak last and we'd "end this thing early (our ward was notorious for EASILY going over 10-15 minutes.)
According to plan, when Brother Jones ended his talk, we had 10 minutes to spare. He returned to his seat next to me, looked at the clock and said..
."Damn! We're good!."
We did "our" hand shake and waited for the Bishop to "end this thing early."
We spent that night packing his car to go to Washington D.C. It was difficult. We had literally been together everyday for over a year and a half. We were best of friends and there were sparks that neither one of us acted upon until a couple years later. I'm a big chicken when it comes to acting on sparks. Yeah I know I talk smack about alot of stuff but matters of the heart is a whole new game. That night he and I sitting on the steps of his back porch as we had done some many times before, sipping down his homemade milk shakes listening to the stereo.
An older song of Richard Marx filled the air:
Hold On to the Night
Hold On to the Memory...
Warren slipped his arm around my shoulders and said what we were both thinking
"How and I supposed do every day without you?"
My mind flooded back to a few years earlier with with Travis and I sitting at Liberty Park. I wondered how come every time I have some sort of Goodbye with someone I care about Richard Marx shows up?
Wanting to keep the mood light, I took a sip on my shake looked at him and said..."don't worry, it'll be like you've never left." Little did he know at that time there was a 20 lb can of "scrap of fat and beans' hidden under all the luggage in the back seat of his car.
This summer, 2007 is already burning those same types of memories into my mind.
"And I remember every moment of those endless summer nights..."