My mom sent me this picture the other day and I was totally surprised, for the first time in a while (not really I’ve been watching Downton Abbey) because I hadn’t seen this picture in a very long time, probably since it was taken. And I remembered very little about it. In fact, the only thing I remember about myself in this picture is that I found that purse (Baby’s first Coach) at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Branson, Missouri for $79 and I thought that was a steal! Therefore two things must be true: 1. I was still young and naive enough to think that spending $80 on a Coach purse made you an adult woman, nay, a cool adult woman and 2. I was definitely in my early 20s.
The more I looked at the picture though, the more the scope widened. Funny how pictures that take us by surprise on Thursday afternoons can do that, isn’t it? The more the scope widened, the more I resented the person that was in this photo. She was a total wanker. I mean, who wears a damn denim skirt? And what is that shirt even? I looks like it’s some type of half-hoodie? But I did have make-up on. A feat that is very, very difficult for me to accomplish now, on the backside of thirty. Then I realized, like we all do sometimes, I was focusing on the wrong things. I was selfishly focusing on me, and not the man standing next to me, and the moment that is, to my utter displeasure, captured in time.
You see, I was in my early twenties here. I can’t pinpoint exactly the year, but I can say, with certainty, that it was somewhere between 2004 and 2006, and come to think of it, maybe “early” twenties wasn’t right. Maybe I was exactly 25. Maybe he was too, and maybe this was our actual first step into real adulthood.
A year or so earlier we had fought about something in particular. The fact that I wanted Jerimiah to go back to school. I wanted him, in the least, to finish his associates degree, which we had both been working on at Kansas City Kansas Community College when we started dating. That date I am more clear on, St. Patrick’s Day, 2002. That wasn’t our first date, our first date had come a couple months prior, but we hadn’t really thought anything past the tip of our noses back then, so while we were standing on the corner of 42nd and Broadway, in Old Westport, we looked at each other and smiled the kind of smile that you know you will be giving that other person for a very long time. And so months later, we decided on that day as our “anniversary,” and it stuck.
Anyway, a couple years later we were living at his parent’s place, a resort they bought on Table Rock Lake down in Southern Missouri. He was working for them, and I was serving and bartending in Branson, and I looked at him one night and thought, “He’s wasting his damn time.” What’s funny is that it never occurred to me that I was doing the same thing. Here we were, frighteningly close to the end of our early twenties, not a college degree between the two of us, and although it was fun, sure, yeah, we were having fun, we were definitely stalled. So I suggested he apply at Ozark Technical Community College and finish up there. Maybe, maybe, then he could transfer to a four-year college. And oh hey, Missouri State was just up the road in Springfield.
He fought me at first. He was helping his parents out, after all, and he didn’t really know if college was for him. I had to remind him how smart he was. I had to remind him that WE had bigger dreams. Bigger than Southern Missouri, bigger than him working for his parents, bigger, I would suppose then living in wedlock and partying with friends on the weekends. So he applied. And a year later he was the Vice President of the student body. And a year after that, I think, this picture was taken.
This was, of course, the beginning of both of us committing to higher education. Which in a sense, has been us committing to ourselves, to each other, and to our child. To our futures. A year after he started at Ozark Technical Community College, I went back. Then he graduated, we got married, got pregnant, then he started at Missouri State University, and I, six months pregnant, transferred to Missouri State to once again follow this man, whom I knew was finally on the right path.
The next few years were a blur. In fact, having a baby your second year of college isn’t ideal, regardless of how old you are (I was 27). It’s just tough. But, it makes you a hell of a lot tougher, that much I know. We ran into a few snags along the way, we both took longer than we intended, him working full-time and going to school full-time. Me working part-time, having a baby, and going to school full-time. But we managed, and eventually we both graduated with honors from Missouri State. Jerimiah with a degree in finance and and me with a degree in English.
Years later, when Jackson started kindergarten and I was looking for a purpose in this here life, I applied to grad school and was accepted. I began that transition from “Jackson’s Mommy” to the woman I am now, whoever that is. That forced Jerimiah’s hand once again. Here I was, killin’ it in grad school (in my head), working again, and being a kick-ass Mommy. So he decided to go to grad school too, and wouldn’t you know that he graduates in one month with his terminal degree, an MBA. I don’t have my terminal degree, I only have an MA, so you know, I’m scouting schools now. Because that’s what we do, Jerimiah and I. We push each other to do better. We always have.
So, yeah, I don’t remember a lot about this particular picture. But the widening of the scope brings me back to memories I had stored away. I do remember those two kiddos. And believe me, we were kiddos in every sense of that non-sensical word. We were just two kids, crazy for each other, so much in fact that we pushed and we pushed, making the other one do more than they thought possible. And that’s the code we live by now. The force we have created in our relationship. We are heading into year 18 now, with brighter eyes than we’ve ever had. And more opportunity, more possibility, more love, more admiration, than this denim-skirt wearing, naive little girl ever thought. And for that I am thankful.
Cheers to you, my darling. To this day, to the first time you graduated, to the second time you graduated, and cheers to the next month, though it will be hard, it will be worth it. Onward and upward we row.