It was 22 years ago TODAY, on Thursday, December 14, 1989 that two lives changed forever in the hallowed halls of JN Burnett Junior Secondary School in Richmond. That was the day a scrawny, immature, goofy-haired boy asked a beautiful, humble, quiet girl to go to that night’s school dance with him. Thankfully for both of them, she said yes. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s amazing to think it’s been 22 years already. Gail is still beautiful, while I am still immature. Gail is still humble, while I am certainly not scrawny. And I guess the jury is still out on my haircut. But at least I’ve gotten rid of the curls and the lines.
Although I have the more “public persona” of the two of us and it seems that I’ve never met a spotlight I didn’t like, I’m not afraid to admit that Gail wears the pants in the family. And the shirt. Also the socks, shoes and underwear. Not that I don’t wear underwear. But I digress.
I know that I’m blessed. Gail was born to be a mother and wife: she is amazing with our kids and with me. She is patient, caring, and wise. She is rarely rattled and she loves all of us unconditionally. She humbly stands behind me and supports me as I seek out speaking engagements, make videos to post on YouTube, tweet about our lives, update my Facebook status, and play around with my website. She is the consummate encourager, advocate and cheerleader.
So it would be natural to presume (not assume…because we know that that does) that back in the day I was the one who liked Gail first; that I noticed her before she noticed me. After all, according to my quick and very unscientific poll on Facebook, it’s usually the guy who likes the girl first (the poll results were slanted towards the guys by a 2 to 1 ratio). And according to my friend Megan, girls like to be “chased” and not be the “chasers”…all in a non-stalking and legal way of course. She also advised me that some females, even if they know that they were indeed attracted to the guy first, might not admit it as easily as a guy would if it were the other way around. I would tend to agree.
Actually, ideally both guys and girls would be chaste. See what I did there? But once again, I digress
Back to the story. Believe it or not, it was Gail who was attracted to me first. And it wasn’t because she lost a bet or a dare! Apparently, Gail first really “noticed” me in late October 1989 on a day where we were setting up for the school’s Hallowe’en dance. A bunch of us were decorating the school gym a few hours prior to the dance. I was trying to affix some decorations over a doorway and doing so without a ladder. So there I was, jumping up and down trying to exert the most out of my rather small body. Who knows…back then I was a decent athlete (remember…this was 22 years ago) so perhaps she was impressed by my technique. Or my vertical. Or my ability to land without falling. Regardless, for Gail it was love at first jump.
The school dance was just a couple of weeks after we had our first actual conversation. It was at the school’s fall concert at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre where I initiated contact with her. Admittedly, I didn’t know who Gail was at the time, but as our respective choirs were getting ready to perform, I passed by her on my way to the restroom. While hurriedly rushing to take care of business, I asked her “Are you nervous?” I can’t remember what she answered as I myself was too nervous…that I wouldn’t make it to the restroom on time.
Fast forward now past the Hallowe’en Dance to December. In the few weeks leading up to Christmas, we held our annual Canned Food Drive and in my role as Student Council President, I would be in the school office every morning receiving cans from the Class Reps, who collected cans from their entire class. Gail, as a Class Rep, would bring a can of food every single day, even if no one else in her class did, just so she could come down to the office to drop it off (and of course, see me in the process). Meanwhile, I (in my think-I’m-cool phase) didn’t really notice her.
Around the same time, our school began casting for its Spring Musical called “Lumberjacks and Weddingbelles”. I was originally paired with my ex-girlfriend Elaine while my best bud Javier was paired up with Gail. Then, for whatever reason, at the last minute the drama teacher decided to switch the pairings and have Gail and I go together. We hit it off quite well, even though I thought she was a refugee from the Philippines who couldn’t speak English. As the rehearsal days went on, I started to find myself becoming attracted to her, regardless of her citizenship status. Turns out she was attracted to me as well. Then, after one of our hoedown dances, the music stopped but Gail and I still held onto each other’s hand. A few people nearby started whispering and giggling. When Gail asked why, I told her they were laughing at my haircut. Which in hindsight may have been true.
After a couple of weeks of musical practices and canned food encounters, on December 14 I asked Gail to go to the Christmas Dance with me later that evening. On our first night as a couple I didn’t kiss Gail, rather I ended up getting kissed by another girl. Carrie, a fellow member of the Student Council, was running around with her own mistletoe. So while Gail and I were talking during my shift in the concession stand, Carrie ran up to me, held the mistletoe above my head, and planted a kiss firmly on my face…right in front of Gail! I don’t think Carrie knew that I had a new girlfriend…at least I hope she didn’t. I’m thankful Gail didn’t go all Bruce Lee on Carrie. Actually…that would have been kind of cool.
The night concluded without any further kisses from Carrie or anyone else. And the next day began with JN Burnett being home to a brand new couple.
22 years later, we have three wonderful children, jobs that we love, family and friends that we cherish, our health, a place to stay and food to eat, and a God that continues to amaze us and bless us every day. We know that He placed us in each other’s lives as part of His master plan.
The plan included that fateful day in October 1989 when Gail noticed me jumping. And just two months later, she took a leap of faith of her own by saying yes to the scrawny, immature, goofy-haired boy.