With the turning of the year one always falls into reverie. Forty-four years ago today I went home from my job as a Customer Service Rep for Emery Airfreight at Chicago's O'Hare Field ready for an evening of celebration.
It had been a day like most others since I'd hired on with Emery at the end of November. The weather was cold and wet, and I was used to the dry heat of Phoenix. But youth and the excitement of being in my very own apartment blunted any worries about the weather.
It was raining, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. I worked the "afternoon" shift, in others to work at 6:30 am and home at 2:30 in the afternoon. It was a great shift, which left lots of time for shopping (though I had little money).
My roommate Mary worked evenings, 2:30 - 10:30, and by now I've forgotten what our plans were. But somehow I ended up being driven to a party given by a bunch of girls at work by a girl named Geri, who had already been at the booze in a big way and played chicken with 18 wheelers all the way down the freeway. The road was one sheet of ice. I have always driven like an old woman and I was absolutely terrified.
When we arrived at the party the music was loud, the booze was flowing freely and people were yelling what passed for conversation, dancing, making out, or trying to puke quietly in one of the two bathrooms. I'd been a rather reserved and sheltered teenager and didn't drink, make out or puke unless I had the flu. Someone handed me something brown in a glass - it smelled like my uncle who drank. I sipped it and tried not to gag. Who wants to look uncool at 19?
The party got louder and wilder as the night went on. Couples began disappearing into the six bedrooms, and I had to fend off several amorous young men who'd had a snootful and were obnoxious and distinctly sweaty.
Geri was even drunker than she'd been on the way to the party, and was talking about how she was going to "drive right up underneath" one of those big semi-trailers in her little car.
I could see that Judy, one of the girls I'd stayed with when I first arrived in Chicago, and her friend Jinny, were getting ready to leave. I knew Judy was not a drinker, so I threw myself on her mercy.
"Take me with you, even if you just drop me off at home," I pleaded. "I'm scared to death to ride home with Geri."
Judy hesitated. "We're going to another party," she said. "But it's at Puffer's house, so I don't expect he'll mind one more. But Jinny and I both have blind dates waiting, and you'll be dateless." (Puffer was our nickname for one of the older guys who worked on the dock. He was married and had kids, and was considerably more settled then the crowd around us.)
"I don't care," I assured her. "I don't need a date. I just want to get home alive!"
So that's how I got to Puffer's New Year's party, Dec 31 1964.
We walked in the door and Judy and Jinny saw their dates waiting. But Judy also saw that her friend Art, a pilot from work was there, and had no girl on his arm, so she said to me, "You take my date, I'm going to spend the evening with Art."
The two young men waiting couldn't have been more different. The one waiting fro Judy was tall and dark, with black hair and an olive complexion. Mmmmmmm, my favorite! The other one, Jinny's date, was short, plump, blond and wore thick glasses and a rumpled sweater.
Jinny took one look at the two guys and said, "I'm too tall for the short guy," and shoved me toward him. I was dismayed. "But I met him already at work, I whined to her, and he's rude!" but she had already grabbed Mr. Delicious and was off to the dance floor. I was left standing in front of Mr. Second Choice, who stuck out his hand and said, "I'm Tony from Canada."
He says he knew the minute we touched that we'd be together forever. It took me longer to realize that, and even then I can't say I was wildly in love, the way my teenage crushes had taken me. But over time I learned that this gentle, quiet man was the most honest, moral, kind and just plain good man I'd ever met. And in time I fell so deeply in love that I've never fallen out.
Forty-four years ago tonight I met the love of my life, and my only sorrow is that now we have less time together in the future than we've had in the past.