Watching the kid get married

Reblogging this because it’s one of my favorites…

I met Ginny when she was 12. I was exactly 10 years and 9 days older. She had long brown hair and lived in a stack of bricks that functioned as government housing in the middle of Kansas. I’d moved to town a few months ago for my first job as a newspaper reporter and was looking for a friend.

There she was, in a pile of applications to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

She’d barely smiled for the Polaroid. Her questionnaire answers were bizarre, irreverent, winking at this entire match-making process. The only truth in the paperwork was that she liked to read and write. This was a strange kid. I couldn’t wait to meet her.

We went to Pizza Hut that first night. She wanted pepperoni, I think. Maybe I made that decision. She barely said a word, just stared at me from across the booth. She ate shyly, chewing behind a napkin. I asked her a bunch of questions, and the answer was almost always a shrug. She looked at my work pants and my thick black pea coat and determined that I was a boring grown-up who talked too much.

I drove home that night feeling old, wondering if I’d made a mistake.

But then my phone started ringing. She called constantly. I didn’t answer nearly enough. We met once a week to eat and talk and make up stupid songs. I showed her the newspaper office. She showed me her school. We drove around Hutchinson and recorded video of a stuffed animal attempting to interview road kill. We went to a Big Brothers Halloween party dressed as ourselves, claiming that our names were Thor Thumb and Tom Thumb — inspiration for our future blog — and that we built machines that made press-on nails from chewed up real fingernails.

To the outside world, we were a strange duo, I’m sure, our relationship not immediately obvious, our differences on full display. She didn’t feel comfortable in the restaurants I’d drag her to, I never understood her fascination with snake-filled rivers. I wore dresses; she preferred pajama pants. I never behaved in public; she was as reserved as someone 10 years older.

I left Kansas, left Ginny, after just two years. I moved to Michigan, and then to Ohio, and our communication fell to email and text messages. Life was no longer about rivers and Halloween parties. We shared our stories of falling in love and getting crushed by it. I confessed my part in a devastating relationship; she admitted when she stopped going to high school. We both struggled, she more than I, sometimes going months without letting on just how bad things were.

We started getting together again, nearly every year. Ginny could drive long distances on seemingly no sleep, and she came to visit me once in Minnesota and three times in Cincinnati.

Two years ago, she brought Wayne. He was a tall, shy guy with a head and face full of hair. I liked the way he looked at her. I liked the way she talked to him. There was a mature respect between the two of them, something I, 10 years older, had never experienced in a relationship.

I wasn’t surprised by the text message I got nearly two years later. She asked me not to freak out. She wanted to know whether I’d come to her wedding.

Two days ago, nearly 10 years since we’d met, Ginny put on a dress and let me do her makeup.

Kid, I never would have missed this.

(Original post date: Aug. 22, 2011)

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6 thoughts on “Watching the kid get married

  1. I love this! A former co-worker shared this as it made him think of our agency. I love the stories of BBBS friendships formed and the lasting relationships over time. What a BIG impact you had on her! Thank you for sharing your story!

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