That sign hangs in our center-hall stairway, surrounded by years of family portraits, illustrating how our little family has grown.
Our small series of stories begins in the mid-term of my first year in college. I firmly decided that I hated accounting, so I dropped out and went to work full-time as an automobile mechanic. The war in Vietnam was escalating and my draft status would soon become 1A, if I couldn’t maintain my student deferment. I signed up for a few night courses and planned to change my major to Automotive Technology in the fall, when my new draft status would take affect. There was no way to imagine how my life would change in the following year.
September arrived quickly and I found myself working part time and back in school with a full schedule. As Providence would have it, I was walking through the Student Union main hallway with my best friend from high school, Mike. We spied a group of girls sitting alongside the gymnasium doors on a long bench. All but one were brunette or dark haired. Mike acknowledged them, so I turned to him and asked “Who are they?” He said that those were girls from Amsterdam who had an apartment in downtown Troy. “Do you know the blonde’s name?”, I said. He told me that her name was Olga. I glanced her way and caught a brief smile. Probably not directed at me, but one could always hope.
“My eyes adored you, though I never laid a hand on you, my eyes adored you”.
Pass the ice cubes.
A few weeks passed and I found myself invited to a party at the Amsterdam girls’ apartment. About a dozen of us were sitting in a circle of folding chairs, surrounding the small living room. Someone had concocted some sort of potent alcohol mixture in a fruit jar and we were passing it around, each person taking a jolt as it went by. (I know what you’re thinking. Look, it was the sixties and we were a bunch of college students. Give me a break here so I can tell you the story.) Anyway, back to the events. The jar came my way as my pal, Bruce, was bantering with me from across the room about something. The fun-loving guy that I am, decided to reach into the jar and grab an ice cube. I flung it toward Bruce, who was clear across the room. He ducked and the ice hit the cute blond from the Student Union, square over the left eye. By the time we stopped laughing and I made my way through the group, her forehead began to swell. The bump looked like something out of a cartoon as it suddenly ballooned to the size and shape of a Charlie’s hotdog. My Boy Scout training flooded back and with all the chivalry I could muster, suggested that maybe it would be a good idea to put some ice on it. We headed into the bathroom where we used more of the ice, wrapped in a washcloth, to stem the swelling. As she sat there on the edge of the tub with her hands cupped, holding the compress to her head and me comfortable posed on the closed toilet seat, it occurred to me that this would be the perfect time to ask for a date. I thought to myself, How could she refuse me after such a demonstration of care and resourceful first aid skills? Well, with a nice smile and gentle voice, she turned me down. Months later, she confessed what she was really thinking. Nope, I’m not going to tell you. Suffice it to say it wasn’t really complimentary.
Anyway, I persisted and a few days after the “ice cube incident”. I wore her down. She decided to take a chance on me, for at least one evening.
The special night arrived for that all-important first date where it would be only the two of us together. We both wanted to make a good first impression, particularly me, after making a fool of myself with what was now the infamous “ice cube incident”. It was an unusually cold evening for early November when I arrived at the downtown apartment to pick up the blonde, hoping the bump on her head had healed fully by now. I was greeted at the door by her roommates and noticed some giggling in the background. No doubt the events of the party had been the topic of girl-talk among her friends. Anyway, I was too nervous to pay much attention and saw little humor in my anxiety. She came out to greet me, wearing a brown dress she had bought for the occasion. Me? I probably had on a clean shirt.
After a few uneasy laughs with the girls, we headed out the door. Always the gentleman, I grabbed the passenger door and opened it so this beautiful young woman could climb into to my old Dodge with ease. Did I mention first impressions? Neither one of us saw the small patch of ice between the curb and the car. One step off the curb onto the slippery spot and she disappeared, halfway under the car, purse flying and arms flailing. And, me with no way to catch her quickly. I lifted her in that cute little brown dress from the ground and made sure all was in tact. Somewhat embarrassed but finding a little humor in it all, we were off for a quiet evening where we would begin to get to know each other.
Thanksgiving and Christmas were right around the corner and things would begin to move quickly.
And, that’s the beginning of our little story.