In the fall of my junior year, I remember waking up one morning and my step mom handing me a trash bag and telling me I had been left a delightful gift I would get to clean up in my front yard. I walked out to a yard full of fluffy, drippy, wet toilet paper. I had been toilet papered which back in the day meant that you had an admirer. I smiled the whole time I cleaned up that toilet paper knowing there was someone on the other end of that prank that thought of me.
I made my way back in and the phone rang and I remember running to it hoping it was my friend, so I could tell her my good news. As I picked up the receiver the person on the other end proclaimed to be from our local radio station and told me I won a contest for the hottest legs in Indiana. I literally felt like I had won the lottery with all of this attention suddenly.
I was a gangling 16 year old junior who was obsessed with softball. I had barely dated and if I did it was off and on. A date once with a super cute guy who ended up drooling the whole night because of a new retainer. Or there was the boy who talked up an amazing date he was gonna take me on that ended up bringing to his church to convert me to a new religion. And yes let’s not forget the guy who asked me to prom when I was a sophomore, only to find out no junior in his actual class would go with him. So, I pushed the caller for info on who they were because I knew at this point I didn’t win a contest and it was likely the toilet paper bandit. I asked, “Where you the one who toilet papered my house?” The phone slammed down.
I went back to my room and sat on my bed looking out of the window. I felt happy with this attention and suddenly after I had been laying there awhile I hear this loud truck rev by outside my window cruising down my cul-de-sac. I peek out and I see an red, old, almost rusted out Ford truck. I see him driving it, the him who two years later would be a part of one of my biggest lessons on love…loving yourself. But I knew who it was and that truck ended up being the center of just about every memory I had for the next two years.
The other day as I was driving through town I spotted what appeared to be the exact same truck parked at an angle in front of a building. The same way that boy always parked his truck, so no one would scratch it (as if you would actually notice). He loved that truck…he loved it almost as much as he loved me. I went on my first real date in that truck, had my first real kiss in that truck. I remember hopping into that truck thousands of times and sliding all the way over and holding on tight like our tiny world could easily collapse around us and eventually it did.
The first fight and the many that followed were in that truck where we fought about dumb things like did I stare at another boy too long and or should he join the military and what that meant for us. There was the one time he packed up a blanket and a picnic basket and took me to field to have a picnic under the stars, or the time he pulled his truck into his garage and turned the old static radio up with the loudest country music I had ever heard and we danced for hours. Our date to the drive in theater to watch the Lion King while we laid in the bed of the of truck and listened to the drag cars at IRP in Speedway. Something that only those from Speedway would understand. The loud screeching tires set against the backdrop of the stuck in the 50’s drive in. We dreamed that night of our future and made plans. The clueless plans of two teenagers in love with the idea of love and not at all realizing the mistakes they were making.
I remember the feeling of having one person being your whole world, so much I didn’t really see that I needed my own dreams. I had not one dream except for him. My dream was to always be that girl sliding in next to him in that rusty old truck. He couldn’t see me as anything more and neither could I.
Reality struck as adulthood came bearing down on us. His path visibly pulling from my own, but I foolishly followed that path because that is what young in love teenagers do. I liked hearing that old red truck rev up outside my bedroom window and knowing he was out there waiting on me or the doughnuts we would do in my cul-de-sac when there were snow covered roads. The good times were good, but the bad times were plentiful.
We loved hard, but we fought even harder in what I can only describe as my inner true self fighting to come out and be who I was really meant to be. Something inside of me screaming to go another direction. I figured out I was 18 and somehow managed to let two years of my life get taken over by a boy who had a dream that didn’t really include me.
The actual moment we both fought was one we kept putting off, the reality that our dreams took us two very different places and what eventually happened was an ugly goodbye and a breakup I never thought I would recover from. But I did and that broken heart taught me so much about love and life and myself. What I did and didn’t want from a partner in life and truthfully it prepared me for my one true love. A love grounded on more than teenage whimsy in an old red and rusty Ford truck.
Thankfully, that love is one 19 years in the making with more whimsy, romance and love of one another and self than anything I could have ever imagined backed then. I suppose that is why we have teenage relationships and first loves. To learn who we are and who we are meant to be. Sure middle of the night puke sessions with your kids, grief and loss, paying bills, brain surgery and just living life isn’t all that romantic. But inside all of that mundane I became who I was meant to be and so did my guy. Ultimately, that heartbreak lead me to someone who loves me in spite of and because of who I truly am and in my experience in this life that is so rare and hard to find.
Now my love doesn’t drive a rusty old beat up truck and come screeching outside my bedroom window. But he climbs into bed with me every night and gets up every morning ready to face the day with me again. We make that choice every single day. Sometimes life is unbearably hard and cruel, but somehow we manage it trials together. Even better we laugh along the way. So thank you to my first love for letting me go, so I could experience true love. First the true love of myself and then loving myself enough to love someone else. In fact, that love is enough for four other someone elses and for that I am grateful.
Love wins, you just have to let it. Even the love of the self. <3, MR