Good Morning, Stranger

17 Jul

It’s funny how little things make a huge difference. One tiny circle can be the difference between one hundred and a thousand. One tiny straw broke the camel’s back. One wee little pea kept a princess awake all night.

And, in our house last night, one moment meant the difference between normal and totally bizarre.

Don’t worry, we’re all fine…it’s just that…my husband shaved off his beard.

At our wedding rehearsal…we got married at the camp where we met.

I’ve known my husband, The Sailboat King, for 18 years, almost exactly. We met at the end of summer, 1994, when he came up to a College and Career retreat at the Bible camp where I worked and where he spent parts of every summer as a kid. Lots of my friends were excited that he was coming – they’d grown up with him and they liked him. I remember one friend dragging me over to the dining hall because she wanted to say “hi” to him. I couldn’t care less, but I followed along. I can’t remember if she introduced us, but I do remember that he and his pals were being crazy and loud (an indicator of things to come) and I was eager to get out of there as quickly as I could.

Two days later, when packing up for the journey home, an hour away, the guy I was hitching a ride with told me, “I’m going to go with S, M, and C out on S’s parent’s pontoon boat, wanna come?” Well, as I had no other ride, the obvious answer was, “Yes,” despite the fact that my sister and her family had arrived that afternoon at my parent’s and I hadn’t seen them in like three years.

I had one distinct thought as I sat on the boat, watching three grown boys tubing in the water and having a fantastic time: “I can’t believe how obnoxious these people are.”

I’m pretty sure this is from that summer we met.

Six months later, I was sitting down with the camp director looking at applications for camp staff for the upcoming summer. He mentioned The Sailboat King’s name and I had to ask him who he was talking about. He told me, and images of an afternoon spent on S’s boat came to mind and I think I literally cringed. Ten minutes later I had to be reminded of his name yet again when we were discussing the available maintenance position. My one comment about him, “He’s kind of obnoxious, isn’t he?”

A few months later I shook his hand as I walked past him, on my way to ring the bell on our first day of staff training. “Glad to have you with us,” I said, weirdly and officiously.

He still teases me about that.

The two of us…somewhere around the time of this story!

So, the summer progressed. I remember wondering why he joined us for our Fourth of July party at someone’s house. Even though he’d been invited, it seemed funny because his best friend hadn’t been able to join us. Why would he bother to come? I mean, we’re his friends…but he doesn’t usually hang out with us! I enjoyed him, though. Discovered that there was more to him than most obnoxious twenty-one year-olds.

We started to talk more after that and I began to revise my opinions of him.

We went canoeing a couple times. Ate lunch at the same table. And then, after I’d been sick one week and feeling pretty awful, I stumbled out on the last day of camp, took down the flag from the flag pole, and brought it to the drawer where we kept it, folded nicely in its triangle of red, white and blue.

I opened the drawer. And found a bouquet of roses.

“Whose roses are these and why are they in my drawer?” I asked out loud, and, looking up, discovered that many of my friends were standing around – comrades in some secret scheme – watching me, even photographing this momentous occasion.

“They’re yours, dummy,” one supportive friend replied.

And, sure enough, The Sailboat King had gotten me roses.

I continued to revise my opinions of said King.

The actual, scanned photo from The Moment in Time when I knew…he likes me!

A few months later, engaged and madly in love, I asked him to shave off his beard, just so I could see what he looked like without it.

He agreed.

The first words out of my mouth when he emerged from the shaving?

“Okay. You can grow it back, now.”

The drastic event…one small moment in time.

Nearly 16 years of marriage later, he has once again shaved if off. But this time he did it for someone else. My dearest Sailboat King is playing Harold Hill in our local community theater production of The Music Man and our director – I say “our” because our entire family is in the musical – has asked him to shave so he can see which version of “Harold” he likes best.

I like the bearded version best.

The clean-shaven version stresses me out. It’s like waking up beside a stranger. Like kissing sandpaper…because, of course, his beard is already growing back.

Which means my stress is temporary.

Which is nice.

A facebook friend told me I should just enjoy it. Go with it. Have fun with this stranger.

The truth, of course, is that he’s still my Sailboat King, shave or no shave. He still makes me smile even when I’m cross and he still gets my heart beating faster with a single glance.

And that’s good.

So long as it doesn’t lead to a heart attack or something.

The truth is, after 15 years and 11 months of marriage, I love him so much more than I did that day I found my roses. And he, I am thrilled to say, loves me, too.

And puts up with my imperfections

Which are myriad.

Beard or no beard, there’s no one else I’d rather wake up with.

Before. He’d been working the beard down over the past few days…to make it less drastic. It still was.

A look that says it all.


19 Responses to “Good Morning, Stranger”

  1. hotlyspiced July 17, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    What a lovely story Gretchen. I love how you have images of those first moments where the life-long romance was beginning. Aren’t you glad now you gave him a second chance! And what a lovely gesture to buy you those roses! xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 18, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

      Yep, I’m glad I got to know him as more than the obnoxious guy! The roses were lovely, yes! He’s a good guy!

  2. Minnesota Prairie Roots July 17, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    What an endearing, lovely and romantic story, especially that part about the roses. You two were clearly meant to be.

    BTW, I tried to shove my husband, before he was my husband, off on my sister.

    As for the beard, I know exactly what you mean. In 30-plus years, I’ve only seen my husband once without a beard. I prefer the beard.

    I would not even have recognized The Sailboat King without his beard. I vote that he grow back the beard and keep it, just in case you’re keeping a tally.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 18, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

      🙂 It’s funny how the comments vary on that opinion! And hilarious that you tried to pawn off Randy. Hee hee! I know what you mean about not recognizing him – lots of people have said that!

  3. Kari Bukowski July 17, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    This definitely deserves an, “Oh, for cute!” stated in my best Minnesota accent! I know that guy – I knew that kid – I washed his brand new basketball jersey when he did a full-blown face plant out at camp and spilled red slushie all over himself. His biggest worry, once he realized he was not, indeed, bleeding or near death was that his mom was going to kill him! Loud, obnoxious…well, yeah, but one of the funniest people I have ever had the chance to meet and call a friend. When my husband officiated at your wedding, which I was also privileged to attend, I seem to recall this groom, drenched from head to toe as a result of S, M, and probably B tossing him into the lake, hoping aloud that he had purchased the requisite insurance when renting his tuxedo…fun, fond memories. Thanks for this walk down memory lane! Love the photos – wasn’t 80’s “big hair” a great fashion trend, too? 🙂

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

      Yes, loved the big hair…it comes naturally to me! Ha. I’m so glad that you and Tim were at the wedding/involved – so great. And yes, I’m thinking that a good anniversary post would be to get those “wet groom” photos on here…thanks for the reminder! Hee hee. Thanks so much for your comments – love the memories!

  4. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen July 17, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    What a lovely story, a drawer full of roses would win any girl’s heart! He must be one smart man, but then again, he chose you so I know he is xo

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 18, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      Ha! It was a good moment of his! Not that the roses have continued…but then, perhaps the moments when they do come are all that much better?! 🙂 No matter – bearded or not, roses or not – he’s a keeper!

  5. Jenny July 17, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    Isn’t it interesting how a beard becomes part of how someone looks. My husband also looks very odd without one. I agree, grow it back Sailboat King. Harold Hill can be bearded. Your voice will be just a good!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 18, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

      I’m afriad he’s doomed to have it off for the next month. Oh, well. I’m already getting used to it…good thing it grows in slowly or I’d be weirded out the other way, too!

  6. jcsservant July 17, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    It’s the small moments. The lunches at the same table, sharing worship together around a fire and roses in a drawer which, when put together, build a foundation for a love to last a lifetime. Thank you for sharing your life and your story. By the way, I live in a beardless house. However, put me on Team Furry!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 18, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      Hee hee! I think that places like camp are wonderful places to meet people and to get to know them – it was nice, too, that so many people knew him and could vouch for him! Yes, those lovely memories…fun to dig out from time to time!

  7. treadlemusic July 17, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    I, too, have a “fuzzy”DH and wouldn’t have it any other way (although, when he shaved his head it WAS a little/lot startling…, it’s HIM—–#2 son sports a short Mohawk, so such antics run in our family!!!!). Just adore the “how we met” stories and yours is storybook!!!! Blessings and hugs, Doreen

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 18, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

      It’s fun, that’s for sure. I think that a lot of Minnesotans are bearded – or, at least, more than in some parts of the country. I never thought that I’d marry a bearded guy…but it just worked out! 🙂

      • treadlemusic July 18, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

        Maybe it’s a little “throw back” to when we each cuddled our fuzzy teddy bears! LOL!

  8. whatimeant2say July 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Great post! I love that story of how you met. I wish mine was that interesting! Love the photos, too.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      OH, thanks. I think that every story is interesting – no matter how run of the mill. It’s the mystery of how love fit into the story that makes it great!

  9. gardenfreshtomatoes July 18, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    Wonderful, wonderful story…you’re a lucky lady.
    My ex has had a beard forever…I don’t think our kids have any memory of him without it.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

      For some reason your comments made me think of another story: My dad grew a mustache in 1976 for the bicentennial celebration in our town – everyone without one (or a beard) was fined at the fourth of July parade! Fun times. But after that he shaved it off – Air Force regulations!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: