It has always amazed me at the thin threads that tie us to each other. How do we meet? How are our connections made? How is our existence even possible? My husband and I are one such example of “thin threads”.
Dear Hubby and I did not meet until my 11th year of high school. My greatest achievement was surviving life as the seventh of twelve children. I was not the most popular girl in my grade. I was not the most accomplished. Although I was a very good alto sax player, I did not have the panache of say, someone in the jazz band who could improvise instead of read sheet music. I consider myself intelligent, but I was not nearly the smartest kid in my class. Although I graduated in the top 10% of my class, I was put in my place on a regular basis by those with higher IQs. I had a set of friends – usually not in my grade, but that is another story. While not ugly, I was not beauty pageant material, like the flute player that had a budding career as a model. I did not even hang out with the girls who were chosen as homecoming queen wannabees. I just was not in the “in” group.
While I choose to gloss over the details, there were reasons for me to wait for the pay phone to come available during my lunch period. This fact alone dates me, as obviously today there would be no wait for a pay phone, as today’s cellular spoiled teenagers may not even know what a “pay phone” would be. They are all wondering “Why in the world would she wait for a phone? Just take it out of your pocket!” Anyway, I digress. I was waiting for the pay phone, which was unavailable because another girl refused to give it up. I sat down on the floor to wait. This happened several days in a row, and on the third day, as my buttocks were beginning to callous, “Alice” came and sat down next to me. I was surprised when she began talking to me, since Alice was one grade above me and one of the prettiest girls in school. Fortunately, she was not one of the stuck-up pretty girls, and thus began a most unexpected friendship.
Every day during lunch, we’d meet at the pay phone and see if one or both of us could use it. Every day during lunch, we’d talk. I discovered that her drafting class was next door to my English class, both of which were right after lunch. I took to extending our conversations as long as possible by walking her to her classroom, then walking next door to mine. This went on for a few weeks, and then one day I was at my floor level locker and heard Alice’s voice. Looking up, I saw her blonde hair, and then this big-shouldered, bright smile standing next to her. Alice introduced us, but I didn’t get the name of this really good-looking guy, so I nudged her with my elbow as we walked down the hall to his locker, and she re-introduced us again. After retrieving his books, we all walked to class. Handsome guy began meeting us at our lockers and in general hanging out as much as possible. He asked me out a week later. Alice became Homecoming Queen that year. So the average girl married her high school sweetheart after being introduced by the Homecoming Queen. Go figure.
And years later, I keep thinking – what would have happened if I had gotten impatient and left the pay phone? What if Dear Hubby had not transferred to my high school (which he did to be available to help a friend out with some transportation issues)? What if Alice had not taken the time to talk to me? What if Alice walked me to my class first, then walked alone to her door? What if Dear Hubby had not shared her drafting class, and so had not seen me at the door? What if Dear Hubby had not acquired the courage to ask Alice to introduce us (which he denies, but Alice confirms, by the way). What if I had been dating someone else at the time? What if Alice’s boyfriend was not available by phone at lunch?
I feel the same wonderment at the story of my paternal grandfather. The story is that he accompanied his cousin who was courting a young lady in Beaumont. While waiting for said young lady at her house, my grandfather noticed a picture of said young lady’s sister. He declared, “THAT is the woman I’m going to marry!” Which he promptly set about doing. Which then begs the question: What if he had decided NOT to accompany his cousin on this trip? What if he had chores that precluded his going to Beaumont? What if his courtship had failed? What if there had been no picture on the piano? What if my grandmother had already acquired a beau? What if his family never even immigrated to America? Would I even exist?
My maternal ancestors had a similar story. Natives of two different German villages, almost a stone’s throw apart (one a hill, one in the valley next to the hill), one arrived in the U.S. through New York, the other through Galveston. The New York arrival traveled halfway across the country before he met his life partner in New Braunfels. The “what ifs” on this relationship boggle my petite little mind!
Would I have Lovely Daughter if I had a headache on the night of conception? Would Handsome Son exist if Dear Hubby and I had decided on a late night movie instead of, well, you know?
So, I exist because of two tenuous threads of travel and romance. My children exist because a non-snotty homecoming queen chose to be my friend and I was patient enough to wait for it to happen. My existence rests on a house of cards built of human emotion and whim. On what slender threads will the existence of my grandchildren rest? And what would have happened should any of the previous events failed to happen?
We exist by the slenderest of ties, the slightest of whims, and the barest of possibilities.