There are certain days in our lives that are a hinge point. Things change on those days. Our lives stand still for that single day and then veer off into a new direction. For some it is a tragedy that creates the pivot point, 9/11 is an example. For others it could be a traditional life changing event such as graduation from college. Hollywood likes to play on this theme usually by using events such as the loss of a job (see Albert Brooks in “Lost in America” for a funny take and see Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” for a more serious take).
What makes these days interesting is that they are not really anticipated or planned for. Maybe they can be seen coming as a special day, but not anticipated as a day that will become the first day of the rest of your life.
June 26, 1990
That Tuesday in June 1990 was fairly typical for the time of year. The temperatures were in the low 70’s but we did have a bit of clouds, rain and a thunderstorm. But by late afternoon the skies had cleared, a lovely early summer day came out for my special day.
I have to admit that in 1990 I was a Cubs fan. I watched the Cubs when players like Greg Maddux, Joe Girardi, Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson were on the team. On that list are a future Hall of Famer, two Hall of Famers and the manager of the 2009 World Series Champions. While there are some good memories of my days as a avid Cubs fan, but love for the real game of baseball and winning finally turned me into a Chicago White Sox fan.
In June of 1990 I was still with Youth For Christ working with troubled youth in the Waukegan area. In those days I ran a weekly visit to a juvenile detention center for Bible study and discussion with incarcerated youth. I also had a couple of clubs where kids would come, hang out, play some basket ball and then have a short time of Bible discussion. Most of the kids were from broken homes in dangerous neighborhood. They were already gang members or were right on the edge of joining. That particular week we were planning for a field trip to a farm in Wisconsin. Though my boys lived only 5 miles from a farm, they had never really visited one. Our trip is scheduled for Thursday.
But, before I could even thing about watching a Cubs game or stopping by to visit one of the boys from club, I had only one important task to do that day I had to go to the airport to pick up my new pen pal. As I had mentioned in earlier PV.18:22 posts; my new pen pal from Guatemala had decided to come to visit her cousin (and I) for a couple of weeks. While her cousin was busy that night teaching English as a Second Language I was given the wonderful duty to go pick up Lisy.
For those of you who are young, you may not realize that in those days you could go all the way to the gate to pick someone up at the airport. You could go through security, find the gate, take a seat and wait. I did exactly that. Can you imagine the nerves and butterflies that I must have had standing at that gate waiting for the girl that I had just written “The Letter” to. The letter that ended with this line:
“If you are the person that I think you are, through these letters, I already know what I am going to ask you when you get here.”
The First Kiss
I stood there at the gate holding a single rose. To be honest, I partially hid myself behind a pillar. I am not sure if I was considering running if she was some kind on monstrosity or if I hid out of some kind of self doubt (most likely the second I am sure). We did not have digital cameras, video cameras or video conferencing on our computers. I had only seen one picture of her.
As soon as she walked through the door, I knew it was her. Of course she was as beautiful as I had imagined all those days rereading each letter she wrote. As I recall, she had on blue jeans, leather boots, a green silk blouse and a brown patch work vest (very typical Guatemalan craftwork). Her her was permed and very curly (that style thankfully ended soon). Seeing her radiant beauty I stepped out from behind my pillar of protection introduced myself, offered her the rose and kissed her on the cheek.
What I did not know at that time was that the kiss on the cheek was a bit too forward. Can you imagine it, me being perceived as too aggressive! I was the shyest guy I knew when it came to women.
The First Fight
We recovered the luggage and took off for a quick driving tour of Chicago. We had to kill a few hours until Lisy’s cousin was finished teaching here language class at 8:30 PM. So, I took some side roads and worked our way from the airport to the breakwater at Irving Park Road on Lake Michigan. Easily within 30 minutes of being in the car, we had our first fight.
How in the world could this glorious day come to such a bad point so quickly. Was this a sign from God that we were not meant for each other, or was it a sign that we were perfect for each other? Our fight was of a religious nature. Somehow we got to talking about one of the subjects you most likely should not talk about the first time you meet face to face, but we did. Of course I was right and she was wrong – a pattern that will repeat itself for years to come. We got past our fight, did some sight seeing and met Bety after her class.
The First Dinner together
In those days I also worked at a small Episcopal church in the La Villita neighborhood of Chicago. It was the first stopping point for many Mexican immigrants. One of the great things in that neighborhood is the presence of great and cheap Mexican restaurants. There was one there that Bety and I used to visit regularly and we decided to head over there to have some dinner. Bety and I thought of it as the best restaurant in the neighborhood. Later I learned that Lisy thought it was a dump. It is all a matter of perspective.
During the whole meal I sat marveling at two things. One is it that such a beautiful girl was willing to come 2000 miles to come visit me. I sat the in awe of my circumstances. Secondly, I was intrigued by the new accent and the new nuances of language that a Guatemalan spoke in comparison to the Mexican speakers I had become accustomed. Ah vaya, … Ah vaya.
The night ended, we survived the first tensions of our first kiss, first fight and and first disagreement about what I eat. Who would have known that 20 years later it would be more of the same every week.
My life hand changed on that day and I was only beginning to realize it.