Today is Ben's sixth birthday. The celebrations at school start out with 150+ kindergartners singing "Happy Birthday" to him, involve the birthday boy wearing a paper crown all day, and culminate in birthday treats in the lunchroom. (Ben has requested donuts, which I'll go buy shortly.) Yesterday we had my family over, and on Saturday, I hosted Ben's kid party at Chuck E. Cheese's. I kid you not! Basically, it's the slacker mom's approach to party planning: No need to bake, cook, or clean the house. Ben had a great time, of course, but I found 3½ hours at Chuck's house to be mentally exhausting. I sat around the rest of the afternoon, stunned into a near coma. But I'd do it again, I would.
Now, Mona's questions, as promised. She asked me to describe my first, second, or best time, or share a recipe for magic brownies. How about a hybrid? My first time was, lo these many years later, not so memorable. I was freshly 21 and about to start my senior year of college. (I kissed around rather than sleeping around. Oh, the missed opportunity!) I'd spent the summer working on campus, and this guy from northern Minnesota, J., had come to town for a karate tournament being held in the college gym. I fell for him instantly, and J. liked me, too—but love? That was reserved for the girl who'd dumped him and moved away. We wrote letters and talked on the phone, and when he came back to visit me a few weeks later...or was it when I went to visit him? I have no idea what part of the state I lost my virginity in. Might've been my room, might've been his apartment up north. No recollection. It was all right, but the earth didn't move. In his apartment, J. had a poster on the wall—of tawdry Samantha Fox. (Oy.) And yet I was convinced I was in love with him.
About six months later, J. learned that his ex-girlfriend was moving back to town, and he was hoping for another shot at a relationship with her—so he dumped me right before Valentine's Day (and not in person!). I wailed melodramatically, of course...and then suddenly noticed how attractive that guy across the hall was. (Ah, the benefits of coed dorms.) A couple months later, that cute guy and I got physical. And that second "first time," it was readily apparent that the young man who would one day be known as Mr. Tangerine was good with his hands. Really good. He's got long, slender hands with the dexterity to fold tiny origami creatures (in another era, he'd have been a hell of a watchmaker). Good hands, and he's been nice enough to share them with me for 18 years now. The rest of his body works well, too, but it was the hands that immediately moved Mr. Tangerine to the top of my list of lovers. Sure, there's only one other guy on the list, but I've never regretted getting married relatively young. When you're lucky enough to meet your other half years earlier than you expected to, you hold on tight, and you make a life together.
Well, it appears I've moved on to addressing E.'s request to hear about the Courtship of the Tangerines. Mr. Tangerine took a break that last quarter of my senior year and ended up graduating two years after me. So that meant that we had a long-distance relationship for more than two years. We started hanging out in February 1988, first slept together that April, first declared our love for each other that August, and got engaged the next February. Being a modern couple, he gave me his mom's old engagement ring and I gave him a diamond earring. (And we don't wear either of them any more! I need to get the ring resized, and Mr. Tangerine stopped wearing an earring before he started working in the financial district.) We continued the long-distance thing, routinely horrifying both our families during our visits to one another's homes (the parents said we couldn't share a room, but we flouted the rules like mad. The old folks forgave us a long time ago...I think.)
When Mr. Tangerine graduated in 1990, he joined me in Chicago and we set up housekeeping in a wee apartment on the North Side (less than a mile from where we live now—apparently we like the neighhborhood...). He got a job early in 1991, clearing the way to get married (we'd been engaged for two years and absolutely planned to spend our lives together, but had never set a wedding date). We decided to elope at City Hall without telling our families ahead of time...but when we went to pick up our marriage license, the basement of the City Hall/the County building was so dingy. Fiberglass chairs, fluorescent lighting...less romantic than the standard DMV facility. We resolved instead to get married in a courthouse in the 'burbs, and then decided to invite our families after all. They had about two weeks' notice. We had our parents, most of our siblings, and most of my grandparents there. My sister's friend served as the photographer, and the caterer was brunch at a restaurant in Lincoln Park. A few weeks later, we slaked the thirst of the other relatives for a reception and had a smallish catered thing at my parents' house. Total cost for wedding apparel, catering, and everything else: less than $1,500. We honeymooned over Christmas in St. Croix. And then we enjoyed each other's company for several more years before even thinking about having children. That's one huge advantage of getting married young (or being in a relationship) and having reliable birth control—you have time to be a couple, to sleep in on weekends, to vacation, to get settled financially, to do whatever you please whenever the mood strikes, before parenthood changes your lives.
Speaking of parenthood, I've got to go buy a couple dozen donuts. If you'll excuse me...