Me: Happy Anniversary Honey
Jamie: STOP DOING THAT! You’re going to give me a heart attack! (I do this to him frequently since I have a mind like a steel trap – I can recall dates, details and conversations in vivid detail years after they’ve happend – it’s not a great quality in a wife)
Me: I’m sorry I didn’t mean to-
Jamie: pauses for a moment Which anniversary is it?
Me: It’s the last weekend in September and it’s unseasonably warm, just-
Jamie: smiles Just like the one when we met.
I’m not sure if I believe in fate or having ‘one true love’. Are souls really destined to be together and will find one another in spite of distance or circumstance? Would I have ever met Jamie if I’d been born and raised in California or Germany? Whether it was a whim or God’s divine plan, our decision to take a last minute trip north changed everything.
The summer of 2004 was cool and rainy, more days than not were a complete wash out with highs struggling to reach the seventies. My Dad, due to the slow economy, had taken a job in Tennessee and my mother and I were living in Michigan she running her boutique and I was in college. It was because of this that we didn’t make our annual summer trek up North to visit old friends and favorite places, which always included a kayaking trip down the Sturgeon River.
So when a weekend late in September was forecast to be unusually warm, we decided at the last minute to load up my kayak and head north. It was a whim that would change the course of my life, or perhaps set me on the right one.
We arrived late Saturday night at a hotel in Mackinaw City, a place I had no intention of being when I started my day that morning, but was thrilled to be there breathing the crisp northern air and taking a couple of days away from the daily grind. We awoke Sunday to near perfect weather and started getting dressed and ready to head to Indian River. Since we’d be on the water all day there really wasn’t any reason to get ourselves ‘all dolled up’ as my mom says, which is why she looked at me a little puzzled as I plugged in my flat iron…
Margie: Meg what are you doing we’re going to be on the water all day, why are you doing your hair?
Me: I know mom…but what if that cute guy is still working there?
You see it’s hard for us to pin point when we really met since I’d noticed Jamie when I was probably sixteen years old and he remembers my family from that time as well, but we hadn’t ever talked or even knew each other’s names, he was just that cute guy who worked at the canoe livery up north. So naturally I wanted to look adorable just in case I ran into him ;) and as we drove to Indian River that day I could feel the smallest butterflies wondering if he’d be there…
Margie: Do you think he’s still working there?
Me: I don’t know he’s been there the past couple of years
Margie: How old do you think he is, I mean, he’s been working there a while and I know he went to college…
A conversation that is actually ironic as I think of it now.
As we pull into the livery I see him, up on the roof of a shed, hammering away on the some shingles, when he sees us pull up and quickly climbs down the ladder to greet us, not because he recognized us at that point but because he was simply happy to see someone going on the river on such a beautiful day. One of our friends laughs at this saying he probably didn’t know what to think when I showed up that day in a mini skirt and heels with my own equipment…like a mirage in the the desert!
Jamie: Hey guys how’s it going?! Beautiful day to be on the river!
Me or Margie: Yeah we came up at the last minute when we saw the forcast
Jamie: What stretch (of the river) are you thinking of floating?
Margie: We usually put in at Rondo.
Jamie: Have you ever started in Wolverine? You have time if we leave now and it’s the best part of the river!
So we signed up, gathered our gear and got in the van, all the while teasing Jamie that he should really go with us since there weren’t any other customers yet. Jamie can’t refuse ANY chance to go on the river. I can still remember him looking up at me with his blue-green eyes in the van as I egged him on:
Me: Come on, we’ll get your boat on our way to Wolverine…why not…it’s too nice out to sit around here all day ;)
Hesitating, thinking, looking around he looked up at me said ‘ask me one more time and I will’ So naturally
Me: Come on then, lets go!
He smiled hopped in the van and drove us down to the park in Wolverine (the same park where we’d get married two years later). After further teasing (flirting) and prodding he said he would meet us at some point along the river but he should go back and check in on things at work. He unloaded our equipment and helped us launch. I wasn’t sure how he would meet up with us or where or if he even would…but I’d better not flip my boat and ruin my hair just in case!
It was a picturesque float down the Sturgeon. Jamie was right putting in at the park in Wolverine really is the best part of the river, but it meant we’d be paddling for over five hours. Five hours of wondering if that guy would meet us somewhere and oh geeze watch me take a bathroom break right in his back yard where I think I’m covered by trees and bushes but really he can see me or something equally as embarrassing. I DID end up flipping my kayak, on a small branch of all things, rookie mistake! But that cute guy never did meet up with us.
We began to recognize familiar landmarks, houses, a foot bridge, the smell of the interstate all indications our trip was coming to an end, and then the butterflies came back, I’d see him again, or at least I’d hoped I would…what if he were gone? what if he was an hour behind us on the river? what if he was there and what would I say…and how bad does my wet hair look?! All thoughts that are humorous now in hindsight.
Our kayaks landed along the gravel shore, my eyes racing around looking for him…but he wasn’t there. My heart sank. Where was he? What happened? My thoughts interrupted by Dan, Jamie’s coworker who’d been helping him on the roof that day. A chubby thirty-something with dark hair and pale skin,
Dan: How was it your trip?
Margie: Great it was fantastic! So mu-
Me: Where’s Jamie?
Dan: He had to take out some customers, we got really busy.
So that’s why he never met us on the river!
Dan: Would you like me to rinse out your boat?
Me: No it won’t matter, we’ve got a long trip home anyway, I’ll wash it then.
Dan: Are you sure? as he grabs the hose
We then engage in a tug-of-war of sorts with my kayak, Dan clutching the bow in one hand, hose in the other. He seemed pretty determined so I relinquished, what would it hurt anyway. He then spent the next twelve minutes scrubbing my boat. I think it looked factory clean by the time he had finished. Finally I thought, let’s get this boat tied down and grab some dinner. We had a long drive home ahead of us, I looked about as good as a golden retriever who’d been swimming all day and clearly I wasn’t meant to talk to that guy again anyway.
Dan, however, was not done being helpful. He’d brought a stepladder to my truck and insisted on helping me tie the straps. Meticulously and ever so s l o w l y tied those straps. I was getting annoyed. Hungry. wet and annoyed, when Jamie pulled into the parking lot in a work van. His plan had worked.
Little did I know that he’d given Dan specific instructions NOT to let us leave if when came in before he got back from dropping off some customers. That would explain Dan’s above-and-beyond customer service and running around with my kayak like a thief who’d snatched a purse! We tried unsuccessfully to lure Jamie to dinner with us but he wasn’t able to since he still had people out on the river. I did leave with his home phone number, work number, email address and smoke signal coordinates and the promise that I’d call him to go winter rafting with him that winter.
Nine Christmases, a mortgage, two jobs, three cars and two kids later, that cute guy from the livery still gives me butterflies. We still exchanges glances in a way that is stupid. Sometimes I forget that we haven’t always been together and still there I times when the love feels new, only better because there are countless memories and years of laughter to go along with it.
…and you could say we owe it all to the fumbling actions of a man named Dan ;)