With consideration that in this month of November 2018 my wife Teresa and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, I’d like to share… hold it! “Share?” Ugh… I loathe that mushy-mouth kindergarten sort of speak. I’m a frigging story-teller! I’m gonna TELL you this story and it’s gonna be both fun and amazing… because that’s what I do for a living these days. I write stories that people pay to read and enjoy… yer’ gettin’ this one for free… it’s my pleasure. And yes- this really happened…
It was about a third of the way into the autumn trimester at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach and the Avion newspaper was having a staff party. Now, I’m not much of a party animal, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, so I was never one to go looking for the trademark college “parrrdeee!” This one, however was being put on by the Avion and as the staff cartoonist it was important for me to attend. I had arranged for my girlfriend of the time to meet me there after she got away from work and it would be a nice evening spent with my family away from family- the Avion staff.
Arriving at the event by way of a standard “approach plate” (a map-like invitation drawn up to look like an IFR approach plate) I quickly blended in with the with the folks that I knew so well. There were long time senior staff as well as new staff members floating around in the house. Food, drink and laughter were the way of the evening. One senior staffer, Joe Elm, had brought a date to the party, convincing her to go with him because he would introduce her to the guy who drew the cartoon strips. A beautiful oriental freshman she was a new staff member but had never met me as I’d been a bit scarce in the foregoing weeks as I tended to my new girlfriend, Laura.
Of course since this was a student newspaper party a staff photographer was moving around in the crowd shooting candid photos. He closed in on me just at the moment that Joe introduced me to his date; Teresa.
“Wes,” Joe motioned as he got my attention, “I’d like you to meet Teresa, she’s Japanese.” Pointing toward me he informed her, “Wes is the guy who does the Klyde Morris cartoons.”
Teresa smiled, but didn’t say a word.
“Yer’ Japanese?” I asked rhetorically.
“Yes,” she responded meekly.
I pointed my finger at her and acted suddenly angry.
“Well I’m still a little pissed off about the ARIZONA!” I half shouted.
For a moment she had no idea how to respond, but the rest of my Avion family knew me far better and burst into laughter. Then Teresa laughed a bit and said, “Well… I’m sorry,” and then smiled realizing that I was making a joke.
At that moment I heard someone call my name from over my shoulder. As I turned, there was the Avion photographer and he took a photo of us. Then he asked us to pose closer together for a second shot.
For me this was the standard “getting your picture taken with a reader” deal. When you get your name published, especially when it’s attached to a product that gains some popularity, folks often want to have their picture taken with you. So, thinking nothing of it I leaned in toward Teresa and he took a second photo. Then I politely told her to have a good time and excused myself to go and rejoin my friends on the staff. As it turned out my girlfriend never did show up at the party. She was very tired after work and decided just to call it quits for the day.
On the following morning I rode my bike over to campus and headed up to the Avion office. For some reason I had the urge to check out those two pictures. Although I’ll always put on a good front and look happy to have my picture taken with a reader, I normally dislike posing for a photo. The camera does not like me and I usually come out looking like a dork. One of the hardest parts about publishing a book id selecting an author’s photo to go in the back. I normally ask Teresa if she has a candid shot of me where I don’t look like a dork- here standard reply is “Can’t be done dear.” That was probably part of why I went up to the Avion office that morning, but for the most part it was a compulsion that to this day I cannot put my finger on. In the office that Sunday morning was just one person- our staff photographer. I asked if he’d developed those photos that he took of me and that little Asian girl at the party. He said that he’d just taken them out of the soup and they were in the dark room hanging up to dry. He also said I could have them both if I wanted, because he had no real use for them. I went in and took a look at both shots- I liked the one of us posing together, but if I kept that one and Laura found it she’d probably knife off an important part of my anatomy. So, I decided on the more candid one- because if I got caught with it, it’d be easier to explain. Thus I nabbed that one, told the photog. “thanks” and peddled my bike back to my apartment where I stashed the photo in among the pages of one of my Great Lakes books and promptly forgot that I had it.
Two years passed and Laura and I broke up long before the time that Teresa and I finally got together. We were engaged three days after our first date. After another two years of engagement we were married, twice, (that’s a whole nother story folks) in November of 1988. One day, while weeding out our single person belongings to combine it into a married couple’s pile of stuff, I found a picture of Teresa and I at that party stashed in HER photos!
“Whoa!” I crowed, “I’ve got this same picture!”
“No you don’t,” she argued, “I got the only one of those.”
Rooting into my library I found the Great Lakes book that had hidden my photo for the past four or five years. When we put the two together we found that they were different shots. What had happened was that shortly after I’d left the Avion office, Teresa, under the same compulsion as I had, went up to the office and got the other picture!
The photographer never let on that this had happened.
If anyone tries to tell you that some things are not meant to be, or that some couples are not directed together by something that we cannot explain- they’re blind. I was totally happy with my girlfriend the night of that event and we remained together for several more months. I figured that meeting Teresa was just me meeting another reader- one of about 5,000 at that time. Most of all I could never have imagined that the girl I met that night would be the one I would wed, raise a family and grow old with. Yet that next morning something drove me to go over to campus and get one of those pictures. The same thing caused Teresa to go and get the other one. Think about it- how many married couples have photos taken of them at the exact moment they met? We’ve been married now for 30 years, and we’re as happy as ever. By the way- Joe Elm, the guy who introduced us, also was a groom’s man at our wedding. Of course, I think Joe stood up in just about everyone’s wedding. If you’re an ERAU alum. or just in the aviation business and you get married, it cannot be done without Joe in attendance. He was indeed instrumental in putting Teresa and I together.
Some things, however, are simply destiny.