Oh my goodness the pressure.. I know it took me a few days to get more out, but I promise to not leave you all hanging as long between this post and the next. My goal is to get this done in two more parts.. But I seem to be getting a bit wordy, so let's see what happens. :0)
Most of that summer was spent with Alex showing up for dinner or showing up on the weekend to help my father with his many projects. Not sure how he made the time, he was working and attending college classes that summer, but he would always find a way to pop in a few times a week. My birthday is in the end of summer and I remember how sad I was, as everything was getting ready to change. My brother was packing and getting ready to move a few hours away into a dorm to start college. I was having a hard time with him not being there everyday and my parents kept telling me to enjoy my last summer as a kid. I was thinking... what, after my senior year I would magically become an adult? I wanted to get a job over the summer but my parents wanted me to enjoy my summer and spend time with them. I didn't understand then but looking back they knew I was going to be leaving them at the end of the year and this was truly my last summer really being with them as a minor. Another thing I didn't know at this time is that Alex had spoken to my parents and laid out his intent on courting with the goal being marriage.
As most young people do, I had a go to spot.. The place where you go when you want to be alone to either think or lick your wounds, depending on the situation. I had a small family celebration for my 17th birthday and being unsettled about all the change I went to my go to spot. My spot was a pond that was tucked back in a wooded area a few blocks from my house. I would load up with bread and dryer sheets (the mosquito population was heavy) and head out on foot. The pond was home to several generations of ducks, it was fun to watch them be little one season and then return the next and start their own little family. Those return ducks were use to me from the previous year, so when they would hear me trudging up from the woods they would start swimming to the bank knowing food was on its way. I spoiled these ducks, my Mom would buy the cheapest bread and freeze it for me, so I would always have a supply for my trips out to the pond.
I had just gone through all my bread and was sitting on the grass watching the ducks swim when I heard the snapping of twigs in the woods. Now this spot was not just mine, it was well known by the neighborhood kids..but I was annoyed to hear that some one was working their way up to "my" spot when I had gotten there first. Sigh. My annoyance swiftly turned to shock when Alex came into the clearing with another loaf of bread and a huge smile. He also had a present tucked under his arm, so if the extra bread didn't melt away the annoyance completely that pretty present did. He had stopped by the house and my Mom had loaded him up with bread and sent him my direction. She had also told him that for a birthday girl I wasn't very happy today and could he cheer me up...
He made his way over and flopped down next to me...
Alex: "You should know that I might need a blood transfusion from the amount of blood I have lost getting here to wish you a happy birthday."
Me: "Well since you did bring bread and a pretty present, I suppose I could share my dryer sheets with you."
He spent a few minutes rubbing dryer sheets on his arms and clothes making a big production out of it to make me laugh. But the ducks didn't want anything to do with him, so he had to hang back while I went down and fed them more bread. Once the greedy little ducks had downed another loaf of bread I came back and sat down next to Alex.
Alex: "Present now or after you tell me why you are not happier on your birthday?"
Me: "What? I am the perfect picture of all that is happy...."
One second I was on the grass and the next I was lifted up on his lap and cuddled into his chest. I think my thought process at this time was something like... OHMYGOSHIAMONHISLAPANDHEISHUGGINGMEANDHESMELLSREALLYGOOD!!!!
Alex: "What ever it is you can tell me about it, I am pretty good at listening and even helping solve problems. I am the oldest of 8 remember, so give me a shot."
It took me a few minutes of internal struggle, but after a long dramatic sigh I went for it...
Me: "He is leaving and I am suppose to magically poof from a kid to adult in the next 9 months and everything is changing...." (Insert another dramatic sigh here)
Alex: "You are worried about your brother moving out and going to college?"
Me: "Yes, he will be gone. Only coming home for holidays and nothing will be the same! Plus he can't even do laundry, how is he going to get clean clothes? Or better yet he is horrible at getting up in the morning, it takes me and my Mom both to wake him up.. He will miss all his morning classes and that can't be good."
Alex: "I know you love him and you are worried for him, but this is his time to grow up and be his own man. He needs to learn to do laundry, wake up on time and manage his class schedule. That is part of starting his own life and pushing towards his future and being successful."
I had to giggle a bit at that...
Me: "You lost me at man... Did he magically poof and I didn't see it happen?"
After a quick squeeze and a few chuckles...
Alex:"I think when he comes home for Thanksgiving you will notice a big change in your brother and maybe you wont worry as much as his leaving this first time. He is not a kid and neither are you for that matter... You are a beautiful young lady and you will naturally change quite a bit in the next 9 months, so you don't need to worry about a magical poof moment to happen."
My head whipped up at the word "beautiful" and I think my jaw dropped down a bit too.. So it took me a few minutes to respond, but when I managed to find my voice...
Me: "You think I am beautiful?"
Alex:"Yes, I do."
He put his left hand on my cheek and slowly leaned in and kissed me.. with his eyes wide open. I remember my heart was racing so fast I thought he has got to be hearing it too.. It was short but VERY sweet.
Alex: "Want to open your present now?"
Me: "Um, not sure anything is going to beat what just happen."
With a chuckle he lifted me back off his lap and on the grass next to him and handed me my present.
Alex: "I'm very glad you think so, humor me and open it anyway."
He gave me a scrap book to document and keep things from my senior year in high school and any thing else I felt important enough to record. My name was engraved on the front cover and on the back was engraved "Much love, Alex."
My scrap book did record a few school events, but the major theme.... Alex. I actually kept the wrapping paper in the scrap book from that day at the pond. The book records from that day all the way to our engagement. Then I needed another book!
My kids, especially my daughter enjoy going through the book and asking me about things taped to the page or entries of my thoughts on events. This scrap book will always be dear to me and to him, we pull it out every now and then... normally our anniversary and revisit our courtship all over again.
To be continued...