RE: Since it's Valentine's Day. . . .
I thought some of you folks might appreciate my latest humor column that was published last week.
Chewin' the Cud: The wooing of Heidi E.
By Jason Johnson
UNITY (Feb 7, 2006): It's nearly Valentine's Day, the time of year when florists, candy companies and Victoria's Secret can charge $1,000 for a single rose, three chocolates or an incredibly scratchy but revealing negligee.
Every American male will pay those prices. We all know that, no matter the cost, we need to bring home flowers, a heart-shaped candy box or something insubstantial to wear on Valentine's Day — or risk sleeping on the sofa for the next two weeks.
I become sentimental this time of year as I think of my one-and-only soul mate ... the one person who truly understands me ... the only woman who can put up with me and my snoring.
I first met my wife in kindergarten, when I gave her a Batman card that said something like "I'm batty for you," along with a handful of candy hearts (the ones with sayings such as: "I will," "Maybe tonight" and "Not even if you were the last man on earth" written on them.)
I remember that day fondly, as Sue was running around wishing everyone "Happy VD."
Heidi says she and I were never in kindergarten together. In fact, it wasn’t until we were in our 20s that we met.
Hmm ... I suppose I shouldn't mention that time in high school when "we" met near the infamous Mount View High School radiator, huh?
All kidding aside, I met my wife when I took a job at Thorndike Press in 1993. Unlike some folks, I can't say it was love at first sight.
When I first saw her, I thought, "She looks really, really ticked off at somebody." Of course, her first thought when she met me was, "Who's the geek?"
Our first, fateful meeting didn't start out so well. I wish I could say I was a real Romeo who swept my Juliet off her feet in a whirlwind romance, but the truth is: I was a clueless, bumbling idiot when it came to pursuing the opposite sex.
I suppose this fact worried my father, since he was constantly setting me up with every girl he knew.
"Oh, you're in a cult? Fascinating. Have I ever told you about my boy? Maybe you could meet him and see if he'd like to join your group," he would say to the girl with the shaved head who was trying to sell him No. 2 pencils and grape Kool-Aid.
Needless to say, Dad's attempts at playing Cupid didn't work. In fact, I grew so tired of it that one day I told him, "I'm gay, Dad. OK, I'm gay. Don't set me up with any more girls."
I should mention that I am not, nor was I ever, gay. I told my Dad this partly in annoyance and partly in jest, never realizing he would think I was serious.
It wasn't until Dad met Heidi, several weeks after we started dating, that he confessed to her, "Thank goodness you came along. You know before he met you, Jason was gay?"
As a guy and a boyfriend, I made some major mistakes in my attempts to woo my wife-to-be ... mistakes that should by all rights have sent Heidi running in abject terror.
For example, Heidi likes to keep a neat and clean house. When I started dating her, I was living in a two-room camp with a rug covered in sawdust and bark, since I had been using a woodstove for heat and "hadn't gotten around to cleaning up the mess," even though it was July.
The detachable Jeep Wrangler doors propped against the woodstove, the clothing sorted on the floor in "dirty" and "a little less dirty” piles, and the half-empty Coca-Cola bottle and Snickers wrappers under the sofa cushion must have caused her to realize I was no Martha Stewart.
Our first official date was less than spectacular. There were no meals at an Italian restaurant, romantic movies or ballroom dancing.
Instead, I took her to Rummel's in Waterville to play miniature golf. Not very romantic, but on the flip side I did par the course for the first time in my life, despite that darned windmill.
Subsequent dates weren't much better. There was the train ride aboard the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad. When the "train robbers" stormed aboard demanding "my money or my life," I asked the would-be thieves if they would take Heidi hostage while I went to the ATM to get some money.
Most long-term romances usually involve a "big date" where the couple goes off for a long weekend at a bed-and-breakfast in Vermont, or a week in Paris. Our big date was a ferry trip to Islesboro.
At least that was the plan, until my bike tire went flat and we couldn't find any place on the island that had the right size tube. Undaunted, I decided the only way to salvage our big day was to return to Lincolnville and go to York Beach.
We spent the day strolling the beach and visiting the zoo ... and two hours later, we found ourselves locked inside the zoo until a helpful employee opened the gate and let us out.
It was a nearly perfect day, or it would have been if I hadn't left the Jeep doors back at the camp. While the summer day was beautiful, the night air was frigid. Poor Heidi ended up with some frostbite that night, as she huddled next to the Jeep's woefully inadequate heat duct for the three-hour ride home.
Every relationship inevitably arrives at the time when the couple has the first fight. I don't remember why my wife was mad at me the first time, but I do remember we smoothed things over that night when I gave her some flowers and an apology. She later told me that stealing a bunch of flowers from Nana's garden and ripping them up roots and all probably wasn't the best thing to do.
In the fall of 1995, I realized I wanted to marry Heidi. I decided to propose to her at Screw Auger Falls in Bethel. I chose Screw Auger Falls for two reasons. Reason No. 1: The falls are absolutely beautiful and a perfect place to propose. Reason No. 2: I figured if she said no, I could always leap to my death.
It's been 12 years since Heidi and I first got together, and in all honesty, every day is better than the day before. She truly is my best friend in life, and I can say I am complete by being able to share my life with her.
She asks for little in return, and although she has never asked, I suspect she might appreciate some flowers for Valentine's Day.
That's why I, too, will be standing in those long lines at the florist … even if I have to donate a kidney to pay for them.