26 years ago tonight on a campus park bench was the first time our lips met, and it was good.
That junior year in college I was the class president and Lauralea was the chairperson of the decoration committee. The main task of the Junior class was to pull off an amazing grad banquet, so there were committees for everything, and being the class pres, I had to meet with them regularly. That work with Lauralea really cemented our friendship, and it brought everything nicely into focus for that chilly dark April evening there on that park bench.
Earlier that night I had been ready at the girls dorm door, waiting to pick her up for the banquet. Nervously waiting, shivering in the cool early evening breeze, and she came out of the door in a blue twirl, showing off the dress she had made for the occasion. She looked beautiful there on the step in that dress. Her shoulder length hair pinned back on one side, smiling with her mouth and her eyes. The light blue dress with the tiny white dots, shoulders visible through the clear material which she thought would be so risqué there at that prairie school. She wore those tiny five inch black heels that would lift her to the hight of 5' 3". She looked amazing there, I'm sure I smiled.
I remember that after the supper and speaker, I gave her a yellow carnation that I had purchased earlier that afternoon, because a carnation didn't say it all like a rose would have. It said I care and I'm glad we're friends and you look amazing. It was enough. It was good.
The Banquet was a success and we helped organize the cleanup. Before too long the place was like a gym again. Decorations and tables gone. The punch fountain we had worked so hard to find and rent, was safely boxed up again, and we as a class decided to get changed and meet at a teachers house to celebrate our victory. Curfew was extended because classes were over and we were into grad weekend now.
I dropped her at her dorm and ran to mine and changed quickly. I remember that the realization of the accomplishment was settling in. We had done this huge thing that had kept me up many nights and working hard all year, it was now done. I slumped to the bed and took a deep breath. Still to this day that happens to me when I accomplish something that has made big demands of me for a long time. I slump down into the cavity of the space the task had taken up and ask, now what?
I began to wander down to the park bench where Lauralea and I were going to meet, then walk over together. I arrived before she did and sat there and pondered the year, the accomplishment, the hard work. And I though of us, her and I, and the fact that we would need to separate soon.
She came bouncing around the corner, she was always so full of life and mischief. I plodded along, she bounced. That's how we were and that's what I've always loved about her.
She sat down beside me sensing my thoughts and drawing them out of me like an expert counselor. Telling her my feelings and fears was easy and she listened and pointed to God in the process, in my life. I'm not sure but maybe that was when she became my pastor, in a good way I mean. But we talked and it was good and I became lighter and lighter and I turned towards her face and leaned in and kissed her warm lips.
And there on that park bench nothing else mattered, not the past, not the future, nothing. Except her and me and our lips touching.
To this day the brush of our lips makes me shiver, and comforts me, and causes my spirit to be at peace. It's the best place to be, even after 26 years, kissing her on that park bench on a dark night in April.
...then we got up, hand in hand and walked into life together.
Where the bench was.