Today's TIHWM story contains a stampede, math geeks, and Mardi Gras. Given all that, I'm truly impressed things worked out so well for Dan. Enjoy!
Springtime and stories of love seem to go hand in hand, but for those of us that are… umm, relationally challenged (i.e., shy), it doesn’t typically happen naturally. Thankfully, my school held a carnival (Mardi Gras) as a fundraiser each May, and fraternities and sororities would work together to host a variety of booths. It was through this “rite of spring” that I met my wife.
I readily admit that I’m a math geek, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that I was in a fraternity of engineering/physics/math majors. Think Big Bang Theory crossed with Animal House. (Quarks and black holes, basketball and beer, Pink Floyd and black lights… often in the same discussion.)
While being smart geeks didn’t exactly build “cred” with the girls, it did help us put together one of the best booths at Mardi Gras. Showboat was modeled after a Mississippi riverboat with a drop-down stage in the middle and games on the side, and we put on stage shows every hour.
Giving sorority girls a chance to perform on stage… well, let’s just say there are quite a few engineering geeks that met their wives thanks to Showboat.
My last quarter as an undergrad, I met my wife for the first time when our houses worked together during Mardi Gras. She is younger than I am, and we didn’t really get to know each other that year, though she did borrow my cowboy hat when she sang on stage.
Now, I’m not supposed to tell what song she sang as it embarrasses her, but I can give you a hint: it’s from the musical Oklahoma, the title contains the word “No”, and I can’t say it.
(Am I in trouble or what?)
Two years later, I was a young math teacher and still single. With nothing going on a Saturday night, I thought I’d drop by Mardi Gras, visit some old friends and check out the booth. When I got there, she was there, working as her house’s chairperson on the booth. I actually said “I remember you -- you wore my hat! What was your name again?” (Geek.)
We both had that sort of tentative “I want to get know this person” feeling, so we decided to go get frozen yogurt instead of going out drinking with friends. (If you knew me back then, you’d know that was saying something!) This “chance meeting” felt very different and that was a good thing.
At the frozen yogurt place, we kept seeing hundreds of kids run by outside, like mini-stampedes being herded by local cops. Mardi Gras used to attract high school kids from the surrounding area that would create what could nearly be classified as riots. A few years later, they dropped Mardi Gras altogether because of the hassle of dealing with the rowdy crowds.
But I digress….
At the frozen yogurt place, we were chatting, talking about who knows what until we realized that it was late and I should walk her home. We stepped out the door, lost in conversation, oblivious to what was happening around us….
But that changed quickly: we looked up and one of those stampedes of kids was barreling right at us! As the adrenaline kicked in, I instinctively grabbed Valerie’s hand and pulled her close behind me while I turned to face the onslaught of charging bodies zipping past. It was surreal.
Hearts still pounding, I walked Valerie home from there. We said a long goodnight, “talking” at the door for what seemed like hours. As she turned to go inside, we both looked down -- I was still holding her hand, not letting go even though the stampede had long since subsided.
Our first real date was a few weeks later: I cooked dinner, she brought flowers… and when I turned to put the flowers in water, she pulled out a squirt gun and nailed me! A bit later, she noticed my piano, sat down and banged out her favorites off the top of her head. (And here I thought I bought the piano for me!)
Three months later, we were playing on a worship team together.
And that December, we played at our church’s Christmas Eve service, and I proposed under the stars afterwards.
It will be our 25th anniversary this August. And, it was 26 years ago tonight on May 17th (thanks, Leigh, for posting today) that I ran into the girl that wore my hat and we were almost run over by a stampede of kids.
We’ve been through a lot the last 26 years -- some good, some bad, and some ugly. But, we’ve always managed to get through it together. Some days, it really does seem like we’re still holding hands, facing the onslaught.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Dan McMonagle lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Valerie, and their three teenage boys. Dan is a mathematician (an actuary), a musician, and occasionally he blogs about theological stuff at https://reconcilingviewpoints.com. When he’s not busy with his actuarial work, Dan likes to spend his time involved with kid’s sports, church (guitarist, worship leader, works with kids) and family life.