It’s a Sunday afternoon. I’m depressing myself streaming tragic dramas while consuming dark chocolate and Chianti. Midway through my third creepy twisted love triangle, I found myself distracted and unfocused, missing entire scenes of the movie. I remembered something I promised my husband I would write about this month. And since he’s off visiting our daughter in the serene Pacific Northwest, I’m left with Rottweilers, wine, chocolate and an empty post page on my mostly neglected blog. I paused my mediocre excuse for a movie and grabbed my phone to research what was happening in September 1983 – the month I met the man I married.
I met my future husband at a bar called Backstage on the northeast side of Wichita, out near where the Cessna complex used to be. The song I remember the most from that evening was actually “Turn Me Loose” by Loverboy. But the song that dominated the summer charts was the Police’s “Every Breathe You Take” which finally fell to “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” by the Eurythmics at the end of August.
Ghandi won best picture that year, but I remember have fond memories of The Right Stuff and the fact that Sally Ride became the first female astronaut as a member of the Challenge crew that summer. And The FCC authorizes Motorola to begin testing cellular phone service in Chicago. Good thing I had an amateur radio license!
My room-mate in the dorms at Wichita State University was from Bakersfield, California. Yes, she was a “Valley Girl” but the most interesting thing, aside from her pursuit of a career in dental hygiene, was being the daughter of an Olympic Wrestling coach, who had roots in Kansas.
Anyway, she asked me to accompany her out for some local night life. Since this was the era of the BTK killings in Wichita and a bit pre-date rape drug popularity; still most women banded together to watch each other’s backs and drinks while enjoying themselves.
My room-mate owned a blue convertible Volkswagen Bug with ski racks mounted on the back; because when you live in the “Valley” you can surf and ski on the same day. I had no car so was happy to ride shotgun with her on these excursions. Her first experience with a good old fashioned Kansas thunderstorm and torrential downpour was an eye-opener for her. Good thing I was with her in the car when that happened!
Jill had an amazing amount of fashionable clothes stuffed into her half of our tiny dorm room closet. Me, not so much. My only advantage came from my mother’s seamstress abilities. All of my nice clothes were tailor-made. I selected one of my Gunne Sax tops (see example to the right) to wear on this first outing together. I didn’t wear a skirt, just opted for jeans, but the top was stunning and form fitted. Like I said, my mother could sew! Oh, that reminds me! I wore that same shirt, plus the skirt and jacket, when we got married in May 1986. I’ll upload that photo at the bottom of this post. For now, on with the story of how Terry and Jon met upstairs at Backstage in Wichita, Kansas back in September 1983.
I didn’t have much money (no job and no allowance aside from $20 my grandmother sent me every month which I used to do my laundry with) so I didn’t buy myself a drink nor do I remember paying any cover fees. Usually they let women in free to most bars, probably to provide ‘fresh blood’ for all the healthy (ie desperate?) young men with cash and hormones to burn. I wonder if times have changed? I wandered around with Jill for while and I think I danced with some unmemorable guys a couple of times. I kept an eye on Jill, who was much more social than I ever dreamed of being – two more different people couldn’t have been room mates.
There was a raised platform in the center of the bar overlooking the lighted dance floor (lighted as in the floor was actually lit from below and of varying colors and probably flashed to the beat of the music – an 80s thing I guess or a leftover from Disco?). I climbed the stairs and leaned on the railing, watching Jill dancing and others at the bar, doing my best impression of an elevated wallflower. A guy approached me and said “Hi, I’m Terry. What’s your name?” in a congenial and confident manner. Terry was a bit taller than me, a few years older (at the time he was 24 to my 18 years), had a nice smile and a full mustache plus cute windshield glasses. I told him my name was “Jon” (sounds like “John”) and the next sentence that came out of his mouth was not a cheesy pickup line nor pleasant small tack. Terry uttered a phrase that was direct, forceful and stunningly rude to this small town girl’s ears. He won the prize for most memorable comeback to my odd gender confused name and he won my heart later that evening because I believe in second chances overcoming first impressions.
I won’t memorialize what he said because it’s a “secret” we share with only our closest family and friends. I have fond memories though of whipping out my driver’s license, which I had in my back pocket since I didn’t bring a purse in to the bar, to prove that my name really was Jon. He bought me a drink, or two. We danced, probably to “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” and other hits from late Summer 1983. We took a walk outside and ended up in his friend’s Toyata Celica doing what all college kids do in cars on a cool summer evening. I don’t even remember how I got back to the dorms that night; whether Jill and I returned together or if Terry dropped me off.
I wish I had photos of that night. This was decades before Instagram and Snapshot. All I have are my memories and the music and waking up most mornings since then, hundreds of them, to the man my dreams are made of.
Thank you, Terry, for thirty-five of the best years of my life together with you. I look forward to many, many more years.