“Oh, you went to the same high school?” asks almost everyone who learns about my husband’s and my background. “Were you high school sweethearts?”
No. We didn’t know each other at all. But the universal question does make sense.
One might think, since my husband and I lived a mere 12 blocks apart during elementary school, that we would have known each other since we were knee high to grass-hoppers. But we lived in Brooklyn, New York, and many of the blocks were between avenues, so we went to different elementary schools. We did not know each other, neither did we know any grasshoppers.
We didn’t go to the same junior high, camp, or synagogue, so I didn’t have another opportunity to meet him until high school. It never happened though, because I was a “W.” I sat next to the windows (and spent far too much time looking through them, rather than focusing on my teachers). He, an “A,” sat right next to the door, in accordance with the dictates of the Delaney book.
In order to get a clear picture of our high school seating arrangement, it’s important to understand that our desks were of the old fashioned wood top and seat variety, with metal bases bolted to the seats in front and back and to the floor. The year could have been 1920 or 1969, there would have been no difference in the seating. Each of the five columns of desks was six deep. That was how the room was set up and it never changed. Also, since we had no lockers, we had to carry our coats, books, and whatever else with us as we moved between classes. That usually meant wearing my coat all day, and, because I was sitting near the heat under the windows, I was often struggling to stay awake.
So although I kind of heard of this boy who would become my husband someday, when our physics teacher kept calling him Mr. Archer instead of Mr. Ascher, I didn’t know who he was. It’s even possible that he might have heard of me, when the same teacher, dear old Mr. Swett, called me, “Mrs. Wolf, oh, no, you’re not Mrs. Wolf, she is the chemistry teacher. You are Miss Wolf, but you’ll be Mrs. Somebody someday.”
Did I mention this was the sixties? The late sixties, mind you, when times were changing. Rigorous dress codes were already “slackened” and we were allowed to wear pants, although not “dungarees,” and think about real, non-stereotypically female careers. I swore I wouldn’t be Mrs. Anyone, ever. But that’s not part of the story. Nor, obviously, was that the outcome.
In those three years of high school (we didn’t do our freshman year there, since we were both part of a three-year-in-two junior high program) we didn’t meet, although we were in five classes together.
When I learned that he would be going to the same university as me, I tried to get a mental picture of what he looked like. The yearbook helped a bit, but I didn’t know him at all. I never saw him the first semester of college. He was friends with another “W” though, someone who often sat in front of me in high school and who was also going to the same college. It was our only connection, yet it never brought us together.
But, during the second semester, he changed dorms and landed on the same floor as my “W” friend. And for the first time I saw him in all his splendor, from his shoulder length brown hair, to his work shirt which brought out his big blue eyes behind his aviator glasses. (Remember, this was early 1970. Young men in college actually looked normal, even handsome, that way.) I suddenly realized that he was taller than me (a big selling point), something he hadn’t been before, at least in my memory, and he was smart, funny, and to me, gorgeous.
I immediately fell in lust. Eventually, so did he. And three weeks after we finished college, his parents came with us to get a marriage license. (They were there because we were under twenty-one, and though women only had to be 18 to get a license without parental permission, men under twenty-one needed to be signed away.) Weird? Did I mention this was 1973?
What would account for so many near misses, chances to notice each other that we failed to seize? I don’t know. But I think Fate may have intervened, giving us enough opportunities to finally become aware of our mutual future.
I was lucky. My husband is a really good guy, whom people see when they read my Wally Morris character’s husband. And which of my Wally Morris books does my real-life paragon of wonderfulness like the most? Vengeance Runs Cold. Maybe that’s because we spent so many years together in Buffalo—learning to warm one another’s hearts.