Backstory, Part 2
With a little bit of island fever, which is what happens when mainlanders feel stuck on an island, I wasn't ready to go back to Hawaii after a month of "nannying" in Aspen. It's been 28 years since this story began, I don't remember all of the details, but from January to May, I traveled, lived, and worked in Oklahoma at a pizza place, in Washington DC at a place called The Cedars accompanied by volunteer work at a soup kitchen on 3rd Street downtown. In the Chicago area I helped cook and clean for a family who lived between Winnetka and Wilmette. I stayed with Stan and Mary in Kansas City. That was my favorite. They graciously assimilated me into their family life. I love them. From there, my time line might be wonky, but basically from there I got a job at a Covenant Heights Camp on the top of the mountain in Estes Park, Colorado. That's another (small) story.
All this time, I had been keeping up with a few friends from the church in Aspen. Letters. We wrote letters back in the day. When these friends invited me to a young adults camp out retreat during spring melt, I hitchhiked to get there. (Did you know that, Dad, that I hitchhiked?) The retreat was just off the road in a clearing up towards Ashcroft. By the time I arrived, everyone was setting up tents and campers, but there were two guys off in the aspens setting up what I came to find out was called a "lean to." It was just a tarp strung between two trees and tied off at an angle. Who sleeps like that? What about bugs and snakes and bears? Ugh. One of these guys came bounding out of the woods across the meadow, all long limbed, wearing overalls with shaggy blond hair and a huge enthusiastic smile to introduce himself. It was the Amazing Reese, only I didn't know how amazing he was, yet. If I were to draw a super hero character of the Amazing Reese, he would look like he did that first time I met him, only shirtless, which will be explained in the next paragraph.
Now Reese had grown up camping. He joined boy scouts just so he could go camping. He likes to joke that he was the oldest Tenderfoot in the troop. He didn't care at all about badges, but please let him go camping. This, on the other hand, was my very first camping trip EVER. I was so grossed out by the filth factor that I even went into town the next morning to shower. Thankfully, I made it back in time to watch Reese, in his overalls and shirtless, cook scrambled eggs over the camp fire the next morning. Mmm, mmm good. His long and lean muscles had been chiseled from carpentry work the previous summer and a long winter of cross country skiing. It looked good on him and I wasn't the only female to notice. The eggs were delicious, too.
During some getting to know you chit chat, I asked Reese where he lived
in town. Normal enough question, but he was cagey in his reply. He told
me where and I asked, "Oh, those apartments on the right?" He said, "No." So I asked, "Then is it that house down on the left?" He said, "No." I said, "Well, I know the area, and there's
nothing between those apartments and that house." He reluctantly and
rather sheepishly said, "You know that stream that goes under the road?
If you follow that stream up about 20 yards, then jump over it, there's a
little clearing. In that clearing is a platform I built. And on the
platform, is my tent. That's where I live." OK, I thought. This guy really likes camping.
At church retreats, it's usual to have a speaker focus on a particular topic for the weekend. That weekend, the topic was friendship. The speaker discussed different examples of friendships in the Bible, buddy buddy friendships, romantic friendships, and friendships centered on another's spiritual well being. The idea was that we live in a disjointed society with people moving in and out of our lives, and unless we really commit to friendships, we can easily lose our way in this great big world. I went to six different schools growing up, so the idea of working toward a "staying connected" friendship appealed to me.
There were no big sparks. At the time, I was sort of dating someone else. But I liked Reese well enough. He was enthusiastic, kind, thoughtful, and helpful. Plus, he knew how to scramble eggs over a campfire. That's a skill worth something. He must have liked me at least a little bit, too. By the end of the weekend, with the idea of friendship on our hearts and minds, just before I put my thumb out to hitchhike back to Estes Park, Reese and I looked at each other and said, "Let's be friends." I think we shook hands to seal the deal. So, that's how we met and became almost instant friends. And we've been best friends ever since. But falling in love? That's another story.