I’m not exactly sure when Kody realized that I existed. For me, it’s like I have always known him. In small towns, everybody knows everybody, and we grew up together in the middle of the Oklahoma panhandle where fields of corn and wheat meet the endless blue sky. I remember one summer day in 1984, marking the beginning of our friendship. (Kody remembers an earlier episode during the winter of the same year involving a high school basketball game, my pink high-top-tennis-shoe-looking snow boots, a detonated firecracker, and our junior high principal Mr. Wolgamott on the scene, but that’s his story to tell). In my memory, I was fourteen, slathering myself with baby oil and sunbathing with friends at the public pool. I remember Kody flipping and diving and splashing onlookers with a cannonball or two from the high board, and me, enjoying the show. I also remember needing a ride home. Kody drove a 1977 white Chevy Silverado pick-up even though he was barely fifteen. I don’t really remember talking to him that day, but looking back I’m betting my mom would have been available to pick me up, and I’m pretty sure she would have disapproved of a ride from any boy, not to mention one without a license. I most likely asked Kody for a lift for the sheer summer thrill.
I remember nothing out-of-the-ordinary about that ride except for the drop off. Kody pulled into the circle drive at my house and slowed to a stop. I opened the passenger door to let myself out and say, “Thanks for the ride.” But Kody never parked, instead accelerating again, completing the circle while I held on to the open truck door and cracked up. Within seconds and once more outside my front door, he stopped for another mock drop-off, and like a record, we rotated through the drive, the scene repeating, the Silverado pausing, then rolling on, Kody’s laugh infectious. Finally, he let me go. We were kids, being kids, and I found myself giggling about that ride for days.
At the end of the summer, Kody headed to high school, leaving me behind at the junior high. However, we saw each other at the Victory Center church each week–in Sunday school and again at youth group. Most people probably don’t know that, but I believe God had a plan for us.
Flash forward a couple of years to our first date and three more to our first marriage and twenty-eight more through our journey of ups and downs, human mistakes and equally human reactions, break-ups and make-ups, for better and for worse.
Look at us. On November 25, 1989, at the Victory Center, I was a child-bride, marrying a man-child. Over time and together, we’ve learned a thing or two about imperfection and forgiveness, family and unconditional love. And speaking of love, this photograph–so much to love here: the way Kody looks at me, his little brother Thomas in the background, the fact that Hurricane Harvey tried to take our wedding album, but the photos survive and the fact that twenty-eight years later so do Kody and I.