(We were totally kids and totally friends.)
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. Kody says it was winter of the same year at a high school basketball game. He remembers my pink, Converse-styled, high-top rubber snow boots. I remember sitting with my eighth-grade girlfriends a row ahead of some ninth-grade boys in the bleachers. Kody was among the boys. He tossed a snap-pop firecracker over the side of the bleacher railing. It snapped, and so did our junior high principal. He tossed Kody and the other guys out of the game. But that’s Kody’s story to tell.
That summer day, I met my friend Starla at the public pool, where we slathered on baby oil, baked in the sun, and watched boys. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Kody. His legs rippled with each step up the ladder and each bounce on the high board. He vaulted like Icarus toward the sun and flipped before his descent into the most epic cannonballs. His biceps bulged as he gripped the ladder and pulled himself out of the pool.On the deck with his friends, Kody’s golden-brown eyes and glistening broad shoulders captivated me when he glanced my way. When our eyes met again, I smiled. “You don’t happen to be going to Mark’s house, do you?” I said.
“No,” he said. “Why?” He stood drenched and dripping on his towel, and his body glowed in the afternoon sun. He slicked back his fierce dark hair, and his chest flexed.
“I need a ride home,” I lied. Kody’s good friend Mark was my next-door neighbor. The ride, an excuse to hang out with a cute boy, who just happened to hang out next door. Kody drove a 1977 white Chevy Silverado pick-up even though he was barely fifteen. My mom didn’t work, and she was home. She could’ve picked me up. She definitely would’ve disapproved, and my dad probably would’ve killed me. But my hormones dictated the day.
“No problem,” he said.
And Kody drove me straight home, where he pulled into the circle drive and slowed to a stop. I opened the passenger door to let myself out, but Kody never parked. Instead, he accelerated, completing the circle while I held on to the open truck door and cackled. A moment later and once more outside my front door, he stopped for another mock drop-off, and like a scratched 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. I giggled about that ride for days.
At the end of the summer, Kody headed to high school, and my junior high was a little less cool. But. we saw each other at 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.