It was 1993. I was a senior at Cyprus High, Home of Scholars and Champions, in Magna, Utah. I happened to hate Mr. Seyes trigonometry class, as well as math in general, and found out one day that I didn't need to take that damned class after all! So, I dropped it. And replaced it with Mr. Jone's (the AL Jones of the band-teacher variety, not the history Mr. Jones) criminal justice class. I knew it would be an easy A, since I had about a billion band classes with the Mr. Jones. Anything to keep that GPA high without having to do much work (maybe that's why I felt like a retard when I started BYU).
It's a good thing I added that criminal justice class. While learning about the difference between slander and libel, I also became better friends with Rebekah, who also happened to be in my AP English class. We started up a fun, talkative friendship that sustained us well through that first class of the day. Early one morning while chatting it up in class (that's all we did, I'm pretty sure), I mentioned that my favorite color was yellow (it was yellow back then, but now it's red. Fickle teens). Well I'll be! Rebekah, who worked at ZCMI at The Valley Fair Mall, happened to work with some kid named Neal who had just mentioned to her the other night at work, that he liked the color yellow. Perhaps she should set us up on a date??
I remember the next morning as I was standing at my locker in the SBO section of lockers (oh, the status symbol that was), Rebekah approached me and said she spoke with Neal, and he wanted to call me. And, he was 20. Wow. I was immediately sure that he was probably sexy, because surely, he had hair on his chest by now and had to shave his face whiskers regularly. That is manlier than the standard high school variety boy, and by that time (I was 18!), I was so beyond the puny high school boys. I was ready for a manly make-out.
Neal called me that afternoon after I got home from school. We spoke for a long time. And I remember vividly two elements of that conversation. First, when he found out I was taking an AP government class, he was impressed, and we immediately started talking "nerd." Oh, what sweet joy that was! I could speak "nerd" with someone without actually having to speak to a nerd and have him think I liked him!! The second element of the convo I remember was talking about reading the book Scarlett, which happens to be a sequel to Gone With the Wind, but not written by Margaret Mitchell. I was liking the book. Neal started to tease me mercilessly about my poor book choice. It was a fun tease, and put me at ease with this mystery man at the other end of the line.
We set a date for that weekend. He had tickets to Handel's Messiah at the Tabernacle at Temple Square. But first, we were going to make pizza at his house before the show. Oh man!! I was excited and impressed at the calibre of date he was planning. So, December 13, 1993 rolled around, and he picked me up for our first date. I'm so glad I wrote everything down in my journal when I got home that night. I described the moment I opened the door in these embarrassing, face-reddening words -- "He was a dream boat." The only other time I've heard that phrase is from Back to the Future. I am such a loser.
I immediately liked him. Immediately. And he was impressed with me, because I was dorkily wearing my Young Women Medallion. My estimation of him continued to grow when I found out in the course of the date that he was a 4 year convert to the church, and had just submitted his mission papers earlier that week. So, not only was I dating a hairy-chested 20 year old man, which in and of itself made my heart flutter, but this manly man was going on his mission. All by himself and working two jobs to save, without the encouragement of his parents. Impressive indeed. I filed that impression away in my "Future Husband Qualities" file in that young brain of mine for future reference. . .
We saw each other as often as possible those next 2 months. He would visit me at the camera bar at Reams where I and most of the rest of the high school worked evenings. I loved looking over the shelves of movies and twirly-thing of 3 for 99 cent earrings and seeing his head walking towards me to visit. And then he would follow me home in his sexy green 1978 Cadillac Coupe De Ville with the 8-track player with bag pipe music.
Funny aside - there was another girl in our high school that worked with Neal and Rebekah at ZCMI. She was also in mine and Rebekah's AP English class, and she had a major crush on Neal. One day in class, we were watching "Romeo and Juliet," which meant I was in the corner of the dark room, sitting on the floor with friends and using the class time to chit-chat. Of course, we were discussing the progression of my relationship with Neal. I remember the star-struck crusher asking, "have you kissed him yet?" I think she was a little sad that it was me macking on him, and not her.
Neal left for the Germany, Duesseldorf mission in February of 1994, and I went off to BYU in August of 1994. We wrote letters weekly for the two years he was gone. What a great way to get to know the heart of a person. I will forever be grateful for that long, two years of letter writing.
I didn't promise him I would wait for him, and he didn't ask, but that little "Future Husband Qualities" file cabinet in my head was pretty full of Nealisms. I dated while at BYU, and even passed up the hilarious L. and the hot, sexy English Boy, M., who was a pre-med, airforce ROTC, construction working, ski and track team hottie. Oh yeah, he was hot. But, the Neal won.
When he returned home from his mission in February of 1996, we were engaged by April and married in October. I'll share sometime the story of when he gave me my ring. It's hilarious!!