In high school, I was friends with a boy who was handsome, kind, strong, and the most intelligent person I ever knew.
Reader, I married him.
There are some interesting truths about having the same boyfriend since the eighties.
1. There is a written record of our relationship. On paper.
Our romance began in 1987 before cell phones and texting were invented. In fact, though we went to the same high school, Jim lived far enough away that our calls were billed as long distance. There were a few years there when he lived in the mountains and I lived by the sea, and he didn’t have a phone at all. For years we wrote long letters, some of which still smell like the woodsmoke from the woodburning stove in Jim’s cabin.
I still keep them in the same Rasputin’s bag I always did because the store on Telegraph Avenue was the greatest and the pic on the bag was naughty, at least it seemed like it was in 1987.
2. Our wedding photos look like pictures of kids playing dress-up.
We weren’t really twelve when we got married. I had just turned twenty-three, and Jim was a whole six months older. I always liked older men. Right now our marriage is older than we were when we got married.
3. Our early family photos look like pictures of teen parents.
In some ways, my husband and I didn’t just grow up with each other. We grew up with our first daughter as well. We weren’t really teen parents. We just looked like teen parents. That’s what happens when you get married when you’re twelve.
4. We were poor together.
I had a full time teaching job that paid less than fifteen thousand dollars a year, and Jim was just starting college when got married. There is something very badass about knowing that the two of us can totally handle living on very little money, generating very little debt. Y2K bug? Recession? Zombie Apocalypse? Bring it on. We’ve seen it all before.
5. Young love? We get it.
On the way home from school the day I first met Jim I said to my parents:
“Jim Wanket may or may not want me, but I will marry and have children with no other guy.”
My announcement did not go over well. I get it, I was fifteen. But I meant what I said.
The first time I met Jim felt like. . . . well, you know that feeling after you have been away from home for what feels like forever, and you finally walk into your own front door and everything is familiar and okay? Shaking Jim’s hand for the first time overwhelmed me with exactly that feeling. (And some other feelings too that are very private, thank you very much.)
I never didn’t mean what I said about Jim on that first day, even though it took us nearly two years to get over our shyness and finally profess ourselves.
No young person in our lives will every hear from either of us that his or her feelings aren’t real. Young love is very real, the realest. We get it.
- List and/or write about the crushes and relationships that you had as a young person.
- In what ways has your criteria for the ideal sweetheart changed from when you were seventeen? How has it stayed the same?
- What would you say to yourself at fifteen about love?
- What would you say to a young person you know today about love?
The Ghost Daughter follows the stories of two young couples, high school sweethearts, who become each other’s world. Maybe I didn’t have to stretch too much to imagine what that feels like.