Spring semester was over and I was headed home for the summer. I took Parke with me, not physically, but in my mind and heart. He was everywhere I went. Absence truly did make the heart grow fonder, which surprised me since previously, absence made my eye wander.
Parke informed me that his sister and he were driving to Los Angeles for an inner-city conference and service project at the end of July. He was hoping to swing by my hometown after the conference. I laughed because “swinging by” meant driving 7 hours out of the way but I was thrilled at the prospect of introducing Parke to my world.
Since the announcement, I had 4 weeks to prepare myself. In addition to my continued affection through the e-waves, I listened to his favorite music, I began learning German and read his favorite book, Fahrenheit 451. Parke’s the type of man that inspired me to learn. And dance. And Needlepoint. And Sky-Dive. And Glass-Blow. And Squid-Fish. Whatever. I’m not sure if my goal was to improve myself or to impress him, but either way; he inspired me. We were getting to know “the real” each other through letters, phone calls and emails, but I didn’t want him to forget the Ashley that he thought was a hottie. I needed to look smokin’ for my man. I ran every night and lost 5 pounds. I got my nails and hair done before he arrived and bought some new clothes. I was ready to knock him off his feet.
Upon seeing him again, floodgates of emotion were released. It had been an agonizing 6 weeks since we had seen each other and I missed him immensely. But there he was, standing in my kitchen holding three colorful Gerbera daisies. Ahhhhh.
I’d lived in my house since second grade. This house had seen my phases of 4 foot-tall bangs and perms to long straight hair, ripped jeans to cords and owning every color and style of Doc Martens shoes produced. My front porch could write its own book, spying kisses with hunky football players, grungy rockers and prom dates. I had snuck into its windows at 2 am and sat on its roof to watch the sun set over the kiwi orchard. I had walked through my kitchen thousands of times. I had eaten cereal every morning of my juvenile life at that nook and made cookies with friends on that counter. My dad even caught me with my boyfriend in its dark pantry. But that was the old kitchen. My kitchen would be forever changed. For there was Parke, standing in this new kitchen with rays of glorious light shooting out from his head. I restrained myself from attacking him with kisses since my family and his sister were present but I gave him a warm, lingering hug.
Over dinner he charmed my mom and impressed my father. It was surreal. Was Parke really in California, eating at my dinner table? I was helpless to stop my mom and dad from bragging about their only daughter and Parke was eating it up. Parke wandered my halls perusing baby pictures and softball trophies. He was pleased by the Les Miserables poster on my wall and chuckled at my High School dance pictures. This was me, exposed.
The next morning, I opened the door to his room wearing nothing but a teeny weeny bathing suit. His eyes widened and he grinned as I lay down next to him. However, my mission was to drag him to the pool, not roll in my parents’ house, ewww. He resisted, especially after a consolation kiss, but finally relented. Parke looked absolutely adorable and irresistible with his hair wild, five-o-clock shadow and clothes disheveled. I imagined waking up next to him for a lifetime and my heart leapt. We spent the morning swimming, tanning and riding 4-wheelers through the orchards. Afterwards, he took a shower. When he emerged from the bathroom, his hair was wet and perfectly in place. His face was clean-shaven and he smelled delicious. I couldn’t decide if I liked Messy Parke or Cleaned-up Parke more. That night we went for a run and ended up at my childhood park. We swung on the swings and jumped off into sand piles. Time rewound as we were children again.
While running home he easily leapfrogged over a fire hydrant. My feminist Annie Oakley side came out; I can do anything you can do! So I decided to jump the next hydrant. I should have realized that 4 foot hydrants are not meant to be jumped by 5 foot people, but I didn’t. It wasn’t until a millisecond before catapulting over the hydrant that I realized my mission was doomed. I hesitated, but no one told the inertia of my body. My upper body flew over the hydrant whereas my lady goods hit the top of the hydrant. Then I cracked my shoulder on the cement sidewalk. My ovaries were so angry they threatened to withhold future children from me. Parke ran up to me and took me in his arms. He was so worried.
“Are you OK!?!”
My body throbbed. It hurt so badly, but I tried to be brave. More than anything, my pride was crushed and embarrassment settled in. I tend to embarrass myself frequently. I’m not overly clumsy; I just tend to attract awkward situations. “Teenage years” plus “that time of the month” plus “hunk of the week” assured many chapters of horrors in my book of embarrassing moments. Some of my most stand-out embarrassing moments were:
1. Right before cheerleading for a basketball game, I realized that I had forgotten to shave my armpits. I figured no one would notice. But they did. People were pointing and laughing and making up cheers about me.
2. While biking on a congested street, I wiped out royally and landed in a shallow ditch. The car in front of a long line of cars stopped traffic to ask if I was OK causing a traffic jam complete with angry drivers honking behind her.
3. Once I was running backwards in front of a group of people. I ran right into a great big, open trash can. I fell in, rear first, with only my arms and legs sticking out of the top.
The hydrant episode was close to making the top ten of embarrassing moments, simply because I liked Parke so much and I wanted to impress him. I was humiliated. And when Parke realized that I was OK, he started laughing (adding fuel to the fire).
“That was AWESOME!” and laughed until he couldn’t breathe.
The next day we took San Francisco by storm. We explored the Japanese Tea Gardens, ate clam chowder on the wharf, took at a ferry to Alcatraz, walked on the beach, ate overlooking the Pacific, rode a trolley and visited the LDS Oakland Temple. I suppose any city is romantic when you are with the man you love but San Francisco is particularly enchanting. My favorite memory occurred while walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. As we strolled along the bridge we noticed that the door was open that guarded cavernous hollow of the South Tower. We looked inside and up the looming tower. It was abandoned. A sign warned: Trespassing. $20,000 fine. There was an enticing set of fixed vertical stairs leading up the tower. The temptation beckoned. Parke was cooking danger for lunch and I was hungry. We started up the stairs and shut the door behind us. It was exhilarating to be in the belly of that majestic bridge, trespassing with the one you love. Parke was adventurous and exciting. The kisses we shared in the haul of the bridge were adventurous and exciting to match. He carved a heart with our initials in it on the wall to forever mark our adventure. Vandalism and trespassing are some of Parke’s best qualities.
Minutes later we were still one person in the haul of that great bridge. Although Parke was almost a foot taller than me, we fit. We were lock and key.
We headed down when we heard someone speaking outside the door. When we got closer, Parke realized they were speaking German. There’s not much that can pull Parke away from kissing me but when he heard the German language it was music to his ears. We snuck out and Parke began conversing with the two strangers in their native tongue. Most people would not consider German a language of love, with its harsh, gravely, Hitleresque tone, but when I heard Parke easily engaging with these two strangers, I was awestruck.
The night before his departure, we were sitting on my couch talking, OK, mostly kissing. However, the discussion turned serious as we started discussing religion. I loved that we could discuss spiritual matters without weirdness or ignorance. He told me that sometimes he missed his other half, although he didn’t know who she was. He didn’t want to be married necessarily; he just longed for that person who would complete him. It was like a preemptive loss. His eyes got misty. “You probably don’t know what I mean”, he tried covering his emotions. But I DID know what he meant.
The conversation arrived at our patriarchal blessings. In the LDS church, a Patriarchal Blessing is a special blessing that you receive from an ordained Patriarch just once in your life. Patriarchal blessings include a declaration of a person's lineage in the house of Israel and contain personal counsel from God. Basically, it’s like telling your future, in a sacred, special way. Its transcribed and given to you in written form. I’ve always liked mine because it is very specific and has powerful promises.
In one part, it states that I knew my husband previously, before this Earth life, and that we were supposed to find each other.
As he was explaining his yearning for his other half, the moment seemed appropriate so I relayed the promise made to me in my Patriarchal blessing. As soon as shared that I knew my companion previously, the most powerful, overwhelming feeling came over me. Encompassing warmth started at my head and bathed my entire body. It was so engulfing that I could hardly breathe or speak. Tears welled up in my eyes. Embarrassed, I turned away from Parke. I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable or see me get emotional. I quickly changed the subject although the sensation lingered. I knew The Spirit had spoken to me. I had read that line in my Patriarchal Blessing many times in my life with curiosity. But I had never experienced a reaction such as this.
I believe in fate. I believe in choice also. However, there are a few specific things that I know I am meant to do. I know there is just one specific man for me. At that moment, Heavenly Father was speaking to me. Was He telling me that Parke was the one I was supposed to find? Was Parke the man who I knew before?
I had only dated Parke over two weekends. But I was never surer of anything in my entire life.