It’s time for Project 52 – Week 19!
19 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, since a year has 52 weeks, I decided to post each week for the next year about one year of my life. I’m having a lot of fun remembering and thinking about where God has brought me.
When I thought about writing this post, what looms large is this is the year I met my ex-husband, Steve Eklund. I was telling some work friends that this was coming up, so I was thinking a lot about it. They asked why I would do this. So let me give some reasons. Here are some things that come to mind:
1) We were SO YOUNG when we met!
2) I really did spend a lot of my life with Steve.
3) I said all along, all during the divorce process, that Steve was a very good husband for a very long time. THIS IS TRUE!
4) Remembering the happy times is a way to reclaim those years. Yet I’ve come far enough in the healing process that on the one hand I can remember the happy times, but on the other hand I don’t want to remarry Steve again.
5) But I am very thankful for the happy times. And they lasted a long time.
6) This is *my* story. There’s something valuable about telling my story. Steve was part of that story for many years, and I’m not going to throw away those years or that part of my story just because the marriage ended badly.
7) Have I mentioned how much fun I’m having doing Project 52? I’m hoping this is a transition time in my life. (Hoping, because I would like, some day, to marry again, and that would start a new phase.) And it strikes me now that the year I was 19 was a similar time in my life to the time I’m going through now, at 52.
I didn’t really meet Steve (to talk to) until the end of the year. So my junior year at Biola was the one year I was a teenager and didn’t have a crush on anyone.
That summer, I lived back at my parents’ house and worked full time at Biola University Data Systems as a programmer. I didn’t commute with Becky, because she was married. But the summer before, Becky and I had moved out into one half of the duplex behind my parents’ house. They finally decided that they needed to let the little kids have those bedrooms! We’d had renters in the duplex for years, but the summer of 1982, they finally had Rick move to one side and Becky and me to the other. Then I moved into the dorm and Becky got married — but that summer before my junior year I lived in the duplex — and that was the very last time I lived at my parents’ house in Wilmington.
And my Dad got me, cheap, a 1969 Fiat Spider convertible! It was bright green, and it made me happy to live in Southern California! Almost every day I could drive with the top down. Driving in to work was a whole lot of fun with that car — which I only had for 6 months. (More on that…)
That summer, Becky started working at Data Systems as a data entry operator, so we often had lunch together.
I also went backpacking with the college group at church. I especially had fun with Marian and Jill on that trip.
Here’s the group:
And here I’m having a meal with Jill and Lance and college pastor John Shumate:
That summer, having lunches with Becky, was when we started the S.I.K. Club with sisters Jill and Gina Mammano, who were also around Biola that summer. I won’t reveal what S.I.K. stands for except to say that it was about embracing silliness and living life with joy.
We felt sorry for August, because it doesn’t have any holidays — so we made our own August Silly Holidays Calendar and thought up ways to celebrate them. We had days like August Sillies’ Day (instead of April Fool’s Day) and Hog’s Day (instead of Ground Hog Day) and Narnian Independence Day and Footloose and Fancy Free Day.
That was about the time I developed the Sparkle Theory. My Sparkle Theory goes something like this: Every human being desperately needs Sparkles. An easy way to find those sparkles, for girls, is to find them by thinking about some guy. When there’s not a guy in your life (Remember, this was my one year without a crush on anyone.), you need to consciously look for Sparkles.
And I’ll confess, I was trying to keep myself from imagining something where there didn’t really need to be anything. I did go on quite a lot of dates that year. Usually not with the same guy twice, though.
But that summer, we ate lunches fairly often with a guy named Dane who was my year at Biola and worked as an Electrician. I was somewhat tempted to let myself get a crush on him. We were good friends, and Dane later took me on two or three dates. The ones I remember were an outing playing Disc Golf at La Mirada Park and a trip to Magic Mountain. The trip to Magic Mountain was fun! And the physical proximity of going on rides did turn my head.
But — Dane was taking other girls on dates as well. And I can’t complain. We girls at Biola were old-fashioned enough not to ask guys out ourselves. And we’d complain that we wanted guys to ask us out. So Dane, at least, was doing that. In practice? Well, looking back, I remember my friendship with Dane fondly — and those dates. (And I’m not sure there wasn’t another date or two that I don’t remember!)
One of the most clever times I’ve been asked out was when somebody got on the mainframe computer when I was at work and sent me messages from an unidentified person — and asked me out. It was a math major a year ahead of me, Mark Debonis, and he asked me to go to a movie with him.
The movie was Yentl, about a highly intelligent woman not being feminine enough to attract her best friend, a man she loves deeply and truly. (Ouch!) And — also at the movie on a weeknight in a practically empty theater was Dane and another girl. Okay. (Good thing I didn’t really have a crush on him. But it sure distracted me from my date with Mark.)
But I’m getting out of sequence! The year started, of course, with Chorale activities like the yearly trip to Yosemite.
Here’s a picture from the annual bike ride in Yosemite Valley:
That year, my roommate was Coral Nightingale, a nursing major from Florence, Oregon. We lived in Sigma Chi dorm on the third floor. I found it was really fun to blow bubbles out the window of my dorm room and duck if anyone came by to notice them. (Bubbles really dance around if you blow them from the third floor. Hmm. I should try that from my balcony some day.)
Coral had a boyfriend, Jo Suzuki (whom she later married), so she didn’t mind that I was busy with work and Chorale folks. That year, I started getting to know my fellow math majors better — mostly guys — and started mostly eating my meals in the cafeteria with them.
It was when Coral was my roommate that I looked in her nursing books and realized that the headaches I’d had most of my life were migraines. I was taking a lot of Excedrin at that time, though it usually did the trick.
I started taking upper division math classes that year. Those were mainly only offered every two years — so most of the Senior math majors were in the classes with us Juniors. I took two of my favorites, Probability and Statistics, that year.
Another class that sticks in my mind was Creative Writing. My friend from commuter lounge days and fellow S.I.K., Jill Mammano, was in that class. The teacher, Doc Saunders, encouraged us to think about getting published. I’m still thinking about it! (And have taken steps toward it. And have gotten short pieces published.)
I remember that early on they asked us to write a short piece about an emotional experience. I wrote about the joy of driving my convertible. I’d named my little Fiat “Ebenezer,” which means, “Stone of Help,” from the verse in I Samuel, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped.” It was my reminder of God’s love and how far He had brought me.
The teacher had me read it aloud and remarked that I was the only person in the class who wrote about a positive emotional experience.
[I mentioned that there are parallels between that year and my life now? Well, the S.I.K.s really focused on Joy and finding Sparkles. And now my small group is going through a study on Joy. I do think that Joy is excellent for getting you through a time of singleness.]
But about that car. I think it was in December that I was driving to my parents’ house. I was on Eubank Avenue, waiting to cross Pacific Coast Highway, just before Banning Park. A truck was having trouble making the turn ahead of me, and used up almost the entire green light. It turned yellow before I even got to go — but I was tired of waiting, so I went through.
It’s a long intersection. PCH has six lanes at that point. Most of the cars did wait for me to cross the intersection. But somebody was driving in the right lane — the furthest lane from me as I went across the intersection. That car didn’t see me crossing the intersection, because the cars that were waiting for me blocked his view. My convertible was a very small car. (That was part of what I loved about it. It fit me!) But the cars that were waiting for me were all bigger — the guy driving in the right lane surely didn’t see me. And he hit my car at the front right corner. And then we sort of bounced and he hit the back right corner as well.
Sigh. I felt terrible for going through the yellow, so said it was my fault at the scene. (Don’t do that! Oh well.)
I felt fine at the scene. But my car didn’t have a shoulder belt, only a lap belt. I hit that belt so hard, the skin was broken under my pants. My sunglasses flew to the right corner of the car.
The next day when I woke up — I felt AWFUL. I don’t know how my feet and legs and arms got bruised, but they did. (Hit the pedals? The steering wheel?) I went to the health clinic and they told me to see a doctor, but I never did work that out.
That Saturday (a couple days later) was the big Putnam Exam — a math test competition all math majors took. And I was leaving the test early to audition for the Wizard of Oz. Well, I didn’t get the part of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I could hardly move, let alone dance. I think I did get the highest score on the math test (since Mark Shimozono had graduated). But I mostly remember riding to a pizza place in Dr. Thurber’s car that evening — and thinking he was starting and stopping horribly abruptly — because every little stress on my neck hurt.
So anyway, I was back to getting rides from friends. But it was fun while it lasted.
Chorale Tour that year was to Arizona. I hiked around the rim of the Grand Canyon with some others.
Notable in that picture is Sam Powell, standing at the back. Sam had been my assigned dancing partner for Third Half, the “variety show” the Chorale did every year. I wasn’t thrilled by the assignment — Sam seemed pretty odd. But as I got to know him, I discovered he’s actually a really intelligent and thoughtful person with a quirky sense of humor. Sam was in my West & the World class as well. And Sam had a roommate named Steve Eklund, who was also a year behind me and new in Chorale that year.
I think I first noticed Steve on Chorale Tour to Arizona, because Steve was from Arizona. (Well, really from upstate New York, but he’d lived in Arizona since high school.) We had a free day at the Grand Canyon — and Steve spent it hiking to the bottom of the canyon and back. I was slightly envious. I also remember Heidi Ridenour telling me she’d had a good talk with Steve. She said that he doesn’t talk much, but when he does, he has good things to say. I took note.
And I said that I went on more dates that year? I remember because of this picture that I went to Spring Banquet with Curt Schoellerman, a math major who was a year ahead of me.
Curt had been engaged most of the time I’d known him, but the engagement had recently been broken off. Which was awkward for me. Curt was super nice — I thought of him as too nice, which doesn’t seem fair. Anyway, it was nice to have a nice date to Spring Banquet.
And then the big event of the end of the year was when I got the President’s Award. It’s a full-tuition scholarship offered to one Senior. They interviewed some of us in the running for it, so I knew I was being considered.
I remember that the Sunday before the announcement, we had a Chorale concert and I talked with Steve Eklund some, but I was very distracted, thinking about the announcement the next day. He even called me pulchritudinous, and I thought I knew what it meant — but took it as an insult instead of a compliment. Oops!
The next day, the class before chapel (when they would announce), I was jumping out of my skin. Anyway, they announced that I’d won.
A couple days later, there was some sort of banquet for alumni, and the Chorale was singing, so they made an official announcement and invited my parents and took pictures. In this picture is Biola President Dr. Clyde Cook. (The one at the top of the page includes Biola Chorale director Loren Wiebe.)
It was about that time of year (the very last month of school) that I started getting to know Steve. He and Sam and I were all “non-Europe” people. The Chorale was going on tour to Europe after school let out, but some of us couldn’t quite bring ourselves to ask our parents to let us go. (I may have asked and gotten a No.) Anyway, Mr. Wiebe dismissed the Non-Europe people early, so I’d have lunch with Sam and Steve and a few others on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
And May 17, my dorm was having an Open House. I invited Steve to come, and told him we’d be reading from Winnie-the-Pooh.
Steve came and Sam came. Steve brought a couple of friends from band, Ann and Len. And we read from Winnie-the-Pooh. And when they left, I realized that I had just fallen for Steve Eklund. (What can I say? He does a really great Eeyore voice.)
Now, Steve had brought a girl (and a guy) to my Open House. (Don’t do that when a girl invites you to her open house.) My radar told me she liked him. But she and I never did really hit it off. (And remember: I had a history of guys I liked liking someone else better.)
That was May 17, 1984. The next week was Finals Week. I’d finished a Final exam on Thursday and came across Steve and Ann and a few others hanging out in front of the music building. (Steve was a music major and much more enthusiastic about band than he was about Chorale. That was the only year he was in Chorale.)
Steve had a postcard from his sister. I think it was a picture of her graduating. He said, “I bet you can’t guess what school this is. I’ll buy you lunch if you do — either one of you.” (Speaking to Ann and me.)
Well, that was silly — I had no idea what school it was. So he said “I’ll give you three yes-or-no questions.”
We established that it was a Christian college on the East Coast, but I didn’t actually know of any such schools. Then Nate Lewis (from the Chorale) walked up to us and saw the post card and said, “Oh that’s Gordon College! My sister went there.”
So I immediately asked my third Yes-or-no question, “Is it Gordon College?” (This was fair. I mean, Ann could have asked the same question. I was quickest.)
Steve wasn’t terribly gracious about me getting it right, given my dubious method. He said he’d show my meal ticket at the cafeteria. But when we got to the cafeteria line, he had left his own meal ticket in his room. By the time he got back, we were already in the cafeteria.
So — we made a date for him to take me to lunch the next day, May 24, 1984.
When it came up, his car was in the shop, so we walked to the Mongolian Barbecue, up next to La Mirada Park.
And had a wonderful time.
That night, as it happened, I had a dinner date with Curt to Bobby McGees. That was a super nice (and expensive) place, where the waiters dress up as characters. And the whole time, I was thinking about what a good time I’d had at lunch with Steve.
I decided it’s not very nice to your date to spend it thinking about someone else, and that you really shouldn’t go out with two different guys on the same day.
And then the school year ended, and I wasn’t going to see Steve again for awhile. Would he answer letters….?
And that year my sister Becky graduated:
And so did the Math Brothers who were a year ahead of me. This one’s of Mark (not a math major), Travis, Mark, and Nathan:
And this one’s of Curt, Dale, Dr. Thurber, and Jim:
Did I mention how much I enjoyed being one of only a few women in my classes? It may have messed things up a little that I mostly got higher grades than they did, but my Math Brothers meant a whole lot to me. (And the ones pictured were just the Seniors. I still had some good friends left in my year.)
So… I’d had a footloose and fancy-free junior year, and then let my heart get snagged right at the end of the year. Alas, but my junior year was also my last year in Chorale. The following year, they’d scheduled an important upper division math class right during Chorale. For the summer, I arranged to share a room in a house on Biola Avenue. So my days of living in my parents’ house were over.
I was ready to leave my teens behind.
What a memory you have! I’m sure, also, that one day you will be published.
Sondy, I enjoyed your Project 52 entry. I don’t know if you remember me. I was married to your Uncle Elmer for almost twenty years. Like you we had some good times, but the marriage ended on a sour note. I was single for six years, which was hard with five kids, but by the Grace of God, we all survived. I met Dennis on Jan 1st 1986, and in April we married. We have been together happily for 30 years. We were not seeking to find someone, but seeking only God. Our story is in my book, a true love story. For another time. Just know that God has someone out there for you, Seek first the kingdom of GOD and all these things will be added to you..Paraphrased, Blessing to you
Aunt Barbara, of course I remember you! But I had no idea about your story — Thanks for sharing it! That’s lovely.