Sunday, September 6, 2015

School's back in session, and so is Fern Forest romance

             Ever think about what you were like in high school?

 Fern Forest Treehouse seems to be the destination for high school sweethearts. Jess and Chris are pushing thirty, and this weekend they were celebrating one year until their wedding next fall. She’s a gorgeous blonde who works in the Vermont governor’s office, and he’s a talkative engineer designing VAC for commercial businesses. The two Vermonters met on a blind date when Jess was fifteen and Chris was two years older. They liked each other immediately and dated throughout high school. When Chris went to Clarkson to study engineering, Jess saw him whenever he was home. After high school, she enrolled at SUNY Potsdam to be near him.
A few weeks ago we had a couple from Boston who fell in love when they were assigned high school lockers next to each other. At sixteen, Zoe had dated a few guys but didn’t connect with any of them. Then one day she and Brian were at their lockers at the same time. Their elbows bumped. She looked at him and knew. Now in their thirties, they’ve been married a year, and the magic is still alive.
Last month I went to my own high school reunion on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Once I read the guest list and was sure there would be no one there I had ever kissed, I told my husband he could come with me. H went to an all-boys boarding school and was very shy, so there wasn’t much chance he’d have fallen in love back then.
I had no idea how I came across to others when I was a teenager. One of the guys at the reunion said he was scared to death of me and used to avoid me in the halls. I played field hockey and was on student council. At the Christmas dance and the Prom I had been crowned to sit on the court with a few other popular girls. But I wasn’t aware that I intimidated boys.
“Was I so horrible?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “You were just—” It took him a few seconds to come out with it. “Just so well dressed.”
Me? Well dressed? I had no idea.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be so sure of yourself in the mid-teens that you’re willing to commit to someone for life?  It’s risky, isn’t it? I mean, we change so much with kids, mortgages, and the aging process. How do we know who we’ll want to be with as we grow old?
A while ago a couple in their fifties booked a night in the Treehouse. They had gone to the same high school and had even been lab partners in chemistry class, but they never dated. They each went separate ways, married, and then divorced. Years later, she went to a high school reunion, having forgotten about him. He didn’t show up at the event, but one of hs friends said, “I have a buddy I think you’d like.” He got them together, and they came to the Treehouse for their second date. Later she sent me a note saying they’d gotten just a few miles down the road before he pulled into a parking lot and they made out before heading home. 
Imagine being with someone who has known you since you were in your teens and liked you through those periods of insecurity, of hiding the zit on your chin, of saying stupid things and making stupid mistakes. Someone who forgave you because he or she was in the same boat. It must be a comfortable feeling.
Jess told us about Chris proposing on the island of Saint John. In the pre-dawn, they hiked up a
hill to watch the sunrise. Jess was busy filming the horizon on her phone when Chris tapped her shoulder. He was down on one knee, a diamond ring in his hand.
“How’d you know her ring size?” I asked him.
“Oh, I’ve always known that,” he said. “Always” means since she was sixteen, I guess.
On Sunday morning, as they were leaving, we gave them hugs and wished them all the best on their wedding plans.

“Maybe soon you’ll be planning a wedding, too,” Jess said. She meant one of our thirty-something sons, neither of whom has popped the question. Maybe they’re waiting for their next high school reunion.