Susan and I were recently asked by friends (in preparation for a Valentine's Day dinner activity) to write the story of how we met. It's one we've told many times, but for those of you who have never heard it, here it is. Maybe one day, if there is any interest, we'll write Chapter 2. Hope you enjoy.
In a series of highly improbable events1, in the fall of 1987 Phillip began attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania2. An overly generous admissions officer had given him credit for his score of 3 (out of 5) on his high school AP Calculus exam (thanks Carolyn!) and he was able to receive credit for Calculus I for mathematics majors and enter that fall as a freshman taking Calculus II. Susan on the other hand had graduated high school from Lenape in Kittanning, PA in 1986 and had spent her first year of college at California University of Pennsylvania (she once described California as the “armpit of western Pennsylvania”). She began college majoring in elementary school education, but after sitting through a semester of the mathematics required to teach young students, she switched majors to secondary mathematics education and took Calculus I at CUP. After two semesters of crying on the phone to her parents, she applied as a transfer student to IUP. She was accepted and in the fall of 1987 moved into an “apartment” (really, the top floor of an old house only fit for renting to college students) with her best friend from high school, Aimee, and two of her friends, twins Nancy and Kathy, where she was much happier.
So in late August of 1987, Susan and Phillip were both enrolled in Calculus II for mathematics majors at IUP. Pass through the Oak Grove, cross Oakland Avenue and arrive at Stright Hall, home of all things mathematical at IUP. Phillip arrived at the third floor classroom for Calc II and took stock of his surroundings. Coming from Mathews, VA he knew absolutely no one. (Sometimes a quick glance would make him think he saw someone from his hometown, but it never once happened). However, there was a cute girl that caught his attention, but since she was several seats away there would be no chance to strike up a conversation. Enter the calculus professor, Mr. Elwood Speakman3, straight out of 1964 (think pocket protector and chalk holder), who informs us that on our schedules we have been assigned the wrong room. We are actually supposed to be in the same room, exactly one floor below our current location. If we would all collect our things and move to the new room, we will begin class as soon as everyone has settled.
Still with an eye on the cute girl, Phillip saw the room change as an opportunity. As students began to file out, he timed his exit so that he would leave the room immediately after Cute Girl and then follow her into the new room. Plan works and in the new room (rows of long tables instead of desks) he sits to her left while soon-to-be-new-friend Frank4 sits to her right.
Over the next couple of weeks, Phillip was too shy to do any more than glance at her calculus notes and was enamored of beautiful handwriting (most people are). Susan (Cute Girl) broke the ice by sharing Mike and Ike candies (Phillip won’t eat the green ones and prefers orange). Being the more outgoing of the two, Susan eventually asked Phillip if he would like to study some calculus with her. Sure. Where? How about Stapleton Library? Sure. Set a time. We meet and study. He remembers that every time he tried to say something funny she would laugh and punch him in the arm. It was a good beginning. After she cleared him as “safe” and “non-creepy” future calculus study sessions happened at the apartment. And they became the best of friends.
In Chapter 2, the dating years, we learn of Susan’s engagement to Jon, Phillip’s girlfriend (She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named), long drives in a Subaru in the falling snow looking at houses, warm hugs, and we learn who said the line “Friends can kiss, can’t they?” on a birthday evening in October of 1988.
|Mr. Elwood Speakman|
|Mr. Frank Aloi|
|Stright Hall: Where it all began|
1The extended backstory is too long to include here, but for the record let’s just say that it tangentially includes a drowning cow with a broken leg, a dean of finance, the rock band Chicago, a change of legal custody, a janitor, a renovated hospital, oak trees, and a bone-chilling tale of murder (no joke on that one).
2Perhaps best well-known as the birthplace of Jimmy Stewart. And before you say “Indiana of What?” keep in mind there is a Miami of Ohio and no one seems to think that weird.
3Mr. Speakman had the fascinating habit of tapping his bottom lip with chalk while thinking, leaving a small white mark behind. And chalk crumbs had an eerie and gravity-defying way of slowly drifting down the green chalkboard in the classroom. Oh, the things that you can find interesting sitting in a Calc II class!
4 Though we have not contacted him since being married many years ago, Frank appears to be doing well as a successful stock broker and CFA for PNC’s Hawthorne Group in western PA.