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HER NAME IS SARAH. We met almost twenty years ago in high school, R.A. Millikan in Long Beach, and I can still recall the exact moment when she walked into my life. It was the first day of class, fall semester, Biology; I was seated at my assigned desk when this young, perky, dirty-blonde with incessant bare legs strumming out from under the skirt of a cadet uniform appeared in the mid-morning light of an open door, and with only seconds to spare before the tardy bell rang.

What made this situation so otherworldly is the external voice that sounded off as an entirely different bell in my head as I measured her glorious dimensions, self-consciously covering the pimple on my chin that no Oxy Pad could apparently scrub off. Almost in the Old Testament tradition, like God speaking to Abraham or Noah from the clouds, the voice said (I can still recall the exact phrase word-for-word): Be kind to her. She’s of importance to you.

This isn’t some cheap pick-up line that I employ for random women on the street. Hey babe, God spoke to me and you’re the chosen one. You’d figure that I’ve passed millions of women in my lifetime, and never before or since, when spying one ravishing woman on a subway or another across the airport terminal, has that voice spoken to me, let alone in any words so clear. Roughly translated to a teenager at the time, and lifelong admirer of The Three Stooges, this verbal intrusion was the equivalent of God being Moe, if I were the collective genes of Larry and Curly, in which he needed to crack our heads together for diplomatic and disciplinary measure. Roll your tongue back up into your mouth, you knucklehead. Why, I oughta…..Minus the Brooklyn accent, of course.

Sound advice; and it worked. Well, mostly. I should probably point out the sobering fact that Biology was the only class I ever failed in high school, probably because of a distraction. Did I mention how that very distraction would end up as valedictorian with a full scholarship as Presidential Scholar at CSULB? And if fate weren’t already dripping with irony, my counselor mistakenly enrolled me in an academically advanced class intended for honor students, which I was not, and made our very team-up as goggle-wearing lab partners a historical accident. My counselor, she never made that enrollment mistake again, but I guess I had the final laugh in the end. I’ve often contemplated tracking down both my counselor and that biology teacher just to let them in on the news: I may have failed miserably at biology, but I mastered chemistry.

My wife loves orange juice

I have too many teenage recollections involving Sarah to recount here, such fond instances as ordering in the drive-through at McDonalds where she worked just so that she could lean out the window, hand me a bag of burgers, and ask: “Do you want fries with that?” I have since taken her up on that offer.

Noel and Sarah

Our earliest photo together

Still, the memory that presently stands out the strongest, as I sit here and write this, is my senior year homecoming when I was assigned to videotape game proceedings from the sideline. I can’t even recall if we won or lost that game. I probably didn’t even know then. Most particular in this recollection is my frustrated video productions teacher, come Monday morning, after learning that I’d spent the entire night focusing in on Sarah shaking those pom-poms from the sidelines rather than the focus of her spirited pleas, the thirty yard line. For this act, as the official documentarian of our one and only home game, I do hereby apologize to my entire senior class. And what I wouldn’t give to track down that footage.

As it pertained then to the woman who would one day become my wife, I imagined many scenarios and the role I might play in them. Knowing of course that I was a pubescent boy at the time you can fill in the blanks as to what sort of fantasies filled my head. But now, looking back on those formative years, I realize how limited my imagination really was, because I never once considered the greatest and most wonderful thought of all (and what made that intrusive introductory voice so prophetic), that this young woman would one day fill the greatest role of all, becoming the mother of my children.

10.08.014 Camping