The Big "What If?"

Knute and I met young; impossibly young, it seems to me now, especially when I do the math and need add only eight years to Becky's ten and realize she's more than halfway to the age that I was when I met her father.  

I had a pretty typical adolescence for suburban girl.  There were the crushes, the first dates, and even a couple of guys who I went out with more than once.  But I really never had a serious boyfriend in high school and looking back, I'm glad that I didn't.  I had far more fun in high school just hanging out with my girl friends and I was far too busy with school and work. 

When I met Knute unexpectedly at the end of our first year of college (at a party put on by some of his fellow Midshipman celebrating the end of their Plebe year), it was one of the pivotal moments of my life.   Not because the few hours we chatted at the party and after, at Denny's and on the way back to the Academy were perfect.

Far from it. 

Most of the Mids at the party had had too much to drink and were acting like thirteen year olds; Knute's roommate was with us when we headed to Denny's for a bite to eat since I was gracious enough to offer them both a ride back to the Academy before curfew.

Myself, I was a ragged, didn't-even-brush-my-hair mess of a girl with a few spaghetti sauce stains on her shirt because I hadn't bothered to change before I left the house.  I didn't really want to be at the party but I had promised my friend (whose boyfriend happened to be Knute's other roommate Plebe year) that I would go so off I went, lackluster attitude and all.

What makes the night I met Knute so pivotal despite all the oddball moments was the quiet sense of certainty that settled over me the more and more I talked to him.

This was the guy.

The one.

Even now, as certain as I am that I was right that night (and with almost twenty years together like peas and carrots, I'm more certain than ever), it's still astounding for thirty-eight year old me to look back at eighteen year old me and see that moment, to remember that quiet and steadfast knowledge that I had right.from.the.start.

I'm glad I did; I'm glad I listened to what clearly was one of the few moments in my life when God whispered through the thin veil of our earthly world and spoke directly to my heart and my soul.

But there are times when I wonder.

What if?

What if I hadn't trusted what I knew was bigger than me? 

What if despite all the certainty I had that first night followed by the unexpected appearance of Knute at the dance the following night, the dance I had reluctantly promised my friend I'd attend (Knute had sent his dress uniform home a week before for his sister's upcoming wedding; he spent all day Saturday walking around Mother B begging his fellow football players for dress uniform pieces that didn't quite fit him just so he could have the chance to see me again before he left for summer training), the dance where the certainty laid down roots between the two of us underneath that night sky lit bright with fireworks -

What if I hadn't listened to what I knew to be true?

Every once in a while, say, perhaps when I tell new friends that I was only twenty-one when I got married or when someone comments on how long Knute and I have been married, their eyebrows furrowed as they try to do the quick calculation of married years vs. our ages, this thought will pop up:

What if we, so young and hopeful, so certain of the ease of our hopeful futures, had waited to get married -

And had ended up on different, divergent paths?

What if?

As I read Carry Yourself Back to Me, that question arose again in the back of my mind.  It's a fine book but the fullness of the story is sad to contemplate.

Reading it and pondering that question once again made me ever thankful of my - our - certainty despite our youth.

Life flees past. Time is a giddy pickpocket robbing you blind while you stand still, sightseeing, so sure that the next big adventure is only as far away as a hope and a wish.

That I only wonder What if? but will never really know is a undeserved, but treasured, gift.


*Deborah Reed's debut Carry Yourself Back to Me follows heartbroken singer-songwriter Annie
Walsh as she digs into the past to exonerate her brother from murder. As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read other members posts inspired by Carry Yourself Back to Me on book club day, September 22, 2011, at From Left to Write .*

*Disclosure: This post contains my personal Amazon affiliate link.