Love usually refers to an emotion that you “fall” into. It acts as a series of feelings that catches you off balance and can cause a great deal of pain when you come crashing to the end of that exhilarating emotional fall. However, sometimes you can accidentally stumble into love as well. You might not even know what the feeling of love is until you straighten yourself out and look closer at the person who was kind enough to catch hold of you before you hit the painful end. I happened to be one of the lucky ones who stumbled into love, unexpectedly and whole heartedly. My first love was the person who was kind enough to catch me and support me with patience while I straightened myself out and finally realized the word I was looking for to describe my feelings for him: Love.
I was fifteen when I started working as a carhop at the local 50’s diner in town. My job included making colossal ice cream treats for our customers and delivering food and drinks out to their cars in the middle of the searing summer heat. It did not take long for a young girl in this atmosphere to become a popular attraction for the local male teens in the area. Especially since the restaurant I was working at was only two blocks away from a large all male high school. With constantly being barraged with their attitudes and immaturity, love or a relationship was the last thing on my mind.
Friday nights of football season were the worst, the football players and fans would pack the diner with loud raucous after game activity and lewd comments. It was on one of these chaotic nights in mid-September while I was frantically making orders for my extra carhopping customers that a young man with a powder blue ’66 mustang caught me mid-fall, literally. I had a heavy tray with large sodas and several ice cream shakes carefully arranged on it and ready to be delivered to a customer waiting in their car. As I picked up the tray from the counter and went to walk out the door, my shoe caught a fold in the carpet floor mat, and I began to stumble forward. For a moment everything was a panicked blur, and then I felt myself and my tray miraculously steadied by the weight of another person.
After the busy Friday night crowd began to disperse I headed over to his table and asked him if he wanted anything to eat or drink; it would be my treat for him helping me to save that order of food and possibly some of my pride. He asked if I had time to have a Coke with him before he left, so I took my dinner break and spent the next half hour talking with him. We exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch.
Soon through email correspondences and local hang outs we became good friends. I soon learned that he, being nineteen years old, had just graduated from high school the previous year. His new plan for a career included enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. Before I knew it he was signed up and deployed for a one year tour of duty in South Korea.
But even though he was half a world away, we never missed a beat in each other’s lives. Emails or letters, and on rare occasions a short phone call, would keep us connected to the ongoing events in each other’s corner of the world. Neither of us at the time were doing very well, he was suffering culture shock and home sickness, while I struggled under the pressure of school work, career work and parents who were overprotective and had high expectations of their youngest and only daughter.
While I labored away in school I began having doubts about how much of my ambition was my own and how much of that ambition was fueled by my parents. I struggled with my chosen college, chosen career field and even whether or not I wanted to attend school right away after high school graduation. My parents wanted me to go to a near by University, I wanted to go to one that was nearly halfway across the country. There were bitter fights in our home and at times it seemed like my only support came from the man stationed so far away. The only confidence I had in myself came from his encouragement at that point.
Later, when he came back to the U.S., I promised to visit him after my own high school graduation. At that point it would have been two years since we had seen each other and I wanted to see him again before I got too busy as I rededicated myself to upcoming college school work. However, I had my doubts about seeing him and I could not figure out why. I had become nervous and fidgety about meeting him face to face again after so long, even though we had talked consistently on the phone for months.
One night when he pressed me for an exact date and time that I would be able to visit, I told him all about my reasons for hesitating to visit. Amazingly, he laughed and sheepishly admitted he had very similar feelings of his own about the reunion. Then at the end, he blurted out those three profound words, “I love you.” It took me a minute to process the thought, and another minute to actually appreciate it, and finally the light of realization clicked on and I recognized I loved him as well. After a few moments of awkward silence while I gathered my thoughts I was able to reciprocate those words to him.
Sometimes, people stumble into love quite literally. The person who catches and supports you can do such a good job of it that you barely feel yourself falling into love. In the end it is not a painful emotional crash that breaks your heart, but a crash of realization that makes you realize just what your heart was trying to tell you all along. Stumbling or falling, love has a way of catching hold of you when you least expect it.
Carmichael, J. (2006) Re: Love Interview Questions. Online email interview. Retrieved 14 July
Hall, R. L. (2000). The Human Embrace: The Love of Philosophy and the Philosophy of Love:
Kierkegaard, Cavell, Nussbaum. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. Retrieved July 16, 2006, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=98167535