The year 1980 was a rough one for me. Having been born with a congenital birth defect, I had kidney surgery, tore a ligament in my leg from a metal rod sticking out of a playground slide and got my first pair of glasses to correct my horrific cross-eyed farsightedness. I was in the hospital so much I didn’t go to preschool until after Halloween. I was just 3 years old.
That was also the year that I met Blayne Huffman.
Blayne was kind of a weird kid like me. He was shy, but sweet. We were both sweet. He was my friend. Our dads graduated Crockett High School together back in the 1960s. His mother worked for my grandfather at the Davy Crockett Savings and Loan.
My family moved away from Crockett when I was 7, but my grandparents lived there on Mimosa Lane for many subsequent years. I went back for every major holiday and remained in close contact with a handful of my childhood friends. Even while I was a college student at Texas A&M, I went back to Crockett most years for their homecoming football game. More than once I’ve attended the Crockett High School Class of 1995 high school reunion, even though that was Blayne’s graduating class, and I actually got my diploma from A&M Consolidated in College Station. But the people in Crockett have always been my people. There doesn’t seem to be much of a social hierarchy in that town. Everyone’s kind, and I have always felt like I fit in there in a way that I didn’t fit in at my own high school.
Alas, after high school graduation in ’95, life went on and I took different jobs and lived in different states, suffered through some miserable relationships, drank too much alcohol and desperately missed my family back in Texas. And then, about three years ago, I got a message from Blayne Huffman. We spoke on the phone later that day. Five months after that, I moved back to Texas and got a job as a sportswriter for a weekly newspaper in east Texas, not too far from where we grew up in Crockett.
I always had a good connection with Blayne. He’s smart and funny, and he doesn’t really get on my nerves, which says a lot. We’ve been dating since early 2015, but he has always been a little hesitant to commit to a full-blown real-deal, put-a-ring-on-it relationship. He has a wonderful 12-year-old son, so there’s another person to consider any time a big decision is made.
Cut to Christmas morning 2017, when I was leaving my parents’ house in Dallas. My mom told me on my way out the door that her cousin John was marrying Donna, a woman he’s dated for 10 years. TEN YEARS, y’all.
I drove away, making the four-hour trek back to Houston and I thought, I am so happy for John and Donna. Maybe now is just not my time. Maybe I just need to be OK with having an amazing boyfriend, an amazing job and just let things happen without trying to control and micromanage every detail.
As I was loading my car, Blayne called and said he was headed back to Houston because he wanted to spend Christmas together. I relayed the message to my mom and she said, “You know what, April? I think he might be a keeper.”
Without even thinking I replied, “I know. I just hope I’m a keeper too.”
And then …
It happened so fast.
One minute, I was sitting in my pajamas trying to tap out some prose for the Dec. 28 newspaper. It was Christmas Day, but the packages had long been opened and I was back in Houston.
Blayne arrived with his son Adin, back from his Christmas weekend in Crockett and started shuffling around in his junk drawer. I told him that if he wanted the wi-fi password (which is the only thing of value in that drawer), he could get it out of the saved images in my phone. But that’s not what he was getting out of the drawer.
I looked up and there he was, on one knee, asking me to be his wife, 37 years after our fateful meeting at age 3 on the playground in Crockett, Texas.
“What are you doing?” I asked. And then I cried tears of joy, because I knew what he was doing.
It’s going to be an awesome 2018.
Maybe, just maybe, we’re both keepers.
April Towery is the managing editor of The Sealy News. She can be reached at 979-885-3562 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.