I like to tell the story of why Valentine’s Day is special to us – how it was the day that prompted Pat to call, leaving me a message even though I was out of town, so we really sort of consider the day the start of us. We’ve also told the story of how we met when I fell off the roof at a party which leaves some wondering, how did we go from me falling off the roof to him leaving me a message on my answering machine on Valentine’s day?
One of my favorite things about Auburn during my time there in the late 80’s and early 90’s was that were like 3 bars in the entire town. It wasn’t that there weren’t things to do – there were plenty of things to do – it was just all at someone’s house. Far cozier (and cheaper) than a bar. My second year there, I lived in a great big old house near campus with a yard and a large screened in front porch – perfect for parties no matter the weather. I think we threw parties there just about every weekend that year. I was friends with a few guys in bands, so the idea came about that we should have band parties. Band parties were a great thing in those days – they’d set up a stage in someone’s back yard (or house), access to the yard would be restricted to one entrance, you’d pay a cover, bring your own beer or maybe pitch in for a keg and it was a party. My not quite (there was a house between ours, but it was set far back from the road and ours were quite close to the street, so at first glance, our houses appeared to be adjacent) next door neighbor, Stuart E, had some legendary band parties that year, including the time Green Day played in his kitchen. I remember seeing them on Behind the Music talking about the time they played in someone’s kitchen and remembering fondly that the keg for that show was at my house. (Stuart & I would plan parties so that if one of us had a band, the other would have a keg. It was inevitable, if one of us had a party, the other one would end up with a spillover party. I’ve been blessed with great neighbors throughout my life, but Stuart E was hands down, one of the best. I miss that guy.) At some point though, the town council instituted an noise ordinance that basically said only frat houses could get away with having outdoor band parties. By that point, I was living in a different house – a smaller one not quite so conducive to huge parties every weekend. I also had roommates that were not on board with them – although they still happened occasionally. You can take the girl out of the party, but you can’t take the party out of the girl….
Anyway, I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but someone noticed one day that my house, with a vacant lot next to it, was a little more than a block in either direction from two different frat houses – and the sounds of their outdoor band parties. It was suggested that we try throwing an old school back yard band party – I think someone even managed to make sure it was the same evening as a party at one of the houses, with the idea that only our closest neighbors (of which, one was a religious center that no one lived at) would know the difference. It was a brilliant idea – although I do remember that we had bail money as part of the deal should it get busted by the authorities. Turns out, we didn’t need it – the plan worked and it was a good party. It was the last big band party of my college career, one last free-for-all in a long line of free-for-alls.
The house had a detached garage in the back. The stage was set up along the side of the garage. I couldn’t help but notice there were a few folks sitting on the roof peak of the garage and good hostess that I was, I decided I should go up there to mingle and see if those guests were having a good time. A good hostess always greets all of her guests, yes?
It was pretty easy to hop up on the chain link fence separating my house and the building next door and launch myself onto the roof from there. I sat up on the ridge, took in some of the band, talked to two gents before deciding I needed to head back down to the rest of the party. As I sat on the lowest edge of the roof, I grabbed a tree branch from the neighbor’s yard, put one foot on the edge of the fence and as I was placing the other foot on what I thought was the fence, I proceeded to hop down. Only the other foot missed the fence and I somehow landed tangled up in the tree in the back yard of the building next door. Thankfully, my dear friend Pat Shaw witnessed this and came to my rescue, fishing me out of the tree and bringing me back to the ground.
A year later, I was hanging out with my Pat and he asked if I remembered falling off the roof. I did I answered, telling him about the bruise that covered the top half of my left arm for weeks on end as a result and how did he know about that? Turns out he was one of the boys I was talking to just before I slid down the roof. (He actually tells a great version of what it was like to hear the fall.)
It wasn’t the first conversation we’d had – that one took place a few years before that when he came in to pick up a pie from the pizza shop I worked at and I asked him and his buddy if they knew of any parties that night. But it was the longest conversation we’d had up to that point. Up on my garage roof at the very last free-for-all band party of my college career.
He really did know what he was getting into. Nineteen years and counting later, he’s still here and not at all surprised when I do things like fall off roofs or throw a party for our closest 300 friends.
So while some might dismiss Valentine’s day as an excuse to push cards, flowers and candy, what I love about it is that it made a boy think to call a girl who fell off a roof.