Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Chess. Or, How I Met Their Father

That's me sitting cross-legged, front and center, in the smiley face shirt. This picture was taken circa 1997 for my Junior class yearbook. It's a picture of the Chess Club, and yes I was a member. In fact, I was third chair on a five person competition team. We weren't the best of the best, but we gave most other schools a run for their money. I wish I could remember what we placed at that year.

I have loved chess for as long as I can remember. My mother used to be into making ceramics, and once upon a time created a giant set of foot tall pieces that every now and then we would bust out and play on a big checkered rug. One of my brother's still has that set. I keep meaning to steal it from him to set up in my living room and share with my girls.

I have fond memories of playing chess with my father. He would set up the board on the living room floor. I'd lay on my belly intensely studying the pieces. I vaguely recall him explaining to me which piece does what. I mostly just remember playing with him, and there being a rule for the longest time that nobody was allowed to take my queen no matter what, because it made me cry. Not to worry. I got over that eventually.

The only other people aside from my family I had ever met who had an active interest in chess were the assembled fellow nerds pictured above.

And then I met my husband.
That's him right there hiding behind a co-worker.
I met my husband at Target, and we are one of the rare, mythical success stories of work-place relationships. I started working there at the very end of 2001, one whole week before my 22nd birthday. At the time, I was already involved in a complicated relationship with someone else. A depressing, complicated, bleak relationship that had no future for me whatsoever. I was on my second trial run with yet another anti-marriage, anti-children, rebel. At the time I was pretty firmly convinced that all men were like this and that I was destined to live with a mate that would never give me offspring for the rest of my life.

Then, on my second day of work, a woman named Jen stopped me on my way back to the fixture room (I worked on the planogram team) and said to me, "Stacey. You really need to flirt with Jamie."

A dozen score memories came flooding in at that moment. My first thought was, "Do I really look like a lesbian?" because to the best of my experience the only people I had ever met named Jamie, my cousin included, were female. I remembered moments of jocks stopping me at the water fountain in grade school to ask me, "Are you a boy or a girl?" simply because I was a tomboy and did not like wearing girly things. I had a flash recall of the exchange student who saw me coming out of a stall in the girls' restroom, screaming, and running out to tell a teacher there was a boy in there.

This isn't so terribly difficult to believe when you realize that in grade school I looked like this:
I'm not sure which year this is: 1990 maybe?
So it was with great trepidation I slowly indulged my well-meaning coworker by oozing through time and asking, "Whooooo?"

Jen stepped out to the end of the aisle she was stocking and pointed down the main thoroughfare toward electronics, where all I saw were two young men shelving CDs. She said, "That guy right there on the end." Whew! So she wasn't trying to hook me up with a girl after all! What a relief! "He thinks you rock his world," she added with giddy delight. "Okaaaay," I said warily, and then wandered away. Remember, at the time I already had a boyfriend. It was only my second day on the job. Hooking up with someone was the furthest thing from my mind.

That same day, at break time, I joined the crowd that gathered outside to get our nicotine on (I was a smoker once), and found myself the victim of a 20 Questions barrage from yet another coworker I had just met. Her name was Heather. She drilled me with such inquiries as: "What's your name?", "Where do you live?", and "Do you have a boyfriend?" The answer to that last was a hesitant and uncertain yes, because frankly I was a little weirded out by a woman asking me all these personal questions. Again I was questioning my apparent sexuality.

Long story short, eventually the overnight crowd at Target got me to go to breakfast with them, as was apparently a common ritual among the group. I joined them at Denny's one bright, sunshiny morning, and got to know them a little better. Particularly Jamie. It took him a week or two to convince me to join just him for breakfast after work, at a place called Perkins in North Canton, Ohio.

I couldn't tell you what we ordered to eat, but he had coffee and I had cocoa. We dabbled in awkward small talk, trying to find some common interests. I was extremely uncomfortable, because, as I kept insisting, I had a boyfriend, and eating breakfast alone with this guy who was super interested in me felt like cheating. Fortunately there was a distraction going on in a booth behind us. A pair of teenage boys were playing chess on a regulation board with regulation pieces. I kept sneaking nervous glances back at them, trying to muster up the nerve to ask to play the winner.

Jamie finally asked me, "What're you looking at?"

I said, "Those two guys playing chess back there. I'm thinking about asking to play the winner."

Jamie's immediate response was a bold, honest, "I'm going to marry you."


The only person in my entire life history who had ever uttered such words to me was my dear friend Benji, but he did so clearly in jest. This was dead serious! I was shocked! I was stunned! I was--

Suffice it to say, a year later this happened:
September 7, 2003


  1. Wait! You never said whether you got that chess game with the winner!

    1. Hahaha! Alas, I did not. Cupid sucker punched me so hard I completely forgot about it by that point.