Bruce Robert Coffin here, taking a long look back. Several weeks ago, October 29th to be exact, my wife and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary. Thirty years! Why, it seems like only yesterday that the two of us met (almost 34 years ago). She a promising young cashier at a local supermarket (no longer there) and me an up and coming bagger of groceries. It was February and it was snowing. Our shift was nearing its end and the store was preparing to close (there were no twenty-four hour grocery stores back then). I was watching her walk outside to a row of shopping carriages, nestled up to the front wall of the building, right next to Bookland (also gone), when I made my move. She was looking plenty hot in her hunter orange cashier smock and name tag. I don’t recall exactly how I approached the subject of a date but I’m sure it was something suave and debonaire like: “Hey baby, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this.” Anyway, whatever I said won her over because she said “yes.” And so we made a plan. Our first date was to be the night of the 15th. Yup that’s right, February 15th. Of course a smarter man would have shot for the 14th, Valentines Day, scoring a few points on the romantic front while simultaneously ensuring that if things worked out (and they have) I wouldn’t have to celebrate two days in February…
The big night arrived. I picked her up at her house in South Portland. We were both dressed up and smiling, a lot. My stomach was in an absolute knot. We drove to The Jerry Lewis Theater (also gone, you might remember it as the more aptly named Maine Mall Cinema) where we attended a screening of the newest blockbuster, Indiana Jones, starring Harrison Ford. We shared some light hors d’oeuvres in the form of popcorn and soda, and I think this sly dog may have even slid an arm around her shoulders.
After the movie we drove to dinner, one parking lot over. I wanted her to experience the fine cuisine at the Maine Mall Pizza Hut (also gone). Yup, I know what you’re thinking, big spender. Hey, this guy knew how to live. To this day nothing beats the culinary delight of a pan pizza and an extra large Dr. Pepper. My wife tells a story of being horrified as she watched me swipe a piece of Pizza Hut silverware as a memento of our first date. Now, let me state unequivocally for the record that I have absolutely no recollection of said swiping. Hell, I went on to become a police officer, for crying out loud. She obviously has me confused with some other dashing young man she dated, with kleptomanical tendencies. Either way, since the statute of limitations on such a heinous crime has long since expired, if I had swiped said cutlery and given it to her as a first date keepsake, the fact that we are still together only speaks of her fondness for the “bad boys.” It would also have made her a co-conspirator and guilty of theft by receiving. Luckily nothing like the transgression for which I’m falsely accused actually took place. But I digress. Following a lovely dinner at Casa de Pizza, I drove her home where we “chatted” for a while before I bid her adieu. Promising to see her at work the following week.
Well, we’ve been seeing each other ever since. After a torrid three and a half year courtship (Hey, I never kiss and tell. You want details, wait for the book.), I asked for her hand in marriage. Again she said “yes.” Either I am extremely lucky or one sweet-talking son of a gun. Truthfully, I’m leaning toward lucky. We married in secret, on our only day off together, in the middle of the week, sneaking off to a JOP at a realtor’s office on Forest Avenue in Portland, next to the American Journal newspaper (Yup, you guessed it, both gone.) Our witnesses were two of the office staff, very nice ladies. I remember being so nervous they could have sold us a house and I wouldn’t have known it. We were dressed to the nines, her in a lovely flowered blouse and long dark skirt, me in tan slacks, button-down shirt with a tie, and my best navy blue polyester sport coat (The kind with the plastic buttons. Sharp.). We celebrated by dining at DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant, which, I’m happy to report, we didn’t put out of business (Steve, if you’re reading this, I swear to God there was no swiping of utensils). Afterward, we drove around visiting various relatives, informing them that we had gotten hitched.
Together we have travelled many miles since then, o’re hill and dale. We’ve shared the best and worse that life has to offer. Said goodbye to friends and loved-ones and welcomed new. We’ve struggled at times, prospered at others, but never have we quit. She is my best friend, my confidant, my lover, and my biggest fan. And I know she feels the same of me, because I am. This life is short, sometimes exhilarating, often hard, but it can be oh so sweet with the right companion, walking hand in hand beside you.