I’ve wanted to share this story, as it seems to come up when reliving stories of “the good old days” with my gal pals. I am a person who, like most of us, has had some pretty funny things happen in life. I also am a person who loves to tell a good story… especially if it is a true story. The story you are about to hear is true. Just ask my sister.
My family moved to Tennessee in 1991. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs you have most probably heard me lamenting about that fact. I was 21 and my sister was 19. It was a difficult move, but one which was made nonetheless. (I think it’s funny when people use the word “nonetheless” so I try to say it as often as possible) Jessica and I were just about to enter into our first year at a “real” college. I had spent some time in a community college in Fort Smith, but this was a REAL school with a REAL campus and REAL dorms REALLY away from the parents! 🙂
Jessica and I had checked out a few schools in NE TN, but had settled on one which we particularly liked. East Tennessee State University was smaller than University of Tennessee, but bigger than the community college. We would be about an hour from mom and dad. This was just close enough to get home if we needed to, but still far enough away to get to spread our wings a bit and experience our first real taste of independence. ETSU was a beautiful campus with mountains and trees and stunning scenery. People in this area like to be outdoors and commune with nature. Jess and I were really gals who more liked communing with a shopping mall, but something about this place made us feel right at home.
I was going to be entering into ETSU with a boyfriend in tow. (WAY too long a story but that relationship was very short-lived. Okay, end of story.) Jessica was single and I was on a personal quest to find her a man. At the end of the summer ETSU would be offering an orientation to all new students. This was the time you could come to the campus, tour the building, register for your classes, and most importantly- of course- scope out potential dating material. We walked all over the campus familiarizing ourselves with the buildings in which we would be absorbing the knowledge necessary to fulfill our dreams with the help of God and the financial aid office.
During one of our stops of the campus we ended up in the offices. Layed out before us in a perfect fan-shaped display were yearbooks from years past. Immediately a lightbulb went off in my head. I have the BEST idea! I grabbed the yearbook from the last year and began thumbing through each page. I borrowed a pencil from a random desk and began to go to work. I systematically put a circle around the head of each guy I thought would be good enough (at least good enough looking) for my sister. We laughed and continued through the pages. I focused primarily on sports team and fraternity pages because these guys must be outgoing and have goals, right?! Jess just laughed at me and rolled her eyes lovingly as I continued my journey of trying to play match maker. There was one fellow in particular I kept noticing. This boy was on several pages and was quite the looker. His name was Jeff. Cute guy. Fraternity guy. We finished up flipping through the yearbook and eyeballed a few prospects walking past the office. Our orientation of this 13,000 person campus was completed and I was on a mission.
That fall we moved into our dorm room. Jess and I were, of course, roommates. We lived on the 4th floor of Lucille Clement and definitely left our mark there. So many blogs will be spinning off of this it will be ridiculous. The first could be about our friends that we made in the dorm. Friends for life. Still to this day. We’ve had 6 marriages and 12 kids between us, and we still have the bridesmaids dresses and stretch marks to prove it. Kacy and Susan we met living across the hall from us. Our first words to them were, “Could we borrow your hammer?” and the rest is history. Leigh and I met while I was walking through the parking lot of our dorm. I was holding a paper cup containing a dead fish in it and was unable to find my car. I was frustrated at the accidental homicide I had just inflicted upon this poor creature and was headed to Wal-Mart to give some person in the pet department a piece of my mind if only I could find my dang car. She helped me in my time of need to find my car and offered her condolences on the loss of my pet. Ironic that it turns out she lived only 4 doors down from me and Jess in the dorm. We had our own little family- minus one fish- and Jess and I settled in to school pretty seamlessly.
The night of the fish death and parking lot incident we had decided to spend an evening out with our new friends. We scurried from room to room deciding what to wear on our first big night out as real college students. We settled on jean shorts (I know, I know, but I swear it was in style then) and cute shirts and we ventured out into the big Johnson City night life. First stop Taco Bell. Most college students can tell you that Taco Bell is a staple restaurant in life at that time because you can eat an entire meal for less than about $3. We made our way in to the Bell and placed our orders, picked up our food, and had a seat. It was odd since we had really all just gotten to know one another within a matter of days and hours but we felt like we had known each other for a lifetime. We were loud and funny (funny to us) and had a great time. People were coming in and going out the entire time we were there. We took a break in our conversation when we noticed a group of guys walk inside and up to the counter. I looked at one and thought to myself, “He looks familiar”. That couldn’t possibly be, though, since I’ve only lived in this town about 2 days. After placing his order he turned around and I almost choked on my soft taco. It was the guy! The guy from the yearbook! It was Jeff. The man I just knew was destined to be Jessica’s future husband. In my fits of choking and laughing the other girls wanted to know what my problem was. I explained to them the background story and Kacy (the girl with the hammer) said that she knew him. She immediately called him over to our table, and I was red-faced with embarrassment. He walked over and was just as darling in person as he was in the pictures. Tall and thinish with great hair and a smile for days. He and Kacy chatted for a moment and then she started introducing our group to him. When she got to me she said, “And Jeff, this is Amanda…” Before she could even finish I blurted out, “I CIRCLED you!!!!!” He looked a bit confused and then I told him that I had found him in the yearbook and I had intended on finding him on campus to meet my sister. Little did I know the task would be much easier than I had ever imagined. He just grinned, probably a little embarrassed and flattered, and then he and his friends had a seat. We all sat and visited and laughed and we decided to ask these boys to join us at our next destination. Our next stop would be Tu La Fe’. I don’t even know if I’m spelling that right, but Tu La’s was THE place to go during the week and on weekends for dancing. Now, Jess and I did not have a lot of dancing experience under our belts at this time. Being raised Southern Baptist and attending a private, Christian high school did not offer one too many opportunities to really hone one’s dancing abilities. I had been to some dances at our community college in AR and I knew that even with my limited skills I LOVED it! It was loud and crazy and you could be as silly as you wanted. It was right up my alley!
We hurriedly ate our tacos and piled into our respective cars and headed out to the Fe’. Tu La Fe’ was a place which received many nick-names in our time there. Tu La’s…. the Fe’… Two Left Feet…. it was just fun to come up with new ones. On the ride over Jess explained to me that she thought Jeff was cute, but was probably more my type of guy than hers. So be it. We all went into the club and spent the next several hours dancing until we thought we would drop. One thing I couldn’t have gathered from the yearbook pictures was that Jeff was an exceptional dancer. He doesn’t do the usual white-guy moves that you might see on a dance floor. Please don’t take offense, anyone, but if you’ve ever watched most white men dance you will understand without explanation what I am speaking about. Men with their arms about waist level and fists clinched into a ball. They are usually making some type of circular motion with their hand and arms while their feet are affixed in one spot almost like they are attempting to walk through mud. Not Jeff. He was all over that floor! He made Bobby Brown look like a beginner! I was amazed!
We stayed until practically closing time. All of us girls dancing with Jeff and his friends. It was a fun night and one we relive when we all get together. You may be curious to know how the story ends. We all continued to be friends and we all continued dancing together on numerous occasions. Jess found her a sweet guy at school, NOT someone I had circled for her, and I was eventually dumped by the punk I started school with. Jeff and I dated after that for a few years. He was a fun dance partner and a fun boyfriend. We ended up parting ways, but still to this day I would consider him a friend. It’s just funny to me that out of 13,000 people in a college town that boy whom I had circled just happened to walk into my Taco Bell on that night.