Bless Jim Trotter’s heart. He had no idea 22 years ago when I showed at his house (directly across the street from my own) with my roommate what he was getting into. I went with my roommate grudgingly. I was so self-conscience and felt so awkward. Yes, we went to the same small high school and even Auburn…where I never saw him even once. I saw everyone else from Columbus, GA, but not Jim. Which is just as well. We have both said that we would not have liked each other at all in college. I mean Jim was a stupid fraternity boy (insert eye roll) and I was a weird (his exact word) theatre girl. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and what fun we missed out on. My goodness how our lives would have been different if we had gotten together earlier on. What would have happened if he had asked me to a dance in high school? It’s weird to think about. Especially since neither one of us really like dances.
That first night, October 30, 2000, was the night that started a ball rolling that I had no control over. Jim will deny this all day long, but he in fact pinched my hiney. I was taken aback by this. I mean we really did not know each other well enough for that kind of flirtation. I let it slide and we had a good enough time that my roommate and I agreed to come back the next night, Halloween, for Jim and his buddy to make us dinner. We had dinner and passed out candy to trick or treaters. We ran out of candy and instead of going inside and turning the porch light off, we stayed on the porch, and I convinced Jim to give money to the kids that came. It was what my grandfather had always done. And Jim did it. As I look back on this now, I see what kind of act this was. This was something that went against everything Jim believed. I felt sorry for the latecomers and wanted to make amends to them. Jim figured they should have gotten there earlier, after all that is what the idea of Halloween is; get candy while there is candy. You snooze you lose, if you will. Jim Trotter did it. He protested a little, but not very hard.
After that he called nearly every day. That was back when we had house phones, you know land lines. If I answered, we would talk for a little while and then I would hand the phone to my roommate because I knew Jim had been calling for her. I thought he was so nice to talk to me for so long when it was her he wanted to talk to. I even told her that I thought he liked her. Jim just rolls his eyes at this. He said he called to talked to me and I always handed the phone off. It makes me chuckle. However, as we hung out more, I just knew he was going to ask me to one of the MANY Christmas parties he was invited to. He never did. He will tell you it was because I had a boyfriend. I sort of did, but he did not live in Columbus, and I literally never saw him. We broke up around Thanksgiving. So, Christmas was coming, and people were coming home for the holidays. I had to take a deep breath, square my shoulders, and go out with these people we had all gone to school with. One night Jim put one of his buddies in the car with me to drive home and then he got in the car with someone else. I was so irritated. And awkward. It was fifteen minutes that felt like an eternity. Apparently, it was some sort of test. Clearly you know I passed. But it was not until the end of January that Jim Trotter finally asked me out.
Jim had gotten a cold or sinus infection or something and I took him soup one day. That was it. He asked me to lunch the following week. I said it was not a date. I mean it was lunch. That didn’t count. But then he asked me to dinner the following night. Okay, I had to admit this one would be a date. A delicious dinner during which I ate the spinach off of Jim’s plate. He still talks about that spinach. That’s something I get from my mother. She ate off my daddy’s plate on their first date…and it was a blind date. I did ask before I ate it of course. Jim said I could have it. He argues that what could he have said? And when we got home he kissed me goodnight and I knew that he was going to ask me to marry him.
I told my mother this the next morning. She didn’t seem surprised. The night before my daddy had told her that Jim was going to be her son-in-law. We were not convinced. I mean I didn’t want to get married. I was only 23. I had just started my career. (I was an actress that had been paying my dues for the last year doing very pay your dues kind of jobs. Think historic village. It was terrible. But I had done well and I was making connections…this is a story for a different time.) I was only home to mourn my grandmother. I was going to be out of Columbus as soon as I could.
Well, not so much. Jim and I started dating. I told him I was not interested in serious. That even though I liked him and had so much fun with him, I was not ready to settle down. He said he was okay with that. I don’t think he really believed me. I went to auditions. I didn’t even get one call back. Very depressing. Of course now I can see it was just meant to be.
Is there a moment in your life that you can look back on and say, “That was it. That was the choice that changed everything”? I know mine. I was offered a job to go back to the historic village I had worked at with a pay raise and better housing. I think it was in October before I started hanging out with Jim. And I turned it down. If I had said yes…my word. I sure wouldn’t be writing this story.
I tried really hard to not love Jim Trotter. Thank goodness he was persistent. At some point he told me he loved me. I did not say it back. I simply thanked him. He was not pleased. It really made him mad. I didn’t want to upset him or hurt his feelings, but I just was not ready to say those words. I thought he should appreciate my honesty and me not saying them flippantly in return just because he had.
Eventually, I did love him. I will never forget the day I realized it. My family, like ALL of them, cousins, aunts, uncles, were going on a beach vacation. We had rented a house and were all staying together. All 15 of us. I invited Jim to come with us and we saved him a bedroom with my 8-year-old cousin. (See what I mean when I say bless him?) He came later than the rest of us. He had been in Louisiana fishing with buddies for a bachelor party and flew over. I went to the airport to pick him up. In July 2001 you could meet people at their gate. Like actually see them get off the plane. Remember that? Wild to think of now. Anyway, I was standing in the concourse waiting for Jim and it felt like it was taking forever. And then there he was…and I started to cry. It was bizarre. I stood there thinking why in the world am I standing here crying? Jim was also taken aback. He hugged me and asked why I was crying. Without thinking I responded that I was just really happy to see him. Oh my gosh, I loved this fraternity boy.
Once I had come to the conclusion that this was it, this was the one, I was ready to move forward. That week I actually asked him if he was going to ask me to marry him. Thank goodness he said yes, he had been thinking about it. Y’all we had only been dating since January. I had known he was going to ask me to marry him. I just didn’t know I was going to say yes.
A few weeks later I was at home and my home phone kept ringing. Caller ID (throwing out all the retro things for you all) said it was U Needa Pawn. I figured someone had the wrong number, but they kept calling back and finally I heard Jim on the answering machine saying, “Emily if you want to have any input in what kind of ring you get, you should pick up.” I ran to the phone. Half an hour later I was with Jim and his mom looking at styles and rings in the case…yes at a pawn shop. It was owned by Larry Love (yes, that is really his name) and he also sold diamonds…new and previously owned. I loved estate pieces, but Jim was not having any part of that. He couldn’t get past the idea of proposing with a “dead woman’s ring”. We looked at catalogs. I found the designer I liked. I went home.
Columbus, Georgia is a smallish town. Never talk about anyone to anyone because they are probably cousins. Your pharmacist does know your mama and will ask how she is doing. Mine does. And I graduated with his daughter. News travels fast. It’s a curse and a blessing. There will be casseroles for life events. My step sister was out one night in downtown (now it’s called Uptown) Columbus and ran into a couple that Jim and I spent a fair amount of time with. They asked about Jim and I, if we were getting serious and my step sister decided to say we were engaged. They went home and called us quite upset that we had not told them. Jim and I were stunned. It hadn’t actually happened yet. I was so irritated. However, it did lead to us having a real conversation about getting married. Jim said, “Well, do you want to marry me?” I said yes. Then he freaked out because he hadn’t talked to my parents yet. So, we got in the car. They were not surprised. Daddy said he figured it was coming.
I worked for my grandfather at the time and the next morning I had gone out to his house to do something. I was driving Jim’s truck…I can’t remember why. We were supposed to leave around lunch to head to a wedding in Mississippi. (Remember that friend Jim stuck in my car? He was getting married. Jim was in the wedding.) Jim called me and said he had left his briefcase in his truck and needed it ASAP. I told him I would bring it to his office, but he insisted that he would meet me halfway. I went back to his house to wait for him so we could get on the road. Jim came in and called for me asking if I was ready to go. I got up as he came in the room and turned to pick up my flip phone and tea. When I turned around he was on one knee and said that he couldn’t take me to wedding and tell everyone we were engaged and not have a ring on my finger. “I did not do this the right way yesterday. Will you marry me?”
The diamond was my diamond, but it was not in my setting. Jim explained that it had been ordered and that he had needed his briefcase because his checkbook was in it. He had been back to Larry Love and persuaded him to put the diamond on a ring real quick like. (Blessing of a small town.) It was gorgeous. It looked huge. I could not believe it was mine.
That was August. We were married in March. I had the most fun at my wedding that I had ever had in my life. Two things I would change: black church choir singing as we left the church (my Daddy said no) and I would have left the reception in my dress.
I don’t even know how I started writing all of this. I set out to write about Jim. This has been quite the intro for that. Why did I get into all of this? Maybe it was so I would remember all these things. Maybe I needed to be reminded of those feelings. In the day to day of being married, of being a couple that is raising kids, has pets, a mortgage…and has been through some things…it’s easy to forget the butterflies you used to have. It’s easy to forget the joy and excitement of starting out on an adventure together. Now its all homework and practices and meetings and games and dinners and groceries and work. Now it’s can you pick up this one while I take that one? Who needs gas? Who has money in their account? Did we sign up for soccer? Are we going to this? Will you be in town? I could go on and on.
I think we have a good marriage. I think people would tell you that we have one of the best marriages they know, I hope they would. We work at it. Sometimes we have to work harder. There are seasons. People tell you all kinds of things about relationships. Well, they tell you all about all sorts of things. So most of the time you think you have an idea of what things will be like. And you might. But so much of it is learned by doing. Our kids are older (one in college, 12th grade, 9th grade, 4th grade). It’s easier than being up all night changing diapers and feeding them. Well, easier physically perhaps. Now its just hard in a different way. At least now they are all potty trained and can feed themselves. But now it sometimes seems harder to just be together. There is so much busyness. We have learned that we have to be intentional. I have heard Jim tell younger men that you always have to date your wife. And I have to see it that way too. When he asks me if I would like to go to dinner I need to say yes. I need to put a little more effort into getting ready. I once laughed at a Bible study teacher that told our group of young mothers that we needed to be sure to put on some lipstick before our husbands came in the door from work. I thought that was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. Now I get it. Are we tired? Yes. Are there a million things to do? Absolutely. Does Jim need to feel like he still gives me butterflies? Do I still need to be wooed? One hundred percent.
I really love Jim Trotter. I think I will pinch his hiney tonight.