The summer of all summers.
I am a fall person, for multiple reasons. First of all, I love the smells, sights and tastes of autumn. It's the time of the year that things wind down and we head indoors to spend time with family and friends. Not that we don't do this the rest of the year, but summer is too chaotic for me sometimes. I like chaos, in small doses. Summer is three months of constant chaos. Then comes fall. School starts, we put our clothes back on, get back to the daily grind, and things get quieter.
However, there was one summer that changed me. I was taking classes and working full-time, so my personal chaos was kept at bay. That is, until I took my first vacation, as an adult...
I remember leaving College of Dupage after my last final, to the best of my recollection mid-June. I pulled out my cell and called Peters or Mike or Dan...
"Vacation baby!" (probably Peters, lol)
Shortly after Peters and I signed our lease at Lakeside, we planned a trip to the Dells with Mike, Dan, Krista and Sam. I had taken a few days off work. We booked a hotel room for two nights. Class let out in the evening. Bags previously packed, I drove straight to Bartlett to pick up Dan, Mike and Sam. Peters and Krista had drove up earlier to secure the room.
I forget how we got the booze, but we had plenty of Smirnoff Ice, Mike's Hard and MGD for the weekend. All six of us crammed into one hotel room, bathtub full of ice and delicious alcohol.
We spent the weekend drinking, smoking, playing rock-paper-scissors and crashing go-karts. We shared a fabulous meal in the hotel restaurant and made a couple late night trips to Taco Bell.
I remember calling camp grounds at 1AM in Peters room, trying to get Jess to come with us, and vaguely recall kissing Macey goodbye. She had a cold when we left, but it barely phased me.
After an intoxicating couple of nights we made the trek back down south.
Living with my Aunt and Uncle at the time, I came back to an empty house in Carol Stream. Like the momma's boy I am, first thing I did was call home.
"How was your trip?"
My mom asked in a somber tone.
"Good. Fun. What's up?"
I knew something was up.
"I have to tell you something," she said.
I knew at that moment. My eyes swelled up, and I braced for the worst as I asked, "is it about my dog?"
It was. Macey had died.
They took her to the emergency vet, and she battled.
I balled for a good half hour before going for a drive and ending up at my parents house. My brother and sister answered the door, as teary-eyed as me. We didn't say much. Sometimes silence speaks volumes.
I called a couple friends who were more than comforting. We all (my brother, Dan, Mike and all of our friends) met up at Peters' place that night, for a rock-paper-scissors tourney and random shenanigans. It was again, more than comforting.
Jess was there too. But it was not the first time we met. Prior to that was the D. Schwartz cotillion- a party hosted by my brother and I for Danny's 18th birthday, held at our parents house while they were out of the country for a few weeks. Great success! And before that, Jess had showed up at a BBQ at Mike's place after an Arlington outing. She looked so very familiar. For a minute I thought she was the girl i had a crush on my senior year of high school, Michelle Marzullo.
It was at the cotillion however, that I got to know Jess, as well as some poker tourneys at the Bauer's place, followed by the roadtrips with Amy, Sam, Krista and Hely... all of whom I became infatuated with immediately. But it was Jess that really stood out in the crowd.
That summer was also the start of Sunday Night Softball, which I will endlessly take credit for starting. I don't recall every last detail, but I mentioned it to Brad and texted Noah, and before we knew it, two dozen people were at Liesberg Park, gloves and bats in hand.
At some point, perhaps during a softball game, Jess and I struck up conversation and soon we were texting back and forth, with her eventually ending up at my Aunt and Uncles place (while they were out of town) to watch a movie.
It was obvious, we hit it off right away. Next thing I knew, rumors were flying and Haley mentioned something along the lines of, "so, you and Jess" at the next softball game.
After a couple crazy parties at my new digs (again, with the Aunt and Uncle out of town), I finally (with the help of my buds) mustered up the courage to ask Jess out.
Peters and I moved into Lakeside (with the help of Chung, Brad, little Peters, and a bunch of other friends) in August 2004. My first date with Jess was August 28th. I took her to Luigi's House in Naperville, followed by a stroll down the riverwalk, where I should have kissed her.
We threw our first major party Labor Day weekend. Jess was there. She went home with some friends, but didn't get very far before they convinced her to turn back around and kiss me. It was the best moment of my life.
Summer turned to fall, as it always does. But that summer was not the end of warm sunlight. It was the start of something much more...