“Bruno? Can you see me? I’m right here by the Southwest counter.” John was coaching Monica on their elaborate ploy to make it appear that our 15 year old was not traveling across the country alone.
Monica was to walk around the airport talking into the dead cell phone, ostensibly staying in contact with her big, burly, tough, powerful, bodyguard. Eight years ago cell phones were still pretty rare – at least in the Paladini world. Someone had given our kids an old one to play with, and we were all enjoying the novelty of it.
Speaking with Bruno on the cell phone was all in fun, of course, but we were seriously a bit cautious about our little girl traveling to Florida alone. She was going to Pensacola Christian Collegefor a two-week speech and drama camp. She had made the trip the previous summer, traveling with a friend, but now she was going by herself – except for the imaginary Bruno. We made her promise to call us (on a real phone) at each stage of the journey, and we reminded her that we’d be praying for her.
We didn’t want any “bad men” to grab her; little did we know that she would be grabbed by a “good man” – but I’m getting ahead of myself. That part of the story would not happen until eight years later.
Monica came home from Florida full of stories of the fun things she had learned, the new friends she had met and the old friends she had reconnected with.
There were so many names of kids, and they were from all over the country. It was hard to keep them straight in my mind. I don’t think Dan Spilman even made a blip on my parental radar – yet. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.
Monica didn’t go back to Pensacola, but her network of friends was set. Over the next few years we had visits from several of them and Monica went to visit their homes as well. Every once in a great while she’d have a long phone conversation with Dan Spilman, taking advantage of the “free nights and weekends” on my old sea-green Nokia brick. She always had to prompt my memory: “You remember Dan Spilman – I met him at Pensacola. He lives in Maryland.”
There was no particular reason to remember Dan in those days, so again and again, Monica reminded me of who he was; and told me he was really nice. They had a lot in common, but Dan was a true-blue east coast boy and would never leave Maryland. And Monica was determined to live and die “a California girl”. Besides, Dan was a rabid Orioles fan and Monica loved the Giants. There wasn’t much potential for a relationship.
However they did make a plan that if the day ever came when both of them happened to be “single” (not dating anyone) they would get together and go on a date.
And over the years Dan told Monica from time to time that he was going to marry her someday…to which Monica laughingly and noncommitally agreed.
To be continued