My husband and I met at the block corner, right beside the finger painting station. We were in Mrs. Redmond's Kindergarten class at Welch Elementary. It was 1982.
Tony was quiet. I was not.
Some things never change.
He was playing by himself. He was undoubtedly building a replica of the Empire State Building - to scale. I know now that e kept quiet as not to draw attention to the fact that he only wanted to build the replica so that he could then figure out how to burn it down or blow it up. His quiet nature was just a cover for the crazy that coursed through his veins.
I bounded over and started chatting. He smiled and returned to his blocks. I accidentally knocked them over. He was angry, but just for a flash. We were best friends.
We lived in a very small town, Welch, WV. Therefore, our families knew each other. Well, everyone knew Tony's families. His dad's family owned H.C. Lewis Oil Company and the Lewis name was plastered all over huge oil tankers that chugged through the mountainous roads surrounding Welch. His mom's family owned Marino Insurance and everyone in town had their policies through Tony's granddad.
There was a perception throughout the community that these families lit their fires with hundred dollar bills and filled their indoor pools with liquid gold. Tony had to endure the "rich kid" label most of his young life. It still makes him bristle.
My grandmother's semi-joking line was, hang on to that one, and get that oil. The truth of the matter is that Tony's family was secure. They were secure because they worked hard, they saved hard and they were frugal. As the economy of the once booming coal town started to go down, so did the businesses. They had to adjust - just like everyone else. They were just willing to do so.
However, I did love an invitation to Tony's house. To me it was like a miniature Disney World built on the side of a steep Appalachian mountainside. They had an entire room devoted to toys! I shared a bedroom with my mom so for my five year old self this equaled mind blown. Lenny had even fashioned a playhouse out of an old refrigerator box. This was where Tony and I shared our first quick peck. And, Mary always had great snacks - she still does.
They had a swingset and a wooden playhouse. We played Duke's of Hazzard. He was Bo. I was Daisy.
One of my greatest memories was being invited to Sunday dinner at Tony's grandparents' house. Tony's parents had built their house right above his grandparents' house. His grandparents' house was situated right above their insurance company. In fact, the roof of the insurance company building served as a fenced in play area - complete with astroturf.
For those not familiar with Appalachian architecture, it defies not only the norm, but it often seems to defy physics. The immigrant settlers had to figure out how to build homes and businesses on steep wooded terrain. In fact, Tony's uncle once lived in a house that had a coal mine in the basement and a garage in the attic.
My family ate out - a lot. My grandmother had approximately four meals that she cooked. She cooked the hell out of these, but that was all she cooked. She made steaks, pork chops, Swiss Steak, pork and beans, fried potatoes and the best chopped salad ever. There were no creative casseroles, no pot roasts, no homemade desserts. Ethic food was unheard of - not even some Ragu thrown over some over cooked spaghetti noodles. I was 11 before I tried my first taco and I was in high school before I tried Chinese food. Beef and broccoli. Even when we went out, we ate at restaurants that served steaks and pork chops.
Therefore, I had to try not to fall over when I walked into his grandparents' dining room and there was spaghetti AND lasagna. However, this quickly became little more than an after thought because when I glanced down the table I saw the most beautiful sight - pizza. Homemade pizza, and if that wasn't enough it had one of those elevated pizza stands. There was a silver, elevated pizza stand at someone's house, just placed on the table as casual as a Betsy Ross bread bag would have been placed on mine.
I ate and ate - carb loaded. Just when I thought I couldn't eat another bite, they announced dessert. I waited for the box of Krispie Kremes, but instead they paraded out a homemade chocolate cake, an apple pie, and something that would soon become one of the great loves of my life - cannoli.
I have been fortunate enough to attend dozens upon dozens of these family dinners in the past 16 years. I have enjoyed them all and have cherished memories from several of them, but I will always remember my first one, and the pizza with its own stand.
Tony and I were soon riding to school together. We only lived about 300 yards apart. Sometimes my mom would drive us in her yellow Volkswagon Bug blaring Janis Joplin, sometimes my granddad would drive us in his mammoth Buick blaring Guy Lombardo, and sometimes Tony's dad would drive us in his huge diesel Lewis Oil Company truck. It was really loud.
When it was my families turn to drive, we were often late. This made Tony anxious and irritated. His mom made him listen to his Cookie Monster record to calm down. I am often still making us late. It still makes Tony anxious and irritated.
Some things never change.
I mostly went to Tony's to play, but on occasion he would come to our apartment. Now, I could not offer up elevated pizza trays, or a room devoted to toys, but I could give him as much candy and Cokes as he could consume from my granddad's bar, The Sports Center. I also had an open tab at the Flat Iron Drug Store so after gorging ourselves on candy bars and Cokes we could walk down McDowell Street and stuff ourselves with ice cream cones and Cherry Sprites. We would then play kickball in the vacant lot that once held the Pocahontas Theater or on the top level of the muncipal parking building.
The "apartment kids", led by two brothers with the nicknames of Booger and Stoney, nicknames that pretty much set the course for their life of petty crimes and slouching against walls, were always playing kickball. I loved to play, and although Tony had to endure some rich boy taunts that made him chew ferociously on the collar of his tan Member's Only jacket, he liked playing and usually kicked ole Boog and Stone's asses.
Top: Kindergarten portraits. The Smurf turtleneck that I am wearing was a gift from Tony. This was not what my mom planned for me to wear, but apparently I insisted. Middle: Cut-throat game of musical chairs. Bottom: Lookin' like wealth for Kindergarten graduation
We were thrilled to learn that we would also be in the same class in first grade - Mrs. Cure. At the table closest to the window sat Tony, me and a cute, blue eyed, golden haired pixie of a girl. The oil "barron's" grandson, the mayor's daughter and me - the illegitimate daughter of a twice divorced high school drop out. It worked. Still does.
We had a great year. Mrs. Cure was a great teacher. In addition to reading, math and spelling she also taught us to properly set a table. The three of us played together and Meredith and I joined swim team. Unfortunately, I had to quit before the first meet because of nasty infection that seeped into my blood stream. I was comforted by the promise of swimming the following year. That never happened.
In January 1984, the middle of my first grade year, my mom married her third husband, my biological dad. Steve. We all lived in my grandmother's apartment above Martin Insurance. When I needed some alone time, I'd head to my granddad's apartment in the newly constructed Elkhorn Tower. He and gran had gotten divorced the summer between Kindergarten and first grade. I guess it was a low income home for the elderly. My granddad only reported the earnings from the few beers, chips and occasional soda he sold at his bar. He qualified.
When my granddad was at the bar, I hung out with the blue hairs in their swishy windsuits. We went to bingo and cake walks in the community room. If I wasn't cake walking, I would just hang out in my granddad's stark apartment watching movies on his brand new VCR or rolling change that we kept in Slim Jim jars that we would then deposit in my savings account at McDowell National Bank.
It was an odd set up, but it worked for me. However, just as we were to start second grade, my parents announced that we were moving to Oceana.
Top: Kindergarten graduation. Bottom: Playing at Tony's house with Elvira.
Although I was often in Welch visiting my grandparents I never visited Tony or Meredith again. After four years in Oceana we moved to Bluefield. Meredith was a cheerleader at I saw her after a junior high basketball game, but I was too nervous to talk to her. I saw her again at a high school baseball game, both of our boyfriends were playing, but by this point I was too entrenched in being cool to speak to her. I wanted to.
I never saw Tony, but we did have some odd connections. During our junior year of high school my best friends parents took a trip to Italy. It was sponsored through some grocery suppliers association. I never knew exactly what Kathy's dad did, but it had something to do with groceries. Also, on this trip Cheri Goodson of Goodson's/Super Good/Suuuuper Market and Mary Lewis.
Kathy and I were sitting in her den, eating steak on a stick from Western Sizzlin' and watching 90210 when her parents came in.
Mrs. Crews said, Oh Sosha, you'll never believe this. We met someone that knew you when we were in Italy.
Yes, dear. Mary Lewis was on the same trip. We discovered that we had kids the same age, and I said something about Kathy's best friend, Sosha, staying with her while we were gone. She said that you used to play at her house when you lived in Welch. She asked how you were and showed us pictures of her son, Tony. He is a cutie.
Kathy and I had spent the the week they had been in Italy living like Led Zepplin. We had thrown party after party.
Kathy said, Oh, I remember you talking about him. Had we known we could have invited him up.
Oh no, he was super quiet and shy. I am sure that he doesn't party like we do.
Ok, some things do change.
When my mom worked at Western Sizzlin' she waited on Mary and Lenny . They showed each other pictures and exchanged phone numbers. Mary told Tony that he should call and ask me to go for a Coke.
He responded with, Mom, this isn't the 50's. What are we going to do after that - go to a sock hop? Besides, what if she is fat?
My mom took it one step further. She threw a going away party for me before I was leaving for college. In the evening, it was family and friends hanging out on the back deck, and later that evening it got all Mardi Gras down in the basement. Unbeknownst to me, Starr had called Mary and told her that she should tell Tony and his friends to come to the party.
She didn't tell me this until the party was in swing. I had one of those dramatic meltdowns that only teenage girls know how to have. I said things like:
I am going to die right here on the spot!
What am I suppose to do with him if he happens to show up?
This is the most embarrassing thing you have ever done (mind you my mother had been to federal prison - twice)!
She just laughed and suggested that I get a hold of myself. He didn't show up. Crisis averted.
I was slightly disappointed.
My grandmother had gone with me to freshman orientation. She ran into Meredith's mom and they chatted it up. Meredith would be attending WVU and she would also be living in Towers.
I didn't see Meredith at orientation, but I did see her the first day that I arrived on campus - in the Mountainlair.
I was flush with financial aid cash, and in desperate need WVU sweatshirt. Well, I should say that I was flush with most of financial aid cash. My mom was with me when the announced the amount that I had left over from my grants. We took the extra to Wal-Mart to pick up a few necessities that we hadn't been able to afford, then we went to Bob Evan's, and then she got me to give her a couple hundred dollars because, well because, she could. Plus, she had already taken my college trust money that my granddad had left me so what was a couple bills at this point.
Anyway, I still had more money than I have ever had at one time and I was so happy to be in Morgantown that I was basically skipping through the student union. I spotted Meredith out of the corner of my eye sitting with a very animated red-haired girl, she was like Pippi Longstocking hopped on crank. I looked at my roommate, a friend from high school and said, c'mon on I think I know the short, blonde girl.
We walked over trying to look cool and casual. Meredith was dressed in a Mt. View Golden Knights cheerleader t-shirt, khaki shorts, gold socks (to match the gold of the school's mascot) and white Keds. It was definitely her. She looked the same as she did when she was 6.
Meredith was use to being popular and well-known so when I asked if she was Meredith Moore, she gave her best politician smile, said, Yes, indeedy! I said, I'm Sosha. Do you rem...?
Before I could get the last bit of remember out, she had bounded out of her seat, threw her arms around me and started squealing as she forced me to jump up and down with her.
Yes, ma'am, I remember you! You were my bestest friend from first grade. Erin, this is my friend Sosha. Sosha, this is my roommate, Erin. Erin lives right outside our nation's capitol!
Erin laughed and said, Well, goddamn, I'm glad she knows you because that was a helluva greeting! Nice to fucking meet you!
She shook my hand.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Meredith's enthusiasm and spirit finger greeting had taken me aback for a moment. Erin's profanity laced introduction and rapid fire delivery actually calmed me down.
Erin and Meredith were polar opposites. Erin came out of the womb cursing like Lisa Lampanelli with bad cramps. Meredith had once washed her own mouth out for cursing - although no one had heard her. However, they worked. We all worked. We still do.
I introduce my roommate, Melanie, and we all start chatting, anxious to have new friends. We decide to ride the PRT back to Towers, and as we zipped along the tracks above the Mon River we decided that we should go out on the town. It was Saturday. Classes didn't start until Monday. Time to live it up.
We met back in Meredith and Erin's room. Montel Jordan's, This Is How We Do It, was blaring down the hall! They had already made a gaggle of friends on their floor and they were all gathered in the small room. Meredith's friend and classmate, John, was also there. He lived in another Tower. John was Tony's best friend. He and I hit it off instantly.
That night and many, many, many other nights we decided to go to Shooter's. A dingy freshman bar located in the basement of an old office building. It was considered a freshman bar because of there rather lax rules about actually having to be 21 to be served alcohol. Also, I had a fake ID that I had been using for a year. It looked nothing like me, but it was taken at a weird side angle so it really could have been anyone.
We spent the next day, Sunday and pretty much every Sunday after that hungover. We lounged around in Meredith and Erin's room watched movies, ordered Papa John's pizza, and got to know each other.
John and Meredith filled me in on Tony. He had decided to go to Concord College. John contended that Tony and their other best friend had decided on Concord because it was closer to home and their still in high school girl friends. John was bitter. I knew the feeling as the same thing had happened to me. We bonded.
It was Meredith and John's ultimate plan to get Tony and me together and have Tony transfer to WVU. John even started putting in calls to Tony's mom. He describes me. Tells her that I am fun and smart. He then adds his ultimate compliment, Mary, she can drink like a man!
Despite sounding more like a longshoreman than a respectable college co-ed, Mary was excited for Tony and me to meet again.
It did not take long for this to happen. Tony and his family were coming up for a football game and Tony was going to stay with John. I was excited, but I didn't let on.
I had been invited to a party the night Tony was coming. A party thrown by some older friends from Bluefield. I didn't want to go, but I caved to the pressure, and I couldn't act like I was excited to see him. I told John to come to the party once Tony got there. He promised that he would.
This was before cell phones so I just had to accept that John was coming - and bringing Tony. I spent a good amount of time on the front porch, cup of Natty Light in hand, looking up the street just hoping that they would appear.
They never did! I was so disappointed.
John told me that they were on their way to the house party when they saw police lights and turned around thinking the party had been busted. It had not. `
The next day we all went to the football game. I bounced aroud several tailgates, easily reigniting my buzz as the night before had only ended about six hours before the tailgating began. Eventually, I landed at the McDowell County tailgate.
I had been informed that Tony was extremely hungover and was receiving a tongue lashing from his girlfriend, whom he had brought, but then abandoned with his parents because her parents did not want her going out with the college kids. She was rightfully irritated. As was Mary as she had been stuck with a complaining, bitching 17 year old girl.
Tony and his girlfriend were in the back of his dad's Suburban. He was throwing up in a bag as his girlfriend screeched at him. Meredith grabbed me and started making the rounds of introductions. I was hugged a lot, my face was cupped by my first grade teacher, the Mayor of Welch offered me a beer while telling her daughter, Meredith, that she could have a soda. It was a good feeling. I was back with my people.
Then Meredith huddled up with Mary and her friend Mona and told them that she was going to introduce me to Tony. Mary and Mona quickly found something that they needed out of the back of the truck.
Meredith swung open the door and screamed sang, Anthony (she is the only person in the world that calls him Anthony), look who I found? Our best friend from first grade! Your first love!
Tony looked up from his plastic grocery bag and across his girlfriend whom was actively shooting eye daggers into all four chambers of mine and Meredith's heart. He was a greenish grey color. He had beads of sweat on his forehead. He had a mustache, a Magnum P.I. mustache.
Yep, I was in love.
Tony and his girlfriend broke up on New Year's Eve 1995.
We shared our first kiss in January 1996 on the Shooter's dance floor as Closer by Nine Inch Nails was vibrating out of the speakers. As we were leaving, I asked him if he wanted to go to Eat'n Park. He responded with, I'm not hungry, but I'll go. I was confused by his response. Years later he told me that he thought I was old fashioned and was asking him if he wanted to go get something to eat and then go park, like parking, making out.
I gave Tony my V-Team card in February...on the twin bed in my dorm room in Towers (don't act shocked). We had been at Shooter's. It was not exactly romantic, as first times often are not. However, I was happy that I had waited for him. I still am.
Tony and I have been together since January 1996. 16 years this month. No break-ups, no breaks. We endured two years of a long distance relationship before Tony could transfer. We moved to Charlotte in 2001 with no jobs and a whopping $3,000. We were married in simple, beautiful ceremony on September 2002. We both cried as we exchanged vows. We had memorable, epic reception. It was so epic that we delayed our honeymoon for a day. We had our first $100+ meal on our honeymoon.
We bought our house two months after we were married. We decided to have a kid after watching the love and happiness that Tony's niece brought to Lynn and Brent's world. It took me almost a year to get pregnant and I had to use fertility drugs. It was the hardest year of my life.
We persevered and our girl was worth every tear and heartbreak we endured that year.
We have had some epic, knock-down, drag-out, come to Jesus fights.
After a night of tequila shots and an argument that only tequila shots can bring, I threatened to walk back to my house form his apartment. The only problem was that I could only locate one of my shoes. I was certain that Tony was hiding my other shoe. Therefore, I did the only logical thing my tequila drenched brain could think of - I took my other shoe off and flung it at him, and then, for good measure, I unsnapped the bracelet that he had gotten me for Christmas and flung it at him too. Naturally, I then collapsed into sobs and passed out.
I can be insecure and aloof. I don't know how to let things go. Tony wants to let everything go - quickly. He has irrational, harsh reactions and can have about six moods an hour. We can both be arrogant, stubborn and pig-headed. We have had dark periods, periods where we didn't like each other much, periods where we felt taken for granted.
However, we have been dedicated to each other. We have never given up on each other. We have supported each other during the hard times. I would have crumbled on the days that my mom and brother died had I not had him to hold me up, to lean into.
We have grown together. We have survived together.
We are goofy. We are silly. We love raunchy humor. We have had some incredibly fun times. We have some of the best friends and family in the world. There is nothing I like better than to illicit a true laugh from Tony. It takes my breath away.
I am constantly amazed at how he can fix anything. He is constantly amazed at how I can break anything.
We created the most magical little girl in the world. Our love for her has allowed us to grow closer to each other. Through her, we see all the good parts of us. We see what can happen when these good parts combine.
We were very young when we met.
And, my hope is that we will be very, very old when we part.
He is still my best friend.
He is still my Bo Duke.
Some things never change!
Top: Meredith's wedding 2001. Middle: With the Mazon's in Savannah, GA for St. Patrick's Day 2002
Bottom: Meredith, Tony and me at Universal Studios, April 2003.
Good times through the years: Top: House party at Meredith and mine's apartment. Middle: Universal Studios with the Mazon's and Pensule's, April 2003. Bottom: Tony's surprise 30th birthday party.
Top Left: You broke my heart, Fredo. And, Ginger McKenna called and wants her sweet leopard print jacket back. Top Right: Rainy Mountaineer tailgate, 1996. Bottom Left: Oak Island, June 2000. Bottom Right: Our wedding day, September 2002.