Years later, I told my undergraduate students in my research methods course the story about my first date with Corey. This helped them to remember the concept regression to the means, which is how an extreme thing will become less extreme or regress towards the mean on a second measurement.
It's why we often find ourselves recommending a new restaurant to our friends and then finding it disappointing on our second visit. It is statistically common for an average experience following an exceptional one.
After Corey walked my home the first night, I was elated at his attraction. His smile showed two missing front teeth, as he had worn a hoodie, beanie, and baggy jeans to the bar.
It was a while back that I heard from the 'Hidden Brain podcast that it took a 40-year-old to laugh as many times as a child in one day. I was able to hear Corey's laughter and ran up my stairs, begging him not to let it be regression back to the mean.
It wasn't. We walked miles to Grace Tavern for grilled green beans on our second date. After I had managed to avoid a potential argument, the man grabbed me by the hand and said that he was here to meet Sarah, not Sarah’s representative. We walked slower, with the yellow autumn leaves from Spruce Street strewn across the sidewalk.
We sat down on my couch for our third date and discussed the possible friction points between our pasts and our futures. He was a transient artist who lived above a skateshop and grew up listening hardcore punk. I was a single mother and a psychologist who studied in the book, while my husband was a single mother who grew up singing hymns. He left before we could have hoped, sobered by our differences.
On our fourth date, we walked around the city again. He told me that he was not going anywhere and that I was right where he wanted.
Corey introduced me Pearl, his pit bull who was affectionate and friendly, to my family. Corey lost all of his front teeth due to Pearl's overly enthusiastic welcome. My two children were young when Corey introduced me to Pearl, his pit bull. He took my 8-year old's crayons and made a city out of the butcher paper that was covering the table while we waited for food.
For a month, I refused to speak on the phone with him after our first meeting. He was afraid that my lack of body language would make it difficult for me to communicate with him. Later, I found out that he had convinced his friends to clean the tiny skate shop before my first visit. He was worried about my reaction to the usual goings-on among bachelor skaters.
Our lives became one after that. His best friend Becky met me at a late-night bar above Old City. We drove 14 hours one weekend to meet Becky, who was demanding relationship veto power following my divorce.
Corey spent New Years Eve playing board games and teaching my children how to solve a Rubik's Cube. He taught me that sneakers are more than shoes. We laughed and made jokes about the world colliding, and we laughed and laughed.
Corey told me that he wanted to be able to make salads with me when he grew up a few months later. Then came rings and a baby.
It wasn't always easy. Despite our differences, our marriage was marked by contradictory expectations. I maintained that no age was suitable for Grand Theft Auto and couldn't understand why a grown-up man would want to play video games. He didn't get why I spent so much time running experiments for academic curiosity, rather than using my education to solve real-world problems.
He stayed up until late, while I woke up early. Outside was important to me; Corey could not skate unless he was outside. He was annoyed by my incessant layers of discussion and silence, which made me mute in the face a loud, direct argument. After our son was born, we continued to fight over domestic annoyances that were magnified by sleep deprivation.
Because he saw me beyond the words that I believed made up my core and saw my body. He instinctively knead my hunched shoulders, without me having to express my stress. Corey saw me as a person capable of dazzle, even though I was content with my lackluster physical charm.
This is mainly because I've spent my entire life wondering why, second-guessing and saying, "Yes, but... ". I have become a great scientist, but a horrible romantic partner. My brain was able to stop at 'Yes' when I was with Corey.
He loved our son so much! After realizing that a school bus could stop even the most severe crying, Corey began to park near his house in the 'bus zoo" at dawn to watch the school buses make their morning runs.
A Baby Bjorn joined Corey's beanie/baggy jeans/hoodie outfit three days a week. The baby accompanied Corey on the grocery store, skate shop circuit, and home improvement errands. While I found it tediously complex to sync a changing nap schedule with the school schedules for the older children, he was able to see beauty in the rhythms and routines of a family that he never expected to have.
We stayed up late after our friends went home on the night of Corey’s 40th birthday. This was just a few days after our son turned 2. As we laughed about the chaos of our lives, my head rested on Corey’s chest, and we marveled at how lucky we were to find each other at such different ages.
Our world was completely changed the next morning. My husband was standing on the front porch with a pale face and a numb right foot when I got back from the bus stop. I drove him the mile to hospital.
Strangely, I didn't get what the nurse meant when they took him out of the car. Her eyes were impossible to see. One group of her lashes was awkwardly positioned against the others because of a clump of mascara in her left eyes.
However, I understood that my son was being taken away by a kind social worker. I was able to see the frenetic activity and chest compressions through the window that the nurse showed me. His chest is held in his hands. Holding paddles in his hands. It was clear to me what that meant when the activity stopped.
W.S. Merwin was a poet. W.S. Merwin said, "Your absence has gone through my life like thread through a needle." Everything I do is influenced by its color.
My oldest is now in college and can still solve a Rubik's Cube. My second, who is now in college, wears a beanie with flannel to school. He also asks for his skateboard to go on summer trips. I discovered an album on Corey's phone titled 'heart' that contained photos of me, lying down in my pajamas reading, staring out the window at the baby, and covered in dirt while I prepared the garden beds.
Our son. Our son is now 9. He is 9. He asked me one night why I said that I was happy, but my body said that I was sad. His laughter travels from his belly to the rest of the room.
Every night, as I read to him before going to bed, I see the messy cowlick in his eyes. I believe it is true. The research about how those first two years of life, even though they aren't always easy to remember, shapes you. They help you see the world as either dangerous or safe, and to view a stranger as either an enemy or friend.
If that's the case, our son will be able to have his dad with him throughout his life. Those many trips to the zoo and the skatepark have taught him that love is everywhere, that there is always a way to laugh at everything, and that every stop sign requires a sticker.
Sarah Allred is a perceptual scientist and an associate professor at Rutgers University Camden.
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