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"To have and to hold"
By Natalie A., Fredericton High, Fredericton, NB

I hung up the phone after talking to my friend feeling frustrated. It was apparent, much to my dismay, that she was very much in love with this guy she had been going out with for awhile.

Their story? Guy met girl at a Fredericton High School (F. H. S.) dance and tried to kiss her. She pushed him away, but after a week of getting to know each other, they started going out in February 2003. They went on a date for dinner at Ringo's Bar & Grill and then out for a movie.

Their relationship was getting serious and the way she talked about their future plans scared me. How could she even think of marrying a guy she had met a only few months ago? Not to mention that we were all still in high school. Anybody would tell her she was being foolish and there was no way a marriage between high school sweethearts would work . . . right?

A while later I thought about my friends, the MacGougans, whose marriage I very much admire. In a society where divorce is so common, they have managed to keep their marriage alive for almost thirty years. Almost immediately the story I had heard so many times came to mind of when they met back in high school.

In September 1972, the Fredericton High School building as we know it now was not completed. The unfinished library, set up with only a few ping pong tables for students to play on at lunch, was the first meeting place of Tina and Mike MacGougan, now of Riverview, N.B.

"He swatted me with a ping pong paddle on the hind end. Mike says it was love at first sight and I'll admit I thought he was cute right off," said Tina.

Mike was going out with a friend of Tina's at the time. She brought Mike to church with her - the same church Tina was going to. A few weeks later, Mike and Tina started going out. And what of Tina's friend who had been going out with Mike? It turned out she liked Mike more than he liked her but "she always said she thought we should be together," said Tina. Together they are, thirty years later.

Obviously, the MacGougans are the exception to whatever rule may exist against marrying the person you dated in high school. The MacGougans, however, were not the only couple I thought of.

Mr. Rick Hull, my grade twelve English teacher at F. H. S. came to mind. On the first day of class with him he told us he was not responsible for anything that might happen in our English class with him that year. Rick went on to explain that he had met his wife, Harmony, in his grade twelve English class.

"We did a formal essay on Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native. We were the only ones to take up the teacher's offer to work in a group," Rick said. "At the time working on the essay was an excuse to get the car an extra night a week We got a 9 out of 10, so we actually did work on it," Rick added.

Rick and Harmony had their first date on Friday the 13th of April, 1977. They went to a Canadian Folk Valdy Concert, featuring Hometown Band.

"One of our favourite things to do, even today, is to go to concerts. We don't do it often anymore, but it's a lot of fun," said Rick.

Surprisingly, the Hulls were not the last couple I thought of that met at F. H. S. Last year my English teacher, Mrs. Cheryl Robertson, told the class of the fateful events surrounding the beginnings of her relationship with her future husband, Keith, beginnings which also took place at F. H. S.

"We were in the same home room in grade eleven. In the middle of grade eleven we moved to this school and ended up sitting together. That's when we met and got to know each other," said Cheryl.

He had moved from Toronto, so Cheryl's first impression of Keith was that he was a jerk, as in, "I'm better than this place." As they got to know each other in their group of four that sat and chatted together in homeroom, things changed.

Cheryl said it was in the summer after grade eleven that she first had a crush on him. When they went back to school for grade twelve, Cheryl said that they would see each other while waiting for the bus in the Pit (though the C-wing entrance was not called the Pit at that time, she added).

"I'd see him and run the other way," Cheryl said, adding that she had been shy.

"One day we had the same Chemistry lab. I had gotten a burn from a crucible. After school, he showed me a burn he'd gotten that day on his hand and it was the exact same burn," said Cheryl. "At the time I thought it was fate," she added.

They started going out in October 1972. Cheryl also had a friend who later admitted she had a crush on Keith at the same time as Cheryl. Cheryl said she thinks she was kind of jealous that she was the one to get him. Her friend obviously got over her crush on Keith as she is married with children now. And although Cheryl did not quite get over that conflicting high school crush, she and her friend are still in contact.

According to these three, having likes and dislikes in common is not necessarily the glue that holds relationships together. For these couples, it's the deeper things that matter most.

"On the surface, we're two very different people. She's quiet, I'm quieter," said Rick, adding, "Actually, that's a bold-faced lie . . . she's quiet," he said laughing. "She preferred the Beatles over the Stones, I preferred the Stones over the Beatles," Rick added. In terms of music, I am told one can't get much different than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

"But on philosophical and spiritual matters, we're very much alike. It has been those similarities that have ensured our compatibility since 1977," Rick said, commenting on some similarities he felt mattered most.

Cheryl said she and Keith were totally different.

"He was my reform project," she said seriously. She felt, however, that "deep down" he was a responsible and caring person.

"And he is. He's a wonderful father. I'm like this" she said, referring to their parenting while curving her hand up and down, "and he's like this," she said, moving her hand across the air in a straight line.

If so many are sceptical of high school relationships, I wondered what their parents must have thought of their children marrying their high school sweethearts. Rick said he thought their parents were not against their relationship, though they might have wished they had waited awhile before getting married, especially since Rick dropped out of University for a year. Rick and Harmony were married when they were both nineteen in September 1977, only a few short months after they graduated.

"My mom and dad loved Mike right from the very first," said Tina, who was married to Mike on April 20, 1974 when she was eighteen and he was twenty-two. "That was a bonus that he got along so well with them, especially since he was four years older than me. I think they knew I was safe with him," said Tina.

"At first they didn't think he was good enough for me," said Cheryl, adding that her parents may have wanted her to marry someone with more money. She said that they came to like him, however. Cheryl and Keith dated a few years before marrying on August 4, 1979. "They like him and they know I'm happy, " said Cheryl of her parents.

All of these people have matured since then and become a little more wise in the ways of the world. Although their relationships have worked out and they are obviously not adamantly against the idea of high school sweethearts marrying, they might not recommend it for everybody.

Rick, otherwise known as the English teacher, made sure he was being interviewed for a school project. After being assured that this was so, he said that sometimes students ask him about his relationship, thinking they might do the same thing. Rick said he would not necessarily encourage it.

"We were lucky; we kind of grew up together," said Cheryl. "I think it's good, if possible, to date other people," she said, adding that she broke up with Keith a few times before they were married to briefly date other people, "but it was nothing," she added.

"I think it worked for me because it was supposed to be," said Tina. "I was blessed that it worked out. I think I would like my kids to wait a while longer," she added.

Tina related that they did things to really make a relationship grow. "We did more things with our families. We went bowling with my mom and to the movies with his sister. We went for walks and to church together." She felt that by doing these activities, she really got to know who he was inside.

The couples that started in high school have evolved into families by now. Keith and Cheryl have two girls, Margaret, born in 1984, and Kathryn, born in 1986. Mike and Tina have had five children, Jennifer in 1976, Jackie in 1978, Rob in 1980, Allison in 1984 and David in 1986. Jennifer, who was just recently married herself, enlarged their family with Dustan, their first grandchild. Rick and Harmony, who spent a few years on their own, also had two girls, Sarah in 1991 and Jennifer in 1993.

It's been twenty-four years since the last of those three marriages, and all three couples seem to be just as in love as they were when they were in high school, if not more so.

"I wouldn't change anything," said Tina. "He's still perfect." Is she still in love with him? "I'm more in love with him everyday," she said.

Cheryl commented on Rick and Harmony's relationship, "He calls her at least twice a day," she said. "It's just like they're still dating." Cheryl, who student-taught in the English class in which Rick and Harmony met, said Rick will call to ask Harmony how she is doing or if she needs him to pick anything up for her.

Said Cheryl of her own high-school sweetheart, "He doesn't have any vices. He deserves a medal for putting up with me this long."

As have, undoubtedly, the MacGougans and the Hulls, Cheryl and Keith have been through some tough times that could have only served to cement their relationship. Keith has gone through several life-threatening experiences, and Cheryl said he's been "so positive."

After talking to these three people, it is apparent that their love for their spouses has only grown in the years since high school. In fact, it is grown to a point that when one talks about the other, it is noticeable in their voice and in their countenance. It is doubtful they will be quitting anytime soon.

Back to my best friend and her high school relationship. They have been going out for ten months by now, which is a long time in high school. But I know enough now to know that my friend's relationship is no fling. She really loves this guy and I am pretty sure he loves her back - and I don't use the word "love" very loosely in regards to high school students.

Is a long-term relationship - as in a lasting marriage - really feasible? Statistically, of course not. But who knows? High school relationships have been known to last before, especially those that begin at Fredericton High.


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