Eight years ago this week we began what I think of as Season 3 of our life. Season 1 was our life together before kids, including our three years of dating (off and on). Season 2 was our six years of graduate school and early parenthood. And Phase 3 began when Randy finished his PhD and got that most thrilling phone call from U.T., informing him that he was to be an Assistant Professor of Botany. This week in May 1999, we both graduated from Iowa State University, Randy with his PhD in Botany and me with my M.A. in English/creative writing.
But we didn't stick around for the pomp and circumstance. We celebrated first by buying a van. For 7 years, we'd tooled around in our tiny 2-door Toyota Tercel, purchased pre-kids. Did I mention no air-conditioning? In July? In Iowa? So as an entrance into our new world of Grown-Ups with a Job, we bought an utterly luxurious, barely used mini-van.
And then we headed off for New Orleans. Randy's best friend from high school was getting married, and with a great degree of giddiness, we traveled hundreds of miles with Jesse, 6, and Laurel, nearly 2, from Iowa to Louisiana. It was a fabulous trip. We stayed with Jimmy in his Garden-district-type house right near the New Orleans Zoo. The wedding included a jazz quintet playing the processional, and the reception took place at the New Orleans Botanical Garden. It was all quite a treat for our family.
For all of our dating and married life--13 years at that point--we'd been in school: undergraduate, graduate, PhD. We'd lived in tiny apartments and struggled on a graduate student's meager salary. At last, the long years of late night labs and furious writing had materialized into the Dream. And New Orleans was the perfect place to shed the students' skin and step into Season 3.