Here in New England: A Wedding Story
This story is for anyone getting married in this season of weddings. It begins 25 years ago. Two teenagers, Kirsten Opdyke and Tim O’Connell, were at a high-school basketball game. They didn’t know each other, but she’d noticed him in the halls of their New Hampshire high school. Tim, from Vermont, was the new kid in Peterborough. He was tall, good-looking, a hockey player. Kirsten was the pretty girl from a little town a few miles away, a soccer player. Tim was sitting on the bleachers when Kirsten came into the gym. Tim took one look and said to himself, She’s the one. Then Kirsten came over to him, put her hand on his knee, and said, “Who are you?”
“He just sort of stammered,” she remembers today. “He didn’t know what to say.”
“I was just sitting there and this girl puts her hand on my knee,” Tim recalls. “She had this amazing energy. Then she walked off. I don’t even remember the basketball game. I was 17, trying to be cool. But all I thought was, Who is that?”
For the next few weeks Kirsten found a way to walk by Tim’s locker or be nearby while he was on his way to a class. “I thought, He’s the one. I just knew it.”
Their first kiss was at a party, November 25, 1984, a date that Kirsten recalls years later without hesitation. “From that moment on we were inseparable,” she says. Tim lived on an old farmstead. He and Kirsten went three-wheeling, horseback riding, swimming in the lake; they cooked out. Small-town kids talking about a future. “We made a 10-year plan,” Kirsten says. “Graduate high school, college, get married, have four kids.”
Kirsten loved Tim, but after high school he wanted to stick around and work. He wasn’t the studious type back then, and Kirsten wanted to see “new things.” She went off to the University of Kentucky. “We sat in the car just crying our heads off,” she recalls. They phoned nearly every day; then summer came and they worked in town, and after work there was the lake and the warm country nights.
The next summer they found jobs on Cape Cod and shared a cabin with a friend. And then, of course, our story takes a turn, because they were, after all, still so young. It had been three years since high school, and the disappointments crept in. By Kirsten’s senior year, they were just about done. “We were doing this,” she says, as she makes a motion with her hands, one going east, the other west.
After graduating, Tim studied architecture in Boston but spent a lot of time partying. “I was immature,” he says. “There weren’t many parties I missed.” Kirsten had moved to Connecticut as a sales manager for People magazine, her life in a totally different place from Tim’s. One day in 1994, 10 years after they’d met, “Tim called me up,” she says. “He wanted to see how I was doing. We agreed to meet in Boston. I thought, This is it. I knew what I was going to say.
“That whole night sitting across from him, I just wanted to say, ‘I love you, I always have, I always will.’ But I kept getting weird vibes from him. I knew he must be seeing someone else. So I never said it. I bawled my eyes out all the way home. I knew we were meant to be together. I knew that before I died I would see him again.”