My family began going to North Roanoke Baptist Church in the fall of 1997. Very quickly the parents became friends with the Hamilton/Greene clan. I got to know the youngest Hamilton, Ryan, through youth group activities. If you're keeping up that's three Hamilton kids: Nicole, Jen, and Ryan. By this point in history, Nicole and Kevin were already married, hence the inclusion of the Greenes above.
I digress. I don't actually remember meeting Jen until a few years later. See, at the time we joined the church, Jen was away at Virginia Tech. So while her entire family had the pleasure of my wit and wisdom, she was wasting away in the academic world. It wasn't until the summer of 2000, after she had graduated from college, that she finally got that opportunity.
My first real memory of Jen was at her house. Her parents were having a cook-out/party celebrating Jen's graduation from college and Ryan's graduation from high school. Up to this point I wasn't sure that the elusive third Hamilton kid even existed. But there she was. Live and in person.
If it were her telling the story, she'd probably say I was awestruck at first glance. But I was less than impressed. But let me tell you why before you jump to conclusions. As everyone lined up in the Hamiltons' kitchen to get burgers and dogs, she complained of a headache. As she was getting ready to take an Advil LiquiGel, a friend of hers dared her to break it open and just swallow the liquid without the shell.
Never one to back down from a dare, Jen did it. She broke it open and swallowed the liquid pain killers. Soon after she complained about it burning her throat. I really didn't want to make a rush judgment about the intelligence of someone I had just met, but part of me just couldn't help it.
But being who I am, quiet until you really get to know me, I merely shook my head and laughed. I mean, it was kind of funny. And hey, no harm done. No one had to be taken to the emergency room for a quick tracheotomy. There was no breakthrough in laser surgery that night. Just good times and good food. I assume the food was good. It's hard to remember the food from a specific cook-out 8 years ago.
That may not have actually been the first time I met Jen. But if there was another, I couldn't tell you about it. That's my first real memory of her and I think it makes a pretty good story. Little did I know that our adventures that summer were just beginning.