A married couple who lives around the corner from us, Steve and Donna Nolan, met at Rutgers University more than two decades ago. Today was Agricultural Field Day at Rutgers, a more than century-old tradition. Thousands of people went, including the Nolans. Tonight Steve, our town's former mayor, posted this picture on his facebook page with this caption:
"Donna in front of the tree we planted 22 years ago while in college"
And later he added this comment: "Oops, 24 years!"
I've been married nearly two decades and during that time have witnessed dozens of friends' and family members' marriages implode. It is painful. I teared up when I saw this photo and immediately showed it to my husband, who was sitting right next to me on the sofa.
Greg told me he's always been moved by the couple's obvious love for one another and their three children. I emailed Steve and asked if I could post the photo and their story on my blog. He said sure. This is what he emailed me back.
"Donna and I started dating during our last year at Rutgers. She at Douglas; me at Cook. One of the projects the Cook College Council did that year was an Arbor Day planting during Spring 1989. Council was concerned that the pine forest behind Loree Gym was thinning out and wanted to plant more trees.
That forest is a special place for Donna and I. We used to walk through it to get to class and it has kind of a stately quiet to it. So, a group of about 20 students planted something like 10 trees. Donna and I got a sapling that couldn't have been more than 3 inches in diameter and maybe 5 feet tall. We chose a spot right at the edge of the forest in hopes that it would grow and help stabilize the stand.
Over the years, we always have stopped by the tree when we're on campus, especially on Ag Field Day. And now the tree is probably 25 feet tall and maybe 15 inches in diameter. I'm not sure if we or the tree have been through more but we're both still here!
That's kind of the story."
How moving to learn two young people in love planted the sapling in fragile soil in the hopes of strengthening something far greater.