Summers in the small town where I grew up got so hot that the road I lived on became squashy. We used to poke at it with our feet, trying to leave our prints there. It was like a black marshmallow. The toughest of us ran around barefoot despite the heat. I was one of those, tiny and female though I was. I preferred the company of boys from an early age, with the exception of a few girls who could hold their own as well as I could.

In later years I would discover that boys were good for things other than climbing trees and catching frogs. My first kiss occurred one summer as I sat on a picnic table with a boy much too old for me. He was my brother’s friend, which may have been the real reason I fell for him. He asked my permission before he kissed me. My best friend watched from her bedroom window next door as the quickest peck in the world took my breath away. No firecrackers. Only a breeze that lifted my hair and cooled my super-hot cheeks. I thought for sure I was in love. I had seen it all.

Next came a young man who had to work to catch my interest despite the fact that he looked like a god. My parents didn’t approve of him, which helped. What more could I have wanted? He told me things that saved me from being abused in relationships that would follow my long lasting love affair with him. I think he really loved me. I married him when I was fifteen, sitting in the back of the church as my father spoke the words that joined my uncle and aunt in matrimony. He slipped my own ring on my finger and repeated those magic words as another of my relatives watched in pure delight. “Your father would kill you,” she whispered in my ear. He caught the garter, too, and slipped it onto my leg right in front of my father. He had courage. I’ll give him that. Patience was what he lacked, and it was a thing I required.

There were others, but not many. I had a tendency to fall in love and stick with a guy until he gave me cause not to want to marry him. Marry him for real, I mean.

When I ran into Phillip in the summer after my first year of college, a relationship that had lasted two years was evaporating. Phillip put a program in my hand at a concert. I went back for several programs throughout the evening, and before the concert was finished I had an invitation to sing at the church where Phillip led music. I ended up singing something stupid, but it didn’t matter. Phillip was the one. I’d never been so sure.

I had loved him before, but I had never let him know. He grew up on the same block I did. He had poked the same squashy road, and he was far tougher than I would ever be. In high school theatre, he played opposite me in more than one show, and I would have melted in his hand had he ever stretched it out. I’m told by my sister-in-law that his name was painted on the ceiling in my room, which I don’t doubt.

Phillip and I were the first to arrive at drama practice most nights, and he was the first person I told my life story to. He was smarter than he knew and kinder than seemed possible. I could tell him anything except that I loved him. I carried that secret to college and managed to forget it for a while. I was young and career oriented. And he was not mine. Not yet anyway.

We’ve been married for fourteen years, and I still get lost in his eyes, one green and one brown, both mine. He makes me laugh, and he holds me when I cry. He believes in me when I don’t. He stays at home with our sons while I sit at Starbucks and write. He never makes me feel small, though he towers over me. He thinks I’m cute when I’m really being a brat. He’ll never leave me.

I write a lot of men, some good and some bad. Most of them are at least modestly inspired by the men I’ve loved. But none of them, even Sam, will ever equal the man I married.



~ by Rachel McMahon on March 21, 2011.

2 Responses to “Phillip”


  2. Thank you!

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