Yesterday’s lunch hour started a bit chaotic. My sister called and invited me to lunch and although she said, “Meet me at Cafe Chris,” all I could think about was the amazing chicken salad from the Cactus Garden. I had sat there nearly 20 minutes when I received a text from her saying that she was already enjoying her salad. What!? My first thought was that she was in the front dining room and hadn’t bothered looking for me in the back dining room. Then, suddenly, it dawned on me. Her words replayed in my ear… “Meet me at Cafe Chris.” We were in two separate restaurants.
I almost just stayed at Cactus Garden. I had been fantasizing about the chicken salad the entire time I was waiting on my sister to show up. But, after about 37 seconds, I decided to go ahead and meet Tricia at Cafe Chris. They have a BLT salad with about 52 strips of bacon I enjoy the heck out of.
Lunch was usual. We talked about why she’s skipped the last few days at the gym and made fun of each other about a few things. We talked about her son’s upcoming wedding, a few projects I’ve been working on for Ata-Girl, how I love bacon, and how she really would have rather had the patty melt. Then, we decided who’d pay for lunch and who’d tip and got up to leave. She stopped to talked to friend about select softball and since I’ve long been out of that loop, I was bored and so I let my eyes scan the restaurant.
I wasn’t really looking for anyone in particular but my eyes thought they caught a familiar face—from 1983? No way!? A face that I had tried to reconnect with when I got out of the Army in ’94 but my email went unreturned! Had it been lost? Marked as spam? Unwanted? Forgotten? Accidentally filed away? Unimportant? Not received at a good time? Addressed incorrectly? Whatever the case, I never heard back and I never tried to reach out again, though this face… this person left a lifelong impression on me.
At first, I quickly looked away. There was no way I was putting myself out there like that again. What if, in person, I was unreturned?! Lost? Marked as spam? Unwanted? Forgotten? Accidentally filed away? Unimportant? Not received at a good time? Addressed incorrectly? Then, before I had even given myself a chance to keep talking myself out of it, I walked up to her. I bent over to meet her at eye level and asked, “Are you Coach Geyer?”
As she smiled and acknowledged that she was, I began to say, “I’m Tammy Bla…” and her arms were around me and I cried during lunch.
Here’s the backstory.
She gave me something. I was a freshman in high school and I was in that awkward stage. I didn’t come from money. I didn’t have fancy clothes. I wasn’t popular. I wasn’t pretty. I didn’t have good hair (mostly because I didn’t bother to style it and my best friend sometimes cut my hair). I didn’t have a lot of friends. I wasn’t all that smart. I wasn’t tall. I didn’t make good grades. I didn’t live in a nice house. My parents were blue-collar workers. And, I lived near Christine… the little town that was ten miles south of the town our school was in.
I had just graduated from junior high and had spent countless nights watching the varsity teams, boys and girls alike, compete and advance deep into the play-offs. I watched in bewilderment as a whole community stood behind a team. I looked up to these athletes. I idolized these athletes. I wanted to be these athletes. They were my heroes. Varsity was the place TO BE.
Coach Geyer was the head volleyball coach and put me on the varsity team during play-offs—yes, my freshman year. Say what? My sophomore year, she put me right back on varsity as we began two-a-day practices before school started. It was a scary place… there were seniors there. I felt as though my classmates thought I didn’t deserve this and I thought they thought I was unfairly being singled out. Why me? It was a transitional time. It was a life lesson. I already knew how to work hard because I had been building fence and bailing hay since 5th grade, but Coach Geyer gave me the ability to see inside myself—to recognize that I could push harder, endure more, sweat extra, try another, work smarter, dig deeper, give excess, become better, practice longer, and always, always improve. What this taught me was that I don’t always have to have familiarity. I don’t always have to be comfortable. I can be strong. I can be a light to others. There is always more to give from within.
What she gave me was confidence.
Something else she did for me? When my little sister passed away my sophomore year, she packed up the entire volleyball program on a school bus (or two) and brought them to the funeral service. I don’t know how this would fly in today’s public school world, but looking back, it means the world me. My family had just been dealt one of the hardest, most incredibly painful, brutally crushing blows a family could be forced to endure and she brought my whole volleyball family to show support.
She also saved my social life (what little there was of it) by convincing my mom to buy me contacts. 🙂 (I refused to be all nerdy wearing glasses on the volleyball court… or basketball court, or track for that matter.)
In junior high and high school, I was blessed with a handful of great, outstanding, memorable, irreplaceable, athletic coaches (life molders). It took me a few years to realize this and appreciate this. I’ve now been able to tell of all them how important they have been in my life. I think about them nearly every day… I really, really do. I am so glad I ran into Coach Geyer at lunch, although I almost let a chicken salad interfere with that. I have been waiting for 33 years to tell this lady how amazing she was/is. I’m nearly 47-years-old and I cried during lunch yesterday. I hope she heard me, really heard me, through my blubbering.
For anyone who’s wondering, the other wonderful coaches I often reminisce about are Coaches Stein, Johnson, and Andrews! In addition to my mom and dad, they played very vital roles in who I am. Had I ran cross-country in high school, I’m sure Coach Borth would also have made this list. I just didn’t have it in me and I regret it. 🙁
Side Note/Ata-Girl Little Known Fact/Life Lesson: I REALLY wanted to be an Olympic volleyball player. I know, at 5′ 4″ my chances were no, never, not today, and hahahaha!!! But, the point here is, I let a stupid, STUPID boy talk me out of pursuing that dream. Coach Geyer would have never let that happen and would have done everything in her power to help facilitate even the slightest chance of bringing that dream to reality. Always find the power within yourself to be true to yourself!! And if you know a STUPID boy, dump him like the scum of the earth that he is.
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I am a full-time, internationally-awarded and WPPI-C certified professional wedding photographer based in South Texas near San Antonio. I offer a premier and personal service coupled with an unforgettable photography experience. I cater to clients who appreciate quality photography and help them to create family heirlooms that will last for generations.
I started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. I enjoy documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I love being a part of people’s journey and consider myself privileged to document their legacies.
When I’m not photographing a wedding, I love to spend my spare time hiking, camping, cycling, reading, listening to Elvis and Prince. The most important things in life are for me to see my two daughters happy and to create a family history my grandparents and grandson would be proud of!
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