A snapshot is a message in a bottle floating on the ocean of time.
We had “picture day” at school when I was growing up. Is that still a thing?
Our 8th grade yearbooks were delivered to Sequoyah Junior High the following summer, just before we started the 9th grade. There was no internet, no email back then, just letters in our mailboxes telling us to come to the school and pick up our yearbooks on a certain day between the hours of such-and-such.
After I picked up my yearbook, I got on the telephone with Elaine, a girl my age who lived 4 houses away. Elaine and I were going through our yearbooks together, page by page over the telephone, making comments about every picture when lightning struck. I was looking at a snapshot of a girl I had never met. Although she and I had gone to the same school for 2 years, I had never once encountered her.
I said to Elaine, “Pennie Compton.”
Elaine answered, “She was in my math class. She’s really nice and super smart.”
And then my ears were surprised to hear my mouth say, “I’m going to marry that girl.” I had never said such a thing in my life and I never did again. But deep down I knew it was true. Don’t ask me how, but I knew.
A few days later my class schedule arrived with an invitation for all the parents to come to Sequoyah Junior High on Friday night at 7PM to meet their kid’s homeroom teacher and then classes would start on Monday.
I didn’t show my Mom the invitation because my first-hour class was Oklahoma History taught by Coach Meeks, a man famous for lecturing kids on how he made his own sun-dried beef jerky and how every young man should drink protein shakes to build muscle mass.
Yeah, no need for Mom to meet him. No need for me to go, either. I already knew my way around.
But wait! Here was a list of the other 26 kids assigned to my homeroom class and one of them was Pennie Compton!
I was the first person to arrive on Friday night. I took a seat at the back of the room and kept my eye on the door. After about 20 minutes, I saw a man and a woman walk in with the girl I had seen in the photo. I got up, strode to the front of the room, shook the man’s hand firmly and said with a smile, “I’m Roy Williams. You’re going to be seeing a lot of me in the future.”
Pennie was embarrassed because she had no idea who I was, but it wasn’t long before we were friends.
Oklahoma History was memorable. Coach Meeks liked to show off the heavy wooden paddle he made for disciplining unruly boys by beating them on the backside. According to him, those rows of half-inch holes drilled in the paddle were there “to reduce the wind resistance,” but those of us who experienced his beatings knew those holes were there to leave white polka dots on your bright red ass.
I got my first butt-tattoo for spontaneously laughing when I shouldn’t have. Coach Meeks was talking about the glory and wonder of the O.U. Sooners Football Team when he decided to steer us onto the straight and narrow path by shouting, “If you succeed in footbaaaaall you will succeed in liiiiife.”
Three years went by. Pennie had boyfriends and I had girlfriends but I always knew I would marry her one day. We went a thousand places together on the nights when neither of us had a date, but we never once held hands and I never tried to kiss her. But we told each other everything.
The only secret I ever kept from Pennie was that I was deeply in love with her.
I got a full ride to Oklahoma State University. She got a big scholarship to an exclusive private school. I attended classes at O.S.U. for a day and a half, then called Pennie and said, “I’m dropping out. Let’s get married and figure out the future together.”
She said, “But we’re both so young and poor. Why don’t we wait a couple of years?”
I said, “In a couple of years, we’ll still be young and poor.”
She thought that was funny and laughed. I said, “I’m completely serious. I think we should get married. We can be young and poor together and we’ll figure out what to do with our lives.”
Why did that thought not terrify her? Why did it not terrify me? It should have, shouldn’t it? It certainly terrified everyone else in our lives, but it didn’t scare us at all.
Sometimes you know a thing is right, even when it makes no sense.
I made that call to Pennie on September 7th, 1976. We were married on December 28th, 112 days later. We have never for a moment regretted it and we have never once looked back.
I can hear you thinking, “But you went back and got your education, right?”
No, we didn’t. I read a lot of books and took a lot of chances and cheerfully did whatever I had to do to find the money to keep us afloat and somehow it all worked out.
A few days ago Jeffrey Eisenberg texted us, “We just finished Here Today on Amazon Prime. Highly recommended.”
Obviously, we watched it.
There is a scene halfway through that movie when an aging Billy Crystal gets a text from a young friend asking him how he met his wife.
I have no idea how that movie ends because I spent the rest of that evening happily remembering that moment I saw a snapshot of Pennie Compton, the girl who would soon become my best friend, and later my bride, my business partner and the inspiration for a thousand good things.
Wizard Academy was her idea, but Chapel Dulcinea was mine.
Chapel Dulcinea is the free wedding chapel where more than 1,000 lifelong partnerships are launched each year and Wizard Academy is a summer camp for grown-ups, a place where you can escape your day-to-day routine and be surrounded by interesting people who will encourage and empower the dream of your heart until it shines so brightly that it becomes a guiding light, your own personal star beckoning you to follow.
And now I will tell you a secret.
Each of the 1,000 wedding parties who happily walk to Chapel Dulcinea each year are greeted by a stylized statue of a woman in the Garden of Joy with her hands raised high and her face to the sky.
That chapel garden is called The Garden of Joy because Joy is, quite literally, Pennie’s middle name. I’ve never told anyone the reason for that garden’s name before, not even Pennie.
And of course I didn’t let her read this memo before I sent it out.
Life can be fun if you’ll let it.
Roy H. Williams
Radhika Dutt is a university teacher who explains to her students why the innovation techniques used by Facebook and many of the other “change agents” are misguided and ineffective. She says, “Rapidly launching a new product into the marketplace and then tweaking it until you get it right is like driving a fast car without having a roadmap or a destination.” Listen and learn as Radhika Dutt explains to roving reporter Rotbart exactly how to do innovation right. And she explains it in just 14 minutes at MondayMorningRadio.com