Two small towns separated by one small street meant two things: rival schools and rival students. I went to the better of the two schools, Burrell High. If you ask my Valley High husband, he’d say HE went to the better of the two. Regardless, they are both great schools with great history. Most of the people that live in these towns were born and raised there. The same can be said for their parents and their parent’s parents. Needless to say, there is a lot of, “What’s your mom’s maiden name?” and “Ask your dad about the time we won states.” and “Did you hear who Kathy’s son married?” talk happening in the church parking lot, Denny’s Parking lot and at the Giant Eagle Grocery Store… Welcome to my small town.
It was the summer of 1996, and my mother and I were going to my cousin Matt’s high school graduation party. Matt went to Valley, (reminder I went to Burrell– Vally was our rival school). The minute my mom and I got out of the car and walked up to the white graduation party tent: There. He. Was. Tan, blond, light eyes and a smile the size of my dreams. I grabbed my mom’s arm and said, “Who is that? My social butterfly of a mother quickly responded with, “I think that’s Debbie Hanna’s son. Come on let’s find out.” Sure enough, as soon as my penny loafers stepped under the tent, my mom locked eyes with his mom and the introduction was made. “Devin this is Joy. Joy this Devin.” Turns out (a) Devin and my cousin Matt played baseball together, (b) my mom and dad went to school with Devin’s mom and dad and (c) my mom graduated with Devin’s Aunt Dona AND they were even in each other’s weddings! It’s funny how much you learn about your parents the older you get.
Lets cut to the good stuff. My cousin Matt was quite older than me but his sister Katy and I were in the same grade and I always loved getting the chance to hang out with her and her friends… not to mention on this particular day… Katy was my key to spending more time with Devin… So… Along with a handful of other friends Devin and I both convinced our parents to let us stay the night. I of course, would stay in my cousin Katy’s room, and Devin would bunk with the boy’s in the basement. Now let the record state that I was an honest, pure, GOOD teenage girl. While I never actually made it to bed, nothing happened that night besides Devin and I sitting out on the back porch talking, laughing and dare I say, falling in love. I may have even confessed/predicted that very night that one day we would be married… so we did what you did back then and exchanged home phone numbers… and our 15 year courtship officially began.
We were “on and off” all through high school, as most relationships are at that age. However, he was my first “real” boyfriend. You know, the one that talks to your parents, comes over for dinner, takes you to movies and to the New Ken community days. We played tennis, we played basketball, we hung out at the Kings Family Restaurant parking lot and we grew up always knowing what the other one was doing and whom the other one was dating.
Devin is older than me, so naturally he went off to college first. We tried to make it work. For graduation, I made sure to give him a framed photo of the two of us hoping he would put it out on his dorm room night stand to scare off the older college girls that I knew would feast their eyes on my green eyed cutie. But alas, it didn’t work. Within weeks, he was into a college girl and not into me. While he was in Ohio focusing on school, girls and beer pong, I focused on following my dreams by moving to New York (see “my story” for all the details). However, we always stayed in touch. We dated on and off as he went through college, and I went through 48 states on my first paying national tour gig… Somehow we always seemed to steel kisses over Christmas break, Easter break and of course, summer break, but neither of us ever seemed to be available to commit when the other wanted to make things more official! Finally, after years of the “Devin and Joy” run around, we both found ourselves in a serious committed adult relationship. Only, it was with other people from other states. Both of those relationships taught us so much about life and love and what we wanted from life and love.
Then came the grocery trip to Giant Eagle that changed everything. My sister was grocery shopping and ran in to Devin’s mom (“small town,” remember) who isn’t shy about her or her children’s latest developments. Within seconds of their conversation she explained, “Devin’s got one foot in the grave. He’s about to get engaged!” My sister couldn’t get out of Giant Eagle fast enough to call me and tell me the horrible news… It was at least 16 months since mine and Devin’s last correspondence, that was the longest we had gone without communicating or seeing each other… and now it all made sense… we were OUT of touch, because he was IN love.
I remember the phone conversation with my sister like it was yesterday… She delicately told me the news. I hung up the phone and went for a run along the West Side Highway to clear my mind and my heart. While running, I had a long conversation with God asking him for some guidance and clarity. Devin getting engaged meant the possibility of us ending up together was no longer a possibility. By my second mile I was at peace at that moment and sincerely happy that my first love had found true love. As the sun set over the Hudson River on Aug 27, 2006, so did my dream of marrying my first love.
I wanted him to know how happy I was for him. Therefore, when I returned from my run, I wrote him an email explaining that I had heard the good news and was so excited for him. I ended the email with the following sentance: “I often wonder what would have happened had we given it one more chance.”
That is how our story ended until… Dec. 23rd 2006.
I was now in my 3rd year at Julliard and home for Christmas break. I met my best friend Nikki for a traditional holiday meet up at Joe’s place (where everybody knows your name). Nikki and I hadn’t been there but fifteen minutes and had barely begun catching up on the latest small town gossip, when in walks Devin and his million-dollar smile. Eye contact was immediately made and to my surprise, he walked across the bar and directly to me. He then whispered in my ear, “I got your email on August 27 and have thought about it every day since.” When I finally caught my breath, he confessed his love for me and his desire to have a future together. The night ended with us in my mother’s car, talking, laughing and beginning our “one last chance.”
We got engaged on March 19, 2013, and 6 months later on September 15, I married my first and only true love, my best friend and my partner in crime… Devin Hanna from Valley High.