Bastille Day Plus One

by Stacey Jaros

When Jeff & I were getting to know one another, many months before we started dating, we had a routine where after my shift at the restaurant where I worked, I would swing by Jeff's house a few blocks away and we would hang out.

We met through mutual friends. The first time Jeff invited me to his place was to watch old re-runs of the classic TV show, Match Game. He had cable, I did not. The show was re-run nightly on Game Show Network. We loved watching Match Game together and were always delighted when the frequently-run infomercial for a power ballad compilation appeared. Good times.

At the time Jeff was the proud owner of a snazzy laser disc player. It was a dual DVD/laser disc player. There were a few favorite laser discs he hadn't been able to obtain on a new medium. One of the things we enjoyed watching together were classic Looney Tunes cartoons. He really knew how to pitch some woo.

Another thing we enjoyed doing together was playing games on Jeff's desktop computer. In the early days we played mostly simple games. He had Monopoly and Yahtzee games which we sometimes enjoyed. The game we most loved to play together was You Don't Know Jack. YDKJ is essentially a trivia game. I'm a big fan of trivia games and spent many evenings in college at pub quizzes. The really fun hook about YDKJ is the snarky vibe of the game.

YDKJ is set up like a fake show. It opens as if you, the players, are present at the taping of a game show. You can hear stage directions being barked and people skittering in the background to be ready for show time. It sets a really fun mood right away. When it's Go Time there's theme music, applause, well ... you probably know how game shows work. It's like that. When the overly friendly host begins to speak he's snarky and immediately way too into your business, as game show hosts often are. The name of the host when we started playing was Cookie.

If you happen to be playing YDKJ on a Saturday night, as we often were, Cookie will chide you that you don't have anything better to do. YDKJ also makes note of calendar dates. I began visiting Jeff in late Spring. By mid-July we had been playing YDKJ, and just spending lots of time together, pretty regularly. On July 14th, 1999, after my shift waiting tables, I dropped by Jeff's house for some sweet trivia.

When the game began there were sound effects and cheering. I can't remember specifically but I recall the energy was really amped up. Cookie wished us a happy Bastille Day. We were both incredibly tickled. We're American. Neither of us has French heritage. Neither of us speaks French. It seemed so random for the game to include marking what seems to be a minor holiday (insofar as we're not IN France). It just struck us both as very funny.

Not long after that, we started dating. Our time spent together increased but we continued to enjoy doing the things we'd done in our pre-courtship days. We played a lot of YDKJ. Every new version, and I think we had them all, was a new adventure we could enjoy together. We played it on several holidays, which were all mentioned by the game. Eventually July 2000 rolled around. We wondered if the newer version of YDKJ would mention the holiday. We made a date to play and were delighted to discover the game mentioned it again. It amused us so much it became something we looked forward to every year.

With upgrades in new hardware the old games become unplayable. Jeff kept a laptop around with no necessary function other than it could run YDKJ. Over time we cultivated other interests together so we played less but we would get a game in when we could.

Eventually we began marking Bastille Day as an anniversary of sorts. Whether or not we played YDKJ we would always make note of how special that day, and the game, were to us. In 2006 we marked the day by playing the game once again. I was a little sleepy so I ended up falling asleep on the couch.

The next day we enjoyed a sensational Lord of the Rings concert at the San Francisco Symphony. It was an early show and when we exited it was still daylight. It was a spectacularly sunny day. We couldn't have had more fun together. After a full day of sunshine, wine, and beautiful music, we were unwinding at home.

After a few minutes of chatting together, our cat, Marina, hopped on my lap. At that moment Jeff began to ask me to share my life with him and be his wife. (I said Yes.)

Later Jeff let me know he had intended to propose on Bastille Day. He wanted to do it in our home with our cat there. Unfortunately I dozed off before he had his chance. Technically the anniversary of our engagement is the day after Bastille Day.

We don't really celebrate anniversaries other than our wedding anniversary. I don't remember the date of our first date, or when we first kissed. I suspect the reason we remember our engagement is because of our Bastille Day connection. I love that we have a day that makes it easy for us reflect on our early days of getting to know one another.

These days we keep a couple episodes of Match Game on the DVR. Now if you'll excuse me, I going to spend some time with Gene, Brett, Charles, and Richard, with Jeff and Marina by my side.