(Illustration by Maria Carluccio)

Abby Kolber Ross

The Three R's: Remembering, Running and the Rock
Alumna views beloved landmark as a wonderful touchstone for her marriage.

by Abby Kolber Ross

It was my first day at Northwestern. I knew no one. I went to a party at the Hillel House and within five minutes, my eyes met David's eyes. He was a junior who had come to check out the freshman girls. I know it's a cliché, but he was tall, dark and handsome. The immediate electricity between us sparked a romance that has grown and grown for 32 years. But that is not the whole story.

Three weeks later we were lavaliered. Such a funny term, lavaliered. Even the spell check on my computer doesn't know what to do with it. It was at the famous Northwestern Rock that David (WCAS70) and I became engaged to be engaged. I can count on one hand my favorite days. The titles are simple, and they all start with "The": The wedding. The births. The new house. This was "The Rock."

Two months later David came home with me to Miami for winter break. Only once did I wonder if winter in Florida was part of the attraction. My family loved him. If they were surprised that I had fallen in love so quickly, no one mentioned it. We made wedding plans. But that is not the whole story either.

Three amazing children as different from each other as children can be were born. Advanced degrees leading to two fast-paced and successful careers came our way naturally. David excelled as a trial attorney, and I became a psychologist and professional motivational speaker. We survived the crying baby stages and birthday party messes. Emergency room visits didn't faze us, and we juggled babysitters, homework and business trips. We cried together through funerals and whited out names in our Rolodexes as friends around us split up and, yes, even died.

I started running. David did not. Our bed was half empty each morning as I went out for my morning jog. David accepted my running addiction without complaint. He instinctively knew running helped me to keep my weight in check, my temper tempered and my self-esteem soaring. He waited (patiently) for me at 37 marathon finish lines. He was proud. Oh, he was so proud. That is part of the story.

One morning David decided to go for a run. Before this turning point, the most he had ever run at one time was four miles. By osmosis, he knew what he needed to do. For 25 years, he had seen how one stretches a proper stretch, gently pops a bloodless blister and energetically fuels a body. With little ado, he trained for a marathon of his own.

One December day on his birthday, we crossed the Kiawah Island Marathon finish line together.

Crossing that line was a "Rock" kind of moment. David, valedictorian of Northwestern and, well, yes, the University of Chicago Law School too was used to cerebral success. Now he saw himself as an athlete. His life changed. His energy level increased. His body became chiseled, and people around town began asking him which marathon he planned to run in next and not about his trial work or what he thought of the jury. David, my lavaliered David, ran 17 marathons in 17 months.

Together we crossed the granddaddy of all finish lines, the one for the Boston Marathon. But my back became injured, and enough was enough. Now the marriage bed is half empty again as David runs each morning, and I feel what he felt for years upon years. Such is marriage. But that's still not the whole story.

Family and business trips ensure that we return to Evanston, and we always somehow wind up at our Rock. He sees a 17-year-old girl who is freezing cold — not having hot flashes — and I see the boy who offered me a corned beef sandwich at the Hillel House. We can't remember what we had for breakfast, but we do remember who we were.

I use the Rock, that place of memories, to honor and remind us. Maybe for a future important birthday or just to celebrate "us," we will hop a plane and make a frivolous trip to Northwestern just to sit at our Rock. And that is the whole story.

Abby Kolber Ross (S71), a clinical psychologist, is a lecturer in public speaking at the University of Miami and Florida International University. As a National Speakers Association member, she speaks on helping people reach their goals.