Butterflies at the Swimmin’ Hole

I know the exact date for this one. It was June 16, 1989.

Steve and I had known each other since March 6th and were a couple since May 27. We were both back at our parent’s homes; me in Hilmar, him in Turlock. We had spent every day from May 27 until June 16 together. We were falling hard.

My parents were on their annual camping trip to Fresno Dome, and Steve and I went up for the day. He was getting ready to leave on the 17th for Mammoth. He had landed a volunteer interpreter job with the Forest Service that started on June 19, and he wanted to be there a couple of days early to get settled. The 16th was our last full-day together before our summer of trying at a long-distance relationship.

Now, in order to truly understand what we were about to get into, you have to remember (or know) a few things about long-distance relationships in 1989. Totally different than what they would be today. No one carried a cell phone; they were too heavy and too expensive. We had to rely on home phones and pay phones. So no instantly talking to your loved ones or texting several times a day. No one had email; as the internet didn’t exist yet. We had to rely on snail mail through the postal service. It usually took 2 – 3 days for letters to arrive. Long-distance relationships were much harder back then, although I know a few people who managed to make it work (us for one, and Steve’s parents for another).

Up to the mountains we went to spend the day at Fresno Dome. We wanted to hike the dome, go to the swimming hole, and sit in the meadow. All great things to do. But they meant so much more because this was the last we would see each other until July 12—his first 3-day weekend off—when he planned to come back to Turlock to see me.

We started with a hike up the dome. Now I had been hiking the dome since I was about 4- or 5-years-old. But Steve had never been. He of course saw the dome from afar. In fact, there is a great view of it from the lake at Calvin Crest. But being a professional hiker, he was intrigued by the challenge of conquering a new mountain. For those that don’t already know, Steve hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Our hike was nice. The sun was shining. The trail was dry. There were not too many other people up there that day. He, also being a photographer, had control over the camera and was taking lots of photo of me—for his own personal use as wall decorations later in his dorm-like accommodations. It was nice.

Nancy Dome

On our way back to the campground, we stopped on the logging road and took the hike down to the swimming hole. I don’t know if this swimming hole has an actual name. We always hiked up to it through the creek that runs through the Fresno Dome Campground, and we always called it The Swimming Hole. I really wanted Steve to see it. I’ve always loved the area up there. How could you not? I wanted to share it with him because of his love of nature and my love of him.

When we got there, everything was perfect. No one else was around and the water was crystal clear. Being the fish I am, I stripped down to my suit and jumped right in. When I came up for air, he smiled at me and mumbled, “We looked at the swim and jumped right in, not to mention fishing poles.” Yes, that was my first introduction to Van Morrison! Now you know why Van is my man.

Nafm swimming hole 2
Trying to get him into the water.

I tried to lure Steve in, but he only managed up to his knees. It takes a crazy person to just jump into that snow runoff. And…well…Steve isn’t a fish like me. Someday I’ll tell you of the swimming race we had when he swam full force into the side of the pool and knocked himself out!

I swam around the cave and waterfalls a bit, then I scrambled out and laid on the rock to warm myself. Steve came over and lay next to me. We talked of how the past three weeks had been wonderful and how hard it was going to be over the summer, being apart.

Then out of the blue, he props himself up on one elbow and says, “I have to tell you something really important.” “Okay,” I replied. He went on, “This is really hard for me to say. I’ve never said it to anyone before, not even my parents.” I looked over at him, right in the eyes. He took a deep breath and said, “I love you Nancy Firestine. I’ve never felt this way about anyone and I need you to know before I leave.”

At that exact moment, two yellow butterflies came fluttering up and floated around his head. They were flying little circles around each other and they stayed between and around us for a good two minutes, with us giggling, before they fluttered off. I looked deep into his eyes and said, “I love you, too.”

We hugged and kissed, and he said it a few more times. I said something like, “Are you trying to get used to saying it?” He replied, “No. I just want you to know it. To know it’s real. I know its right and true because nature agrees with it.”

Those butterflies were all he needed to confirm he had done the right thing in telling me. I took it as a sign from above too. I’ve rarely shared that story, even though it is beautiful and perfect. I hope you think it’s beautiful and perfect, too.

Here is a poem Steve wrote to me. He never showed it to me. I found it in that 29-year-old box of secrets. It was written with lots of sections crossed out, arrows pointing here and there, and with the word “Amateurish” written on one side. I guess that’s why I never saw it; he didn’t think it was good. I have to tell you, it means much more to me now. I don’t know when it was written, but I think it was over that first summer together. I think this because all my letters to him were written on yellow paper and it refers to lots of things from that summer (Sunflowers, my yellow dress, pink panties—I put into that care package to tease him, the blue squirt gun, my ugly green pants, my cute pink boxer shorts, the cats watching us kiss in the car, etc.) I hope you like it.

The Color of Our Love by Steve Marsh

  • The color of my love for her is yellow
  • Yellow as wings of a butterfly
  • The color of her letters on yellow paper
  • The color of the sun up in the sky
  • When it shines brightly down on us
  • Pledging love at the swimmin hole
  • Sunflowers on the street/Her pretty, yellow dress
  • Yellow is her love that makes me whole
  • I also see in her the red of roses
  • Her blush as I tell her secret things
  • The soft pink of her secret panties
  • Hot red fire for her my heart sings
  • When she puts her hand in mine
  • As we walk in the dark of night
  • Boxer shorts bright pink/red-eyed up too late
  • Red is her love that makes things right
  • Blue is not the color of any sadness
  • It’s a color I feel most happy in
  • Then she tells me that she finds me sexy
  • My blue eyes sparkle as I grin
  • When she looks at me that way
  • As we hold each other close
  • Squirt gun plastic blue/The feeling when she’s gone
  • Blue is her love I need the most
  • The greenness is of spring in which I met her
  • Green is in what she looks great
  • The color of the grass we used to lie in
  • Watching for the stars staying up real late
  • When we were learning of each other
  • As I come to love her so
  • Pants of curtain green/green eyed cats look in
  • Green is her love that I know
  • Nancy, I love you like a rainbow
  • All thoughts, all hopes, all feel bright and clear
  • And at the end we’ll find our pot of gold
  • I love you so much, so hard, so dear
  • Nancy, I love you like a rainbow
  • You color my world in every way



Stosh and nancy 1989
I don’t know when this was taken. But don’t we look cute?

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