Back in kindergarten class 20 years ago, Haley Widdowson remembers clear as day how she had “a big crush” on one of her classmates, Evan Anderson.
Did Evan share the same feelings?
Not so much.
His worldview as a 5-year-old boy was that girls had cooties, and he wasn’t interested.
“So it was unrequited at that time,” Widdowson said with a laugh.
But times change, and so do feelings. The pair kept in touch through middle school, dated in high school and college, and now? They’re married. Their wedding was Saturday at The Boathouse at Sunday Park in Brandermill.
Cool story, right? Let‘s add one more element of coolness: Their kindergarten teacher, Kathy Streetman, officiated at the ceremony.
“I always thought it would be kind of neat to have Ms. Streetman do it,” said Widdowson, who had kept in touch with Streetman over the years. She wasn’t sure what Anderson might think, but when she suggested it, he was all in.
And what did Streetman think of her role?
“My heart just sings,” she said.
When Widdowson and Anderson approached Streetman to ask if she would do it, Streetman said tears welled instantly and she was left speechless, which is a state she rarely finds herself in.
“It took me a minute to recover,” said Streetman, who taught kindergarten for 30 years and is retired. “It took me awhile to do anything except give big hugs. I feel so honored to do this.”
She added with a laugh, “I’ve kept up with a lot of the kids I taught, but never to this extent.”
Widdowson and Anderson, now both 25, were in Streetman’s morning kindergarten class at Jackson Davis Elementary in Henrico County for the 1999-2000 school year.
“Haley wore pigtails every day [and] was full of vim and vigor,” Streetman recalled. “Evan was a serious kind of quiet kid. They were smart and well-behaved. They just enjoyed it all. They were just always smiling.”
Knowing them then and knowing them now, she said, “They haven’t changed that much.”
Of that year, Widdowson said it was when she started loving school. Streetman was “the best” and let the kids be themselves.
“I started to really meet friends and figure out school, and the coolest thing was we learned a new letter every week or two,” said Widdowson. She still has a book that each child in class helped illustrate.
One of Anderson’s favorite memories was the stuffed bunny that went home with each student for a few days at a time. Anderson’s turn came at Halloween, so he dressed up the bunny and took it trick-or-treating.
“One of my highlights,” he said.
Widdowson’s family moved to a new school district in second grade, so she and Anderson didn’t see each other again until a few years later, when they found themselves at the same community pool in the summers.
They never attended the same school again, but they went out a few times and officially began dating during their junior years in high school after Widdowson asked Anderson to her school prom (he accepted after making sure it didn’t conflict with his lacrosse tournament schedule). The morning after the dance, he asked if she would be his girlfriend.
They both graduated from the University of Virginia (Anderson spent his first year at Hampden-Sydney before transferring), and here we are. They live in Northern Virginia, where Widdowson is an information technology risk consultant for higher education institutions, and Anderson works as a defense contractor supporting the Defense Health Agency.
They actually met with a civil celebrant on May 15 — the eighth anniversary of when they started dating — and got their marriage license signed so that Streetman wouldn’t have to go through the legal process Virginia requires. Their dog, Cora, attended that ceremony. Cora, incidentally, was named for the acronym of their community pool where they would hang out as kids and rekindled their friendship: Chestnut Oaks Recreation Association.
But Saturday, Widdowson said, was “the big wedding” with family and friends.
It’s clear Streetman was made for teaching kindergarten. How else to explain she spent three decades doing it?
“I loved every minute of it — the kids and the tying the shoes and everything,” she said.
She doesn’t believe she would have lasted that long teaching upper grades, although she has learned while working as a substitute that teachers in those grades get to sit down once in a while during the day and they generally don’t have to tie anyone’s shoes. She retired in 2016 from River’s Edge Elementary in Henrico.
Streetman wrestled with what she would say during the ceremony; she’s calling her talk “My gift to the bride and groom.” She wanted it to be just right, but not having ever performed a wedding, she wasn’t sure how to make it so.
Then it came to her one night. “I was like, ‘Oh, man, this is perfect,’” she said.
And it is.
The basis for her talk? Robert Fulghum’s book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
Couldn’t get much more perfect than that.