Lisa Lovaasen was a fourth-grader in Perham, Minn., when she sent classmate and first crush Cass Licence a note reading: "Will you sit with me on the field-trip bus? Check yes or no." Twenty-five years later, he recycled the note he'd kept all that time and gave it back to her. This time, the other side read, "Will you spend the rest of your life with me? Check yes or no."
He broke his engagement, she got divorced, and Lovaasen and Licence, 36, were married last September. They're just one example of rekindled romance -- couples who were smitten when young, went their separate ways, then fell in love all over again later in life.
The Internet and social media have made reuniting with an old flame much easier and thus more common, said Nancy Kalish, a relationship expert for Psychology Today and blogger. Kalish is particularly well versed on the subject. Since 1993, the California-based psychologist has been running "The Lost Love Project," and has surveyed more than 3,000 couples in 42 countries (wwww.lostlovers.com).
"People are most likely to reunite with their first loves," Kalish said. "Researchers are discovering that the memories of early love are stored as biochemical emotions in the brain. That makes the memories very visceral when they surface. This is not about sex, but about past shared history."
Licence found Lovaasen the old-fashioned way. He tried a "find your classmates" website, then wound up just calling her grandmother for her phone number. But other Minnesota couples have begun their reunions in front of computer screens.
First comes de-friending, then comes marriage
Samantha Scheuer of Andover recalls the flirtatious tension between herself and Blaine High School classmate David Gunderson in the late 1990s.
"We only officially dated for about 48 hours senior year," she said. "I would decide I liked him when he was with another girl and he only liked me when I was with another guy."
After high school, when she asked him to choose between her and another girl he was seeing, he stayed with the other one. Scheuer got married and had two kids, but was divorced two years ago. Then she found Gunderson, who had never married, through Facebook.
"All my feelings came back right away and at first I de-friended him because I was so freaked out," she said. "But one night we got sushi and saw a movie, and we've been together ever since."
Gunderson had always hung onto a high school photo of the two of them, taken at the Mermaid Event Center in Mounds View. They're getting married in that same room in September.
Dan and Nancy Comstock of Burnsville were sweethearts at North High School in Minneapolis in the early 1970s. They broke up, got back together a year later, then broke up again. Both married others and had children, losing track of each other over the years. Dan divorced and gradually became resigned to living alone the rest of his life. After getting a computer in 1997, he'd try to search for Nancy now and then, but didn't know her married name. One day in 2010, he was startled to find an e-mail from her.
"I didn't know that when you search for a classmate, they send that person the name of who's searching for them," he said. They e-mailed back and forth for two weeks before he suggested they talk on the phone.
"She said, 'Whoa -- not so fast.' I thought, it's been 35 years, but OK," Dan Comstock said.
For Nancy, who had been divorced more recently than Dan and says she had "some serious trust issues," the e-mail process provided an emotional safety net until she was ready for face-to-face contact. When they finally met at a Bloomington McDonald's, at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, he was waiting in a booth with flowers and a teddy bear.
"He said, 'There's my girl,'" Nancy said. "And my heart just started pounding." They stayed there, talking and hugging, for more than four hours. Their second date, the next day, was the movie "Letters to Juliet," a story of lost love found.
Being familiar strangers
Diane Waller and Randy Kjarland of Austin, Minn., were inseparable as teenagers, then led separate lives with different partners. More than 30 years since they first fell for each other, they were married on May 19 -- in a cemetery.
They're not "Dark Shadows" fans. They're simply honoring the late parents who they wish could have been there, and would have been, if they'd stayed together the first time. Waller thinks that many reunited lovers share common feelings.
"The familiarity makes it a really easy relationship to jump into, but on the other hand, after so many years, it's like being strangers, too," she said. "Some people say they don't want to know anything about the other's past, because it hurts too much. But we wanted to know everything about each other. I think we're trying to make up for the lost years by trying to become part of each other's experiences by hearing about them. For us, it helps."
For those who got a second chance with the one who got away, without causing anyone else heartache, it doesn't get any better.
"I never believed in happily ever after, or that it was really possible to find true love, but what's happened to us has made me a believer," Dan Comstock said.
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046