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TMCNet:  The News-Times, Danbury, Conn., How They Met column: How they met: Reconnected via Facebook, former junior high sweethearts plan to marry Christmas Eve

[December 18, 2009]

The News-Times, Danbury, Conn., How They Met column: How they met: Reconnected via Facebook, former junior high sweethearts plan to marry Christmas Eve

Dec 18, 2009 (The News-Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Here's a timely "How They Met" story. It starts 30 years ago, when Cindy Strickland, 15, met David Cabanas, 14, at Middleton Junior High School in Tampa, Fla.

"We were in the bleachers at a football game," Cindy Strickland-Pedalino explained. "He was sitting behind me. I knew of him, because he was pretty popular. He tells me now he just had to talk to me. We just started talking." They ended up being each other's first kiss. David was Cindy's first boyfriend, and Cindy was David's first girlfriend. The observant reader will have noticed that Cindy ended up married to someone else at some point, but that comes later.

In school Cindy was a cheerleader, and David was a basketball and baseball player. Of course, she made up a David Cabanas cheer, which still gets called out once in a while when they reminisce about those days.

Of their junior high dating, Cindy recalls she and David spent a lot of time walking around the neighborhood holding hands. When they passed her house, David tells Cindy, he always noticed her dad standing at the door, watching them.

If they were inside Cindy's house, her mother would clear her throat loudly when Cindy's dad was about to enter the room Cindy and David were in. The couple may have shared their first kiss with each other, but they were well supervised while they were dating.

The memories of those days and her dad's watching out for her are dear to Cindy now. Her father passed away when she was 18, but she still feels connected to him. In fact, she credits him with bringing David back into her life.

Since Cindy is a year older than David, she went off to high school before he did. So, David broke up with her, figuring she needed to be free to date high school guys with Trans-Ams -- hey, they were one of the hot cars 30 years ago.

Cindy recalls being devastated after the break-up. She said one of David's two brothers "tried to explain to me that David was thinking, 'If you love something, set (her) free ...' " It's not that they didn't see each other during high school. They were always together, but they didn't officially date. And eventually life took them in different directions.

"He says he let me spread my wings, but I just kept going," Cindy said.

And go she did, marrying someone else, having three children and moving to Connecticut, where she manages the Bethel and Newtown offices of William Pitt Sotheby's.

A few years ago, Cindy's marriage ended in divorce. At that point, she decided she wasn't going to jump into the dating scene. As she told a coworker, "I had my shot at real love, and that was David Cabanas." One day as she was driving to work, Cindy was thinking of her father. She had a conversation with him, as she sometimes does, and told him she figured he had a plan for her, so she was leaving it up to him whether or not she should date again.

In a case of eerie timing, her PDA beeped. Glancing at it, she saw she had a Facebook friend request from David Cabanas. It had been almost 20 years since Cindy had last spoken to him.

"It's a good example of why you shouldn't text while driving, because I almost drove off the road when I saw his name," Cindy said.

In a few moments, she was on the phone with her mother, who had always liked David and understood the excitement Cindy felt about hearing from him all these years later.

"Send him my love" was Cindy's mom's first reaction.

Soon after Cindy and David reconnected on Facebook, Cindy visited David in Raleigh, N.C. She learned that, although he had children, he had never married, and the connection she and David felt years ago was still there.

"As soon as I left, I cried for four hours," Cindy said. "One month later he moved here for me. He said, 'She's the first girl I kissed and she's going to be my last. She's my one true love.' "Things haven't changed. We used to talk all night back then, and we talk all night now. We never run out of things to say." As a contractor, David had the mobility to move to Connecticut. But he's finding the weather here to be colder than Raleigh's. Nevertheless, the two plan to live in Connecticut as they start their married life together. They plan to marry on Christmas Eve.

Cindy has a son, Toney, who is 26, but her younger children, 15-year-old Nick and 14-year-old Nina, are still in high school. David's two daughters -- Vanessa, 5, and Alyssa, 8 -- may be able to join them in the new year.

David and Cindy have waited a long time to be together. Cindy's advice for others is: "Don't settle. Wait for it, don't force it. Things just happen." If you'd like to be featured in "How They Met," send an e-mail to with a brief outline of how you met and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.

To see more of the News-Times or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2009, The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.

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