Monday, August 25, 2014

Our Love Story: Part 4

Our Love Story is a series chronicling how my husband and I met, fell in love, and married. I've written this for our children so that they can know the love that created them. See part one here, part two here, and part three here.

"I don't know, it just won't start." he said in a text message. Ryan was still in Texas visiting his best friend from high school and somehow, his truck had seemingly taken a last sigh and left this earth. He couldn't get the thing to start! The plan was to take it to a nearby mechanic and pray that it wouldn't cost too much to fix. A large bill would mean he couldn't afford to stay at the hotel in town again on his way back to New York. I tried not to make it about me, but I really REALLY wanted to see him again. So I waited... for what seemed like days, but was actually a few hours.

And of course in those few hours, the best and most annoyingly feminine parts of me did that thing that we girls always do where we start to doubt. I mean, maybe he just didn't really want to come back through Oklahoma City. Maybe he wasn't as into me as I was into him. I knew I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up. I knew I shouldn't have gotten my heart involved. He probably thinks I'm totally insane and doesn't ever want to see me again and this whole truck fiasco is a ploy to get out of having to tell me in person. TYPICAL MEN.

And then word came via a phone call from that sweet voice,

"It was some stupid switch that Nic kicked or something." a ridiculously easy fix!
"I KNEW it would be something easy!" I said...

He would be on his way back to me soon!

He made the three hour drive the next day and we spent the next two days running around town, taking more magical naps (you see, kids, sleep is a good thing), and just generally shutting out the world to see only each other's faces.

Then one morning at the local IHOP- because we were truly fancy people, obviously- he said to me, "I want to buy you a ring."

My eyes widened. A ring? I mean... so soon? My shock must have been evident, because he quickly back-tracked and said, "I mean, a ring or something to remember me by... not like... a RING-ring. Not that I don't- well- just... something that you can wear and think of me when you see it."

I gladly accepted this offer, and we set off to find the perfect memento of our time together over the past week. We walked into a small Christian book store in the mall and slowly turned the jewelry stand. My eyes passed over necklaces with crosses and rings with fish on them until finally coming to rest on a beautiful sterling silver ring with a tiny leaf. "Perfect," I thought. A single small leaf to represent our budding relationship.

We purchased the ring, which was three sizes too big, and then took it to have it sized. An hour later, it was finally resting snugly on my hand. My right hand... I didn't say anything about it, and although I'm sure he noticed which hand I had chosen, neither did he.

When he left the next morning, I cried. Again. And touched the ring softly, feeling comforted. When would I see him again? I wondered if things would change once he returned to base and had time to think about our time together. Maybe he'd realize that things were moving a bit too fast, or that I was too forward or clingy or maybe he just didn't want to be with me.

But as my days went on without him, we didn't miss a beat. We spoke on the phone and online via instant messenger every single day, several times a day. I tried not to be too distracted from my classes and rehearsals for the musical in which I was recently cast as the lead, and he tried to focus on work, and although I think we both knew what was happening, neither of us said it...

Until one evening during a phone call when the subject of that four-letter word finally came up.
"Have you ever told anyone you loved them?" He asked.
I stopped, and sighed.
"Yeah," I responded quietly. He knew of my previous relationship with the young man with whom I had discussed marriage. He also knew that the same young man had in fact told me twice that he didn't think I was "the one." It made it that much more embarrassing and regretful that I would have ever told that person that I loved him.
"and I guess I really thought I did..." I continued.
"I don't think I'll ever say it until I'm sure it's the person I'm going to marry," he said.

This one phrase would haunt me. He hadn't told me that he loved me. Did that mean I wasn't "the one" for him either? We had only officially been a couple for about a month, but surely by now he would have made that decision, right? But I hadn't said it to him either. Did I love him? In my heart, I knew the answer was yes. Without a doubt. No question about it. But he must not feel the same way or he would have said so, and I certainly wasn't going to be the one to make the first move and risk getting my heart broken again. No sir, he would just have to make a decision.

"Well, speaking of marriage..." I started (as a word of caution, I do NOT recommend starting any conversation with your boyfriend of a month this way, kids. Believe me when I say, I was not in my right mind. I was completely out of my mind in love with this person that I barely knew and obviously wasn't thinking too clearly, but...)
He laughed. Laughed? Laughed at me? Laughed nervously? Laughed happily?

"What?" I said.
"Nothing. Go ahead. What were you going to say?" he responded.
I began again, more cautiously this time, "Well, I just know that I don't want to waste my time on anything here. And I'm wondering what direction we're heading, you know?"
"Uh well..." he started, "I... certainly don't waste my time on things this important. So... I guess that means we're headed in the same direction."

BINGO. I saw stars. Fireworks. Rainbows! He liked me- no, he LOVED me! He was probably out of his mind crazy in love with me too! But he wasn't saying it... why? WHY? Why couldn't he just say it??

My thoughts were interrupted by a question:
"And actually I've been meaning to tell you something," he said.
"I'm driving to Indiana for my sister's wedding in a couple of weeks and I was thinking you could fly out there and go with me."
I was ecstatic! Of course I wanted to go and meet his family! But wait, I had rehearsals from now until my head exploded. How was I supposed to get out of that one? My director had a reputation for being blunt and a bit tough, and to be honest, I was a bit scared of her. How would I convince her that it was absolutely necessary for me to go?

I had an idea, but it would require a bit of truth-stretching... and I'd have to recruit my roommates to corroborate my story, which meant I would have to tell them of Ryan's and my conversation that evening... which means I was going to have to explain why I was completely insane and talking about marriage with a guy I had only been with for a month... Would it work? I was insane enough to give it a shot...

To be continued..

Our Love Story: Part 3

Our Love Story is a series chronicling how my husband and I met, fell in love, and married. I've written this for our children so that they can know the love that created them. See part one here, and part two here.

My summer performance job finally came to a close and I packed up my belongings into my '92 Toyota Camry- affectionately dubbed "The Stingray"- and made the two hour drive back to my university.

This, my children, is an actual photo of what is known as the "duck face." It is also an actual photo of my drive back to the University of Central Oklahoma for the Fall semester of 2006.

It was my junior year and I probably should have been reviewing my course schedule and prepping audition pieces for the upcoming musical season, but instead, I was dreaming. I was writing in my journal about my hopes and fears for this new relationship. I just couldn't help but let my heart get involved... and when I say "get involved" what I really mean is that I was already picturing what our wedding would look and whom our children would favor (I hoped they would have his eyes)- a dangerous concept in my mind as I had never even wanted children before.

In keeping with my "not-getting-my-heart-involved-theme," on August 16th, 2006, I wrote in my journal, "He's the one, isn't he?"

I kept myself busy attending the year opening activities on campus with my friends, and tried to distract myself from my thoughts.

I watched several photos appear online as he made it home to New York, then made his way to Indiana to surprise his mom and dad. It was so awesome.

He spent some quality time with his family before setting out on the road from Indiana to Oklahoma.


The anticipation grew until I thought I might explode. Finally, on August 22nd, he was set to arrive. We had been texting back and forth so I knew he was close. He even texted me as he parked his car and walked toward my campus apartment. I began to panic. What would he think of me? Would he look like his pictures? Am I supposed to hug him? Shake his hand? Was my tank top inappropriate? Did I brush  my teeth this morning? Should I sit while I wait? Stand? Bake cookies?!

There was a knock at the door. I was sure that my heart had completely stopped. My roommates tried to look natural. I took a deep breath and opened the door. 

"Hi." he said.

'Hi.' That was it. Bang. I was smitten. Standing before me was the most handsome man I had ever laid eyes on. And his eyes! Did I mention his eyes?

Involuntarily, I went in for a hug. Luckily, he reciprocated and I will never forget that hug. It felt like I was supposed to have been in his arms all along. Like somehow we had been made for each other and had just been missing the other piece for our entire lives. And I just... stayed there... because that's where my heart knew it belonged...

After what felt like an eternity, I reluctantly let him go. I reminded myself that he was still a stranger and maybe I shouldn't appear so desperate. I've never been good at hiding my feelings. I invited him into the apartment.

Nervously, we made small talk about his trip and the parking at the university. He quickly met my roommates (whom I'm sure were a bit nervous that I was bringing a stranger I met online into our apartment) before we dashed out for a bit of brunch. We went downtown and walked to The Corner CafĂ©. It was warm and sunny. As we crossed the street to the cafe, he grabbed my hand. There it was again. My heart beating out of my chest.

We had waffles and snuck giggly glances at each other from behind our laminated menus. Then we browsed through the local antique shops (one of the few times I'm sure I will ever convince him to go antiquing with me!) and I convinced him that we had time to meet my best friend. Why not ambush him with all the craziness on his first day, right?

When Jill came over, there was more polite small talk and laughter and friendliness. But when Ryan left the room for a moment, Jill blurted out, "Chelsea! He is a stone cold FOX!" I had to agree.

After she left, as I showed him my room and we stood nervously across the room from each other in awkward silence- I on my bed, and he at my desk. My eyes darted around the room, but his stayed right on me. They bored right through me and took my breath away. I reminded myself to speak instead of just sitting there like an idiot but, as I began to say something completely mindless, he said, "Can I kiss you?"

Oh no. I mean, YES, but oh no. I was pretty sure I was going to pass out. Instead I nodded sheepishly.

Then there was a kiss. The kind of kiss you only read about in books. The kind with fireworks and birds flying around and angel choirs singing and unicorns riding out of rainbows. It happened just like that. Exactly like that, kids. (are you gagging? We love each other, okay?)

And then we took that nap. A completely innocent nap, children, don't misunderstand me. But the best kind, where your body feels completely at rest.

And just like *that*, a one-day trip turned into three days. There were roses, and movies, and chocolate-covered strawberries, and a trip to the zoo and the Memorial in downtown OKC. There was so much going on that I was desperate to hold onto because there just wasn't enough time.



I felt ridiculous for crying when he left to finish his trip down to Texas. Especially because he planned to come back through and stay another night or two in town on his way back to New York.

Unfortunately, his return to Oklahoma might have to wait. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball...

To be continued...