Picture this – it’s July of 1998 (yes, really) and I’m being dragged along with my friends on a youth group trip to an amusement park in Ohio. Awkward 12-year-old me is wearing a t-shirt with a scan of the Titanic VHS cover that I ironed on myself and a red bandana to hold back my greasy hair. SO CUTE right? So I’m half awake because we had had a sleepover the night before and I shuffle over to the parking lot to join the prayer circle before we’re all given our assigned vans for the three hour trip to Cedar Point.I remember the moment I looked up and saw him as clear as if it happened yesterday. I immediately blushed like a tomato and frantically began asking anyone near me who he was and who he came with. No one knew, but I saw him talking to my friend Josh which was great because that meant I might have a reason to talk to him later! I kept stealing glances at him while we were all in the parking lot which I’m sure I thought was very subtle, but very likely not. It was a big group, probably around 40-50 kids so the odds of us getting to talk to each other were looking slim. But lo and behold, when they called out car assignments, guess who I was riding with? Him. I could barely contain the butterflies, I felt like I couldn’t breathe or talk.
The three hours in the van were the most exciting and agonizing of my young life. I kept giggling and whispering with my friends and making it VERY obvious to everyone in the car that I was crushing HARD. I finally gathered the courage to ask him what his name was and when he answered “Mike”, I thought I would die because his just-past-puberty deep voice sounded SO mature to me. And up close I could see that his eyes were an insane shade of blue. He was a much older man at almost 14, ya’ll. Thinking of how young we were now is borderline insane, but these moments are still so crystal clear in my mind.
Despite my terrible fashion choices and awkward preteen giggling, he seemed to like me too and we ended up riding all of the rides together that day. I never stopped feeling like I was in a dream, albeit one that I couldn’t breathe, speak properly, or stop blushing. When the van pulled into the parking lot at the end of the night to drop us off, I felt my heart breaking. He didn’t go to the same school or live in the same town so the odds of us running into each other were slim. We said goodbye and I spent the rest of the night boring my poor friends with every detail of our epically romantic day at the park.
My fears ended up being true about not seeing each other. I started seventh grade that year and months went by without a word or appearance from Mike. I never forgot about him and would drag my mother to the mall near where he lived to see if I could accidentally-on-purpose bump into him. I told myself to move on and even started “dating” a few boys I was friends with that year. Which of course consisted of passing notes between classes and maybe going to the movies if you were lucky.
And then one day he suddenly appeared at church with Josh and I thought I would have an actual heart attack. Turns out, he couldn’t get me off his mind either and was going to jump through hoops to make sure we would see each other again. If we were smart, we would’ve told each other how we felt right away, but that’s not how 13/14-year-olds work. We danced around each other at various church events for the next few months and it was the sweetest kind of angst and agony. And then one day I couldn’t take it anymore. It was Easter Sunday, so I wrote “Will you go out with me?” on a piece of church scrap paper, tucked it into a plastic Easter egg, and promptly lost all courage and hid in the bathroom. One of my friends finally got sick of me and delivered the egg to him so I would shut up about it. And did I wait for his answer? Of course not, I ran out of the church and made my mother leave immediately so I didn’t die of embarrassment.
Later that night he called my house and when I answered, he said, “Of course I’ll go out with you, what did you think I’d say?” It was one of the happiest moments of my life, even now. We dated all throughout junior high, high school and college and have never broken up. It’s really weird to meet your person at such a young age, but the old adage really holds true – when you know, you know. Today, April 11, is our 19th dating anniversary and 9th wedding anniversary. The date became so special to us that we wanted to have it as our wedding day as well. And it just so happened to land on a Saturday 10 years to the day from the day we began dating. Perfect kismet or what?
I hope you all enjoyed a glimpse of our awkwardly sweet beginning! And now I must be going to get dolled up for our anniversary dinner. Thank God our fashion and style has improved since the ‘90s.