Off and on all summer he tried:
“Hey Julie,” he yelled from his balcony as I was hopping onto my bike, “Would you like to go to the Monet exhibit at the art museum today? My friend has extra passes.”
“No thanks, I’m going to ride my bike today.” I was always riding my bike back then.
“My friend likes to ride bikes…” His voice trailed off as I rode away.
A week or so went by:
“Hey Julie,” he yelled, as my daughter and I walked out our front door, “Would you like to go to the final day of the U.S. Open? My friend has invited us to his corporation’s hospitality tent.”
Thanks, but I’m going to church tomorrow.
“My friend likes church,” he said as we smiled, waved and headed to the store.
On it went until one day I finally said, “Why don’t you invite him to something sometime.”
So he did. The something was a dessert auction and the sometime was November. My job involved planning an annual fundraiser. Every year my daughter would slip a flier for the event under our neighbor, Chris’s, door and every year he would attend. Alone. But that year he brought a friend. Four friends actually.
He called as I was putting the finishing touches on my presentation and asked if I wanted to join him and his friends for dinner before the event. “Can’t,” I said, “I have to get there early. I’m working.”
I met the hub through a serving window. He came to introduce himself and I reached across the counter to shake his hand. Me in the kitchen and him in the banquet hall. As I shook his hand everything in the banquet hall faded away and I saw only him, a solitary figure with a warm smile extending a friendly hand.
Because Chris brought FOUR friends, I wasn’t sure at first which one he wanted me to meet. But after the introduction and handshake through the window, I was pretty sure it was him. At the end of the evening I sat down at Chris’s table and chatted with all of them. Pre-hub shone forth. He told me about the time he road his bike down a mountain in Hawaii. Bike rider, huh? He must be the one.
In early December I invited Chris to a concert at my church. He brought his warm-smiling, friendly-handshaking, biking-riding friend. He asked me if I would like to meet them for breakfast beforehand. I did. We had breakfast together, went to church, then did a little Christmas shopping. No one wanted the day to end. I mentioned that I was about to paint my condo. Pre-hub said, “I’ll help you paint if you help me put up my Christmas tree.” Deal!
So hub and I became acquainted with our backs to one another – him painting one wall and me painting the opposite wall. As we chatted I realized that we had stuff in common. And he often would say exactly what I was thinking. I am sufficiently in love with myself to appreciate a man who thinks like me.
“I like to cook,” he said. “How about if you and your daughter help me put up my tree and then stay for dinner?” I LIKE TO COOK? That racked him up some serious points.
Then the day came when the painting was done. As he was putting on his boots to leave I thought, This is it. It’s now or never. Turned out to be now. As he was heading for the door he turned and asked me out on an official date. I told you about that date when I told you about the scarf from heaven.
We had been dating for about a month when he said, “I can’t believe no one has snatched you up.” “I didn’t want to be snatched up,” I replied. “Well,” he declared, “I am going to try.” I was surprised by the smile that spread across my heart. I didn’t think I would react that way. But who can resist a man with a plan?
I wanted to make sure he loved the real me and not the me of his imagination. So I asked him in an e-mail what he liked about me.
Here’s what he wrote:
When I look at you, I see:
the tender, unquestioning love of a mother;
God’s grace– a warm, compassionate, giving heart;
a heart in search of a true soul mate;
a gifted writer, speaker and leader;
someone who likes me for being me;
that little girl smile, the woman in your eyes that always gets to me;
someone I want to know all about.
Okay, so he liked more than my looks, even so, I had been a single mom for 9 years. My plan had been to delay dating and remarriage until my daughter went off to college. But God was changing my mind about that and here I was with an eleven year old, considering marriage to someone I had only known for four months. It was risky business.
So he quoted a Brooks & Dunn song:
“I know forever is a long, long time for a girl to put her heart on the line. Trust is a tightrope that we all have to walk; but don’t be afraid. I won’t let you fall. With a little faith, mountains move. I feel that you and me, we can’t lose.”
And then he laid it out for me:
The bottom line is….
1. Do you trust me to guard and protect our love and our relationship?
2. Do you trust me to guard and protect my family?
3. Do you think I will serve God with you? … fix my eyes on the Lord?
4. Do you think I will provide a safe, secure and responsible home and
finances for us?
5. Do you believe that I will remain devoted to you? to God?
6. Do you love me?
7. Do you believe that I love you?
# 7 was the tricky one – hadn’t had a whole lot of experience with that one.
Even so, he bought a shiny diamond, got on his knee and made a stellar proposal.
We were married in a tiny chapel on a Friday morning. April 6, 2001. There were 15 people in attendance – my daughter, two of my six sisters and a small assortment of co-workers and friends. My dad had a balcony seat – watching and smiling from heaven. My mom was on a cruise in the Seychelles. The hub’s parents had health problems that made it too difficult for them to make the drive. (On May 20 we had a “blessing ceremony” in his boyhood church so our entire families could celebrate with us.)
My daughter served as an official witness. Days before the wedding she said, “Mom, you have to realize that it is going to be hard for me to share you after having your undivided attention for so long.” I realized it. And it all worked out. We still had plenty of mom and daughter time, and all these years later we still have our annual mother/daughter road trip.
After the tiny chapel ceremony we had a luncheon at hub’s house/by then OUR house.
Me, the Hub, the Best Man/Best Neighbor Chris
Sneaking a little kiss when no one was looking. No one but the photographer, and now you.
The dress? My friend bought it at an estate sale for $5. She thought her daughter – who was my daughter’s age (11) – might be able to wear it some day. It fit well enough and I liked it so it was a done deal. Hub proposed at the end of March and we were married two weeks later – not a lot of time for dress shopping. Plus I loved the whole old, new borrowed vibe of it. AND I was way more interested in the marriage than I was in the wedding. The pearls were a wedding gift from the hub.
It has been 14 years and I am happy to report that the hub has done a really good job of numbers 1 through 5.
As for #7? We had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants the other night to celebrate. I told him about the file I found with all the lovey things he had written back then. He said, “It was all true then and it is all true now.”
And right then, with a delicious spoonful of chocolate pot de creme swirling in my mouth I realized that after 14 years of marriage I can finally answer #7 with a confident “YES!”
What has he gotten out of the deal? Well, in his words I am “a good little cook.” And when the nurse said he needed more fiber in his diet as he was coming out from under the colonoscopy anesthesia, I took it to heart and immediately planted two raspberry bushes. Because raspberries have a lot of fiber. I’m looking out for his colon and he appreciates it.
Plus, as he says, I “tickle” him (make him laugh for those who are unfamiliar with the expression). And I take really good care of our friends. All in all it’s been a pretty good deal for both of us. But I got the better deal.