Two weeks after high school graduation, my friend Robby and I were leaving the county fair when he asked if he could stop by his friend Brett’s house to return a video game.
“Brett….Gadd?” I asked nonchalantly.
“Yeah, it will just take a second.”
I hid a smile and not-so-slyly reapplied a coat of lip gloss. I didn’t know Brett personally, I only knew of him. We had attended the same high school, but not at the same time. He, five years my senior, had graduated before I started as a freshmen, yet his reputation preceded him. Brett was somewhat of a basketball legend at our small high school, with plenty of trophies and MVP awards to show for it.
Needless to say, I was slightly giddy on the car ride to his house. We arrived around 9:00pm, and Robby reassured me again that we wouldn’t be there long. I tousled my hair and told him I wasn’t in a hurry.
Brett opened the front door wearing blue basketball shorts and a white t-shirt. His hair was a total mess. He wasn’t expecting us, and immediately began apologizing for his unkempt appearance.
“Sorry, I’ve been really sick. I just got over strep throat,” he smiled at me.
I was totally smitten.
The three of us retreated to Brett’s room for a few more minutes of small talk. Him and I exchanged a couple words, although I mostly listened to him and Robby chat. At one point he turned on his computer and logged onto AIM (if you don’t know what AIM is, you might be too young to be reading this). I made a mental note of his screen name and privately congratulated myself on my romantic stealthiness. The minute I got home that night, I crawled into bed with my laptop and immediately logged into AIM, adding Brett as a buddy.
To this day Brett and I still argue over who made the first move. Brett will tell you that he signed onto AIM on purpose, so that I would subtly see his screen name and initiate an online conversation later, which is exactly what happened. I will tell you that whoever actually initiated the first conversation (me!) gets the credit for making the first move. I can’t remember what I said in that first AIM chat but I’m sure it was equal parts dorky and clever.
We talked on AIM for an hour that night, and an hour the next night, and the night after. Pretty soon I was rushing home after my glamorous waitressing shifts at Chilis to get on my computer. Online chats turned into text messages and phone calls, and finally, a few in-real-life dates. Four weeks later, on July 9th, we held hands and kissed for the first time in the middle of the street next to my car. It was 80 degrees outside and his knees were shaking. He said he was cold, but we both knew he was just nervous. On July 16th we went to a baseball game and he asked me to be his girlfriend under the fireworks.
He came to Chilis, too often, and left me flirty notes on the receipts after devouring entire orders of chips and queso. One time he even left behind a tiny bag filled with perfectly curated orange skittles, my favorite. Three months later he whispered, “I love you,” and I couldn’t say it back fast enough.
I will never forget that summer of 2004. We have other significant years to remember…..the year we got married, the year we went to Greece, the year we had our first baby…..but 2004 was the year we fell in love and I’m not sure if any other season can top that. Every thought I had, every minute of the day, was about Brett. We were together nonstop—sharing meals, running errands, watching movies. Every Tuesday we went to Baskin Robbins for dollar scoop night. I ordered mint chocolate chip with rocky road and he ordered two scoops of orange sherbet. We held hands, we kissed, we laughed constantly.
We were young and in love and nothing could stop us.
We talked about everything; no topic was off limits. One time we drove to the movie theater and got so wrapped up in a conversation about faith that we spent two hours sitting in the parking lot talking about God and completely missed the movie. We talked about our hopes, our dreams, our secret ambitions and fears. Days felt like months and months felt like years.
That Christmas, after six months of dating, Brett presented me with a huge box on Christmas Eve. It appeared to be an appliance of some sort, although the unbranded cardboard box threw me off. I was confused when I opened it and found a bunch of towels inside, until I realized the towels were meant to throw me off as well. At the bottom of the box was a smaller box, which I quickly identified as a jewelry box. I opened it to find a thin silver band with a small diamond in the center. We sat in the dark, just the two of us, in front of the lit Christmas tree in my parent’s living room.
“It’s a promise ring,” he said. “Some day, I’m going to ask you to marry me.”
It might as well have been an engagement ring, because that’s how much it meant to me. I put that ring on my wedding finger and didn’t take it off until March 19, 2006, when Brett got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife.
Nine years, one baby, and a few more wrinkles later, here we are—still standing, still committed, still smiling most of the time. Tomorrow we celebrate six imperfect-but-wonderful years of marriage. These six years have been extraordinary and hard and messy and glorious and complicated, but I think every day we are learning how to love each other a little bit better, and maybe that’s what this marriage thing is all about.
Happy anniversary, Brett. Thank you for putting up with my ridiculous antics, for showing me grace when I least deserve it, for letting me chase every dream I can think of, and for loving me the incredible way that you do. I’m so blessed to be your wife.