Young Love

Young Love

I was thirteen when we met. He was fourteen and intriguing with green hair  and thin but muscled limbs. He went to a local public middle school and was on the wrestling team. He was friendly to everyone and fun. He was different. I was interested.

Since I went to a Christian school I only saw him at church and so he remained a bit of a mystery. During the week I’d eavesdrop on the guys in my class if they spoke of him. Sometimes he hung out with them and I wanted all the information I could get. Several of the girls saw him at family functions or parties. My chest squeezed when I thought of him laughing and smiling with them.

In the  fall our youth group leaders took us into the West Virginia wilderness for a sex education weekend. Between meetings, groups of teens hiked and explored and he and I were often in each other’s company. When he leapt at me from the roof of a picnic shelter my heart jumped in surprise and my mind sped off in a daydream. It was a sign, he was flirting, he liked me didn’t he? He’d “flung” himself at me! He could have leapt out at any girl after all.

We began high school and I was delighted we were in the same school. Our friendship broadened a bit until he began going out with a different girl. I wavered somewhere in between disappointment and devastation.

The school year passed and the summer began. We worked at the same day camp and I watched him with the kids. He was so silly and sweet with them. I reminded myself he was still dating someone else.

The day camp staff raised money to fly to Europe to put on three weeks of camp in Slovakia.We led large groups of children in marching, singing, music, craft, and nature classes. In the evenings we marched through ancient cities, singing and laughing, savoring European chocolate and ice cream. The group shared sundowns and worships, the intimacy of a close family.

One night Joe and I shared dish duty in a church kitchen high above the mountain city of Trencin, limbs plunged into the warm water and bubbles, laughing. I thought, “I could do dishes with him forever. I could marry him.”

Our sophomore year in high school we began dating. One of our first dates was to the hospital to see my sister Rachel who was struggling with dangerously low blood counts brought about by chemotherapy. She was immediately smitten with him and ever after talked about that first visit with him. Throughout the years she told me repeatedly, “I would take him from you if I had the chance.” Then she’d add, “He is the best brother in law ever.”

We dated through the rest of high school and two years of college. He was my constant as my sister struggled with her brain tumor and my mom with breast cancer. Then Christmas Eve 2000 Joe said he had a gift he wanted me to open early. I tore into the wrapping to discover a plain black purse, a dowdy, cheap looking purse. I unzipped it and pulled out small packages, votive candles and more votive candles. Surely this strange gift didn’t account for the twinkle in his eyes but I didn’t dare hope for more.

A square box in the bottom of the bag made my heart leap. It was a ring shaped box, I though, I hoped. I ripped off the paper and opened the lid. A small diamond ring lay on black velvet and I squealed. He proposed. My brother stuck his head around the corner to tease us. “I know what you guys are doing in there,” he said. We called him in to celebrate and see the ring.

The wedding was simple in a  small white church. I’d ordered three hundred roses for the ceremony and wore a gown I found at a thrift store and redesigned. We married amid the roses and a  church packed with friends and family.

A few days ago we celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary. From thirteen to thirty one, from childhood to adulthood and parenting with this amazing man. I am so blessed.

Through each hardship he has been stable and sane. He is kind and reliable and funny and fun. We can still play like the kids we once were. Yes, I am blessed and I have no doubt that God brought him into my life and gifted us with each other. Our young love is still going strong.