Every story has a beginning, even ones that don’t have a happily ever after. Here is ours…
Sara and I met at Spring Arbor College in the spring of 1995. She was a freshman living on Alpha II. I was a dropout who was returning to finish my degree. We didn’t start dating right away; as a matter of fact we really didn’t get to know each other until she returned for her sophomore year. I got her attention that spring with my two beagle puppies. I had gotten them the previous fall, while living with my aunt and uncle in Muskegon, and brought them home with me when I moved back to go to college.
In the fall of 1995, I was a part time student with a steady income and lots of time to spend hanging out in the dorms. I remember sitting in the TV lounge one day and spending more time watching the girl sitting on the couch across from me than the TV. It wasn’t long before she started hanging out near me, especially if I brought my guitar to the lounge. We eventually started talking, staying up late, and getting to know each other. Homecoming was just a few weeks away and I was trying to work up the courage to ask her to go with me when, surprise, she asked me. I found out later that she only asked me after putting a letter in the mail in which she broke up with her boyfriend back home. Sucked to be him, I guess.
The Homecoming dinner was held in the college dinning commons and I was the MC for the event. Part of my duties included introducing all the couples that had gotten engaged over the past year. I didn’t know at the time that I’d be married to the love of my life less than 10 months later. That night was magical. We held hands, went for a walk, talked about “us,” and decided that “us” was a good thing to pursue. At the end of the night, I dropped her off at her dorm and kissed her. It was our first kiss. One I’ll never forget. That was October 27, 1995.
The next night we went to a dance. I’m not all that much into dancing, but every time an opportunity to slow dance came, I made sure Sara was in my arms, slowly twirling around the barn floor. I fell in love with her that night. She looked up at me with a look in her eyes that I would see again on the most special of occasions and I was sold.
We were the stereotypical annoying couple; always together, always holding hands, always smooching more than anyone wanted to see. I went to visit her family for the first time over Thanksgiving; she came up to Midland to visit my extended family. Neither one of us got scared or ran away. I remember writing in my journal that weekend that I was sure I’d found “the one.” It was less than 30 days after we had started dating, but I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Sara. Unfortunately, she wasn’t as sure at that point. We got back from Thanksgiving break and she started to wonder if this was really what she wanted. Had she been any other girl, my persistence would have probably driven her away. Three weeks later, as we sat in my car on a cold snowy night, I gave her my ultimatum (was I really that stupid?) She needed to make up her mind about whether she wanted to be with me or not. She must have felt sorry for me, because she leaned in close and whispered, “I choose you.”
Christmas break arrived, and I got the chance to meet her mom’s extended family. A week later she had a second chance to meet mine. For the second time, we’d seen the circus and neither one bolted for the door. I’ll never forget the night, near the end of break, when we sat in the dark in her parent’s dining room talking quietly around long kisses. At one point I told her that, “If things keep going the way they’re going, I just might ask you to marry me.” She didn’t pause as she responded, “I just might say yes.”
Sara’s birthday was on January 11. She was going to be 20 years old and I thought it might be a good idea to take her out to eat to celebrate. I had no idea what the night had in store. I picked her up at the dorm and we headed out into the dark cold night to the Brandywine. We both ordered steak for dinner. We both ate a little, but spent more time holding hands and looking at each other across the table. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I’ll never forget that night. It was starting to become obvious that neither of us was going to eat much more. The conversation had dwindled to nothing. We just sat there, looking at each other, and the words just spilled out of my mouth, “How do you ask someone to marry you when you don’t have a ring?” Again, she didn’t pause before saying, “You just ask.” And so I did. I got down on one knee, took her hand in my hand, and asked, “Will you marry me?” She blushed, and her eyes had the look they had when we slow danced on that night several months before, and without missing a beat she said, “Yes!”
We realized we needed to let our families in on this. I wasn’t too worried about mine. I was going to be 24 in just a few weeks, getting married was something I knew my family would embrace, even if it hadn’t been discussed or expected. We went to my mom’s office in the morning and broke the news. There was a spontaneous party with her coworkers. I don’t remember telling my dad, but mom must have taken care of it for us. I have a vague memory of her making a phone call to him at work while we were in her office.
Telling Sara’s family was another concern. I’d only met her parents a few times. I had asked their daughter to marry me without talking to them about it first. We drove over to their house, about an hour away from school, and sat out in the driveway for a good 30 minutes trying to work up the courage to walk in and make our announcement. We finally took a deep breath, got out of the car, and made our way inside, only to find an empty house. The entire family was out picking up movies to watch from Blockbuster. By the time they returned home, we had chickened out. Pleasantries were had and we were soon watching the first feature of the night, which just happened to be Four Weddings and a Funeral. As the credits rolled, and people started getting up to stretch, grab some snacks, and get ready for the second movie, I managed to blurt out that Sara and I had something we wanted to talk to them about. I remember the room getting really quiet. I got even quieter when I told them that Sara and I wanted to get married. Sara’s brother, Daniel, finally broke the silence by asking if this was a joke because of the movie we’d just watched. I’m pretty sure her parents were mostly just shocked. We talked about marriage, and what it meant. Her dad kept asking me questions about marriage and what I thought marriage was about while trying to use allegories of boats to make his points. That night probably could have gone better, but it could have also gone much worse.
The next 8 months went by in a blur. The next thing we knew it was August 10, 1996. We stood in front of God, our families, and friends; declared our love and devotion to each other, and were pronounced man and wife. The next 14 years were filled with adventure, devotion, challenges, and even a few disappointments; but mostly they were filled with love; a love that culminated in the story that started its tale in this blog on June 19, 2010.
The picture above was taken two weeks after we found out that Miranda was on the way. We knew it would be the last camping picture with just the two of us...