Monday, August 5, 2013

A Thing They Can't Shake (A love story, Part 3)

February 28, 2004.

I had plans to see a movie with Matt, followed by dinner. My nerves were in overdrive due to my mom pointing out the fact that he may be for-real, seriously, dating me. I was clueless to this idea, because I was so inexperienced and naive when it came to dating. Once she pointed it out, it changed what I thought of our casual, nearly-nightly dinners together. So this particular outing felt totally different.

Click HERE to read Part 1 and HERE to read Part 2!

We both like hockey, and decided to see a movie that wasn't completely date-like (which had me questioning exactly what was going on, here), but that catered to both of us since we had hockey in common. The movie was Miracle, and it was about as unromantic as a first-real-date movie can get. Despite this, at one point during the movie...our hands found their way to each other. I remember sitting in a particularly dark aisle, and being thankful that he couldn't see my stupid-happy grin over this little detail. It was a very small, simple, innocent gesture...but I knew, officially, that these dinners were more than just a chat and food between friends. And tonight, he was making sure I knew it.

When the movie was over, we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant that no longer exists near us today - Don Pablos. Oh, was it yummy! With fully bellies, and the excitement of the fact that we just spent a couple hours holding hands buzzing through each of us, we weren't ready to say goodnight. He invited me to come hang over at his house...and it wasn't like that. I swear. I agreed, and we just hung out like we usually did. At one point, he got his guitar out and started playing - and much to my surprise, shock and delight, he played my favorite song! He learned it without telling me, and hearing it that night took my breath away. I couldn't believe he did that for me!

Our talking carried way into the night, and at one point we were sitting on his bed (seriously, not like that) and he brought up the fact that...this was kind of turning into something. Because it was such a nervous and awkward moment, I can't recall his exact words...but in one way or another, he asked me to officially be his girlfriend. I agreed, and I DO remember him responding with..."Cool". Haha! We laid there talking for hours more, and since it was well after midnight, our official first day together was leap day - Feb 29th. At some point, I fell asleep, and I woke up to him lying next to me and smiling at me. He told me I had to stay up so he could take me home.

On the drive, I kept wondering if he would kiss me goodnight. I mean, I was his girlfriend suddenly...I guess he had free range to do that now...but would he? I ended up being so nervous about it, that I feared for HIS nerves, and decided that I would take the question away from both of us. So as I started to get out of the car, I leaned over and gave him the fastest, most ridiculous peck........that nearly landed on his nose. He still picks on me for that til this day! But he also says that he thought it was cute, and he loved that I did it.

And so began the most romantic and rewarding relationship of my life!

Matt immediately excelled at being a boyfriend, and working together only created more opportunities for him to surprise me and express his affection. On our one month anniversary, he offered to pick me up after my shift (I worked later than he did most days), and when I opened the door to his Jeep, he had a stuffed animal waiting for me on my seat. After a bad day at work, he called me and asked me to put away some "sensitive paperwork" he left out on his desk - only when I went to check it out, there were a dozen pink roses and a note waiting for me! On our 2 month anniversary, he surprised me with two roses - one red, one white - a combo that the florist told him represented "everlasting love". He often whisked me off for surprise dates, or presented me with homemade CD's (our modern-day mixed tape equivalent), lent me hoodies of his that smelled like him (without me asking!), and on it goes. It wasn't all about gifts and surprises, though. Some of my fondest memories are of the way he immediately remembered my Starbucks order, the way he always held my hand or rested his on my hip when we were with his friends, and how he'd write me letters and cards when I knew the written word wasn't his forte. We both spent the first few months of our relationship saying things like, "Can it really be this good?" and "Is this really possible?"

As crazy as this sounds, we immediately started planning to move together. Not just move IN together, but move AWAY together. After a summer of saving and planning, we moved to Charlotte, NC when we'd only been together for 5 months! Everyone thought we were crazy - both because it was so soon, and because I was only 19. And yeah, that is a little crazy. But we were pretty determined to be together!

The first year in Charlotte was really tough. I was very homesick and feeling a little unsettled - like I'd left too much undone, un-visited, and unsaid back in Buffalo (our hometown). I was so torn between missing home and everyone there, and knowing (very quickly) that Matt was THE ONE and trying to make a home with him in Charlotte. We ended up deciding that I would go back to school at home to finish my Associates degree (two semester's worth of work, so about 9 months). Us on New Year's Eve 2005-2006I moved back home and in with my mom, and immediately realized that it was harder to be away from him than from everyone at home. Not because I loved them any less, but because in my year and a half with Matt, he became my everything, and now he was my home. Still, in moving back to Buffalo, I set out to finish school, embrace life, have fun with family and friends - and I did all of the above. There were sad moments, and tough times, but we both made it through. We'd spend hours on the phone together at night, and we'd send emails to each other during the day. He kept the romance alive, sending me flowers, and a "21 things" gift for my 21st birthday - it was full of 21 things that meant something to us. He came back to visit for Thanksgiving & Christmas, and I visited him over New Year's break before my next semester started (he later said it was this New Year's trip that made him decide to propose!). We made do. The plan was to move back to Charlotte with him as soon as I graduated in May of 2006, so we just had to get through it!

About 2 months before I graduated, he came to town to help his mom after she had surgery. He was only staying for the weekend, and his goal was to help his mom as much as possible, but I planned to spend my time with him at her house, and we even had plans to go out for dinner one night. I remember picking him up from the airport that time - the look on his face, the sense that "something more" was going on.

Our date night arrived (March 25, 2006), and he started out by taking me to Don Pablo's for dinner. Remember that place? It's where this post started, on our first date. I thought we were just celebrating our 2 year anniversary by going back here, but ohhh what I didn't know! We split a few entrees the way we did on our first visit, and I sipped a yummy margarita. The tequila wasn't sitting well with me that night, so unfortunately, I ruined his plans for dessert at Dairy Queen, where we also had memories of an early date together. So we skipped that stop, and I hoped that he wouldn't take me home just yet. I knew that he had to get back to his mom and help her out, but I just wanted another hour or two with him.

He ended up taking me to a nature preserve that was very significant to the start of our relationship (if you recall, I mentioned it in Part 2 of our love story - without visiting this place two years before, we may not have ended up together!). Once again, our plans were foiled (well, more his plans than mine!) because a pack of rowdy teenagers were up to no good right where we attempted to visit our special spot. At this point, I could sense his nerves kicking in. He was kind of stammering over his words and struggling to find another place to go, and when I suggested we could just call it a night and hang out with his mom, he very quickly refused. So we ended up driving to another park where we'd gone on a playful, push-each-other-on-swings, flip-flops and piggy back rides sort of date, and he parked near a big pond that had a very romantic bridge going over it with a perfectly placed street lamp. Um, ya know, the kind of set up you'd see in an overly romantic movie. But guess what? I ruined his plans again. To my defense, I didn't realize what he was about to do (Yep, THAT), so when I asked if we could just stay in the car (because I was cold, and water at night time freaks me out - I'm a bit of a water-phobe), he very reluctantly agreed.

Back in the car, I handed over a handful of anniversary presents. I was excited to give them to him and had waited all night for some time alone to surprise him with them. He flew through them like they were on fire, and I remember wondering what his deal was, because he's normally such a thoughtful gift giver AND receiver. He tossed his opened gifts in the back seat, before he turned to me and started speaking about how much he loved me, how lucky he was to find me, and how hard he's willing to work to keep us together. He had always been forthcoming with this sort of thing, so I didn't think too much of it. I thought maybe he was about to say...okay, let's talk about getting engaged soon...because he was a planner, and I really thought it was a year or more away before he'd finally do it. I remember staring at the center console, feeling flattered and embarrassed by all of the rapid-fire compliments and offers of commitment he was throwing out there, when suddenly he said...."And so.....Will you marry me?"

Did that just happen?

my engagement ring
I stared at him for a second and waited for him to laugh, or say "JK!", or something...so I searched his face and only found sincerity. When I realized how vulnerable he was in that moment, I flew over to his seat and kissed him. I pulled back finally and said, "Are you kidding?", just wanting to really make sure that he wasn't being Mr. Funny Man in this moment (because he usually was, and it's what I loved so much about him!), and he pulled out a ring box and said, "Do you think I'm kidding?".  My eyes widened in shock, and I went back to kissing and hugging him like crazy. He said, "Don't you want to see it?!" and I realized that I hadn't even looked at the ring! He held it out to me and I gasped - it was exactly what I wanted! A princess cut three-stone setting in white gold. I never pointed out this exact ring to him, though I had dropped hints over time, and apparently my hints lead him right to it! He took it out and put it on my finger as I stared in amazement, and he said, "so??"...which is when I realized I never gave him an answer. I smiled and yelled, "DUH! YES!!!" and went back to showering him with hugs and kisses, occasionally stealing glances at my ring.

When the excitement calmed down a bit and I stopped shaking so much, he told me about his ring shopping adventures and the process of making his proposal plans. He'd asked my Dad (what!), and told only two of his friends. And so began the frantic calling of everyone we knew.

Matt & I at a wedding in 2006I started wedding planning pretty immediately, since we both wanted our wedding to happen in Buffalo but knew we wouldn't be around to visit many vendors in person. So before I even moved back to Charlotte two months later, I had our church and reception sites booked, and deposits in with the florist, bakery, and DJ. Everything else had to be planned from a distance, over the phone and online. My mind changed on colors and themes a couple times through the process, but before long, a bright, colorful, summer party came together.

And in honor of our anniversary this coming weekend, I'm going to share the details of our wedding day with you! I hope you'll join me as I re-visit our very special day!

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