Tomorrow is our 11 year wedding anniversary. I’ve been thinking a lot about the ups and downs and different influences in our relationship over the years, and thought I’d share the year by year highlights. So, for the eve of our wedding anniversary, here’s how it all began:
Spring 2000 — Winter 2000
In Spring 2000, I was 20 and dating an awful guy. We were in an on-again/ off-again relationship, and I didn’t know how to properly end it. I’d been inactive in the mormon church since meeting the guy, and I started attending church again to escape him and sort of clear my head. This is where I met John (18). John and I did not initially get along — I found him to be in-your-face, argumentative, and a bit of a know-it-all. John apparently found me amusing but very odd. Despite our poor first impressions of each other, we found each other intriguing enough that we became friends.
In June, John turned 19 and I left the state briefly in an attempt to kill my relationship with the awful guy once and for all. When I returned in August, John asked me out out to a church dance. I danced like an idiot; he didn’t dance at all. We went out again the next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Although we were together nearly every day, he was all gentlemanly and didn’t make a move on me. I’m a bit ashamed to admit this now, but I wasn’t used to that at the time. All the guys I dated up until John were the type who expected sex immediately, and I thought that was just how guys were. So when John didn’t make any moves on me, I assumed he wasn’t into me . . . and I got back together with my ex boyfriend, again. When I told John, I knew the mistake I’d made from the stunned and hurt expression on his face. I didn’t dump the ex, though, because I figured I’d made my bed and now I had to lie in it.
This time, my ex became physically abusive. He would “jokingly” punching me in the arm or slap me upside the back of the head when he was irritated or angry at me. One night, I made plans to watch a film with John. My ex became irate that I was going over there, and kicked the driver’s side window of my car in on my face, shattering glass into my eyes and face, as well as across the seat. After washing glass shards out of my eyes and hair, I drove home and bought the ex a Greyhound ticket out of state. Then I went to John’s house for the movie. After that, John and I began kind-of sort-of dating. This all took place through September and mid-October.
By late October, we were officially-unofficially a couple. We spent every church activity together, partly due to my calling as the newsletter writer. I was going through the mormon repentance process for having sex with my ex boyfriend, and I wasn’t allowed to take the sacrament, but the bishop felt a calling would be beneficial to my repentance process. He made up a calling just for me — I wrote a ward newsletter to the missionaries sent off from our ward. I attended all classes, activities, and dances, interviewed people, and wrote up accounts of ward happenings to mail off to the missionaries. John was my constant companion and co-editor. Although our relationship was becoming very serious, we still abstained from sex. This was a unique experience for me, and it made our relationship all the more stunningly awesome to me. It was unusual to have a boyfriend care about me for me, not for what I could do for him. Our first kiss was shy and silly and goofy, and I’d never felt so nervous about a first kiss before — or so relieved when he proved to be a brilliant kisser!
I met his parents for the first time in November, when they returned to town for Thanksgiving. I’d met his sister already. We often invited her to church activities with us, but she’d had a bad experience in the LDS church and was attending a different evangelical youth congregation. She generally seemed disapproving of me, which John said was because I was LDS. Before their parents arrived, she took me aside to warn me that her dad often said things that seemed unkind or unfair to John. I figured she was exaggerating, to be honest, because I had a hard time (then) conceiving of an non-supportive parent. The initial meeting seemed to go well. There were the usual differences of family tradition to adjust to — they left the tv on during Thanksgiving dinner, my family didn’t; that sort of thing — but overall they seemed nice. The most awkward part of the evening was when his parents began sharing embarrassing childhood stories about John. The stories were less “ha ha cute-embarrassing” and more like “deeply scarring humiliation,” and I felt deeply uncomfortable with how unhappy John looked about the situation, and how his parents and sister seemed completely unaware/ unconcerned with his discomfort. To this day, I don’t remember any of the so-called “funny” stories, just the deep sense of sympathy and anger I felt on behalf of my boyfriend.
After that meeting, both John and his sister told me their dad approved of me. They didn’t mention what their mom thought, and when I asked they didn’t know. The general consensus seemed to be one of confused relief that their dad would not have a problem with me. I found all the worry a bit strange, but nothing to be overly concerned about, especially since their parents were never around (they’re long haul truckers). At that point, marriage wasn’t on the table. I just liked being with him. We continued dating, but now referred to each other officially as boyfriend and girlfriend.
December rolled around, and with it my mom’s usual delighted overabundance of holiday cheer. In our household, Christmas was a month-long celebration. The Christmas tree went up the first week, and every room in the house was decorated with Christmas cheer. It was like living in the set of The Nutcracker. On the first Sunday, we lit the Advent Wreath and had rice pudding. The whole month was rife with similar family traditions, so I had less time for John with all the family stuff. About a week before Christmas, we were discussing holiday plans and when we would exchange our gifts. John mentioned he would be free all day, since his parents wouldn’t be in town and his sister was doing a church-related activity. It was weird to me that he would be alone on a holiday I’d always experienced as a family-centric, so I asked my parents if he could join us for Christmas.
|. Mom made me cover up
because she felt my top was immodest.
My parents adored John — a hardworking, respectful, intelligent, ambitious mormon guy? YES! — and gladly invited him. Unfortunately, the short notice meant his presents were kind of . . . sad. My dad apparently picked them up at the dollar store the night before Christmas. They were a red barrel of monkeys and a brown cotton scarf that was too short to wrap all the way around his neck. In dad’s defense, John has a 15-inch neck. No-one expected that, because he’s so fit.We exchanged gifts — I gave him a t-shirt I knew he’d love, and he gave me books and a painting by Amy Brown he knew I’d love. Love them we did, and still do. I have the painting framed in my room over my writing desk right now:
We were pretty much inseparable for the remainder of the holiday season, and ended up consummating our relationship on New Years Eve. I remember the timing, because the next Sunday, I was supposed to be able to start taking the sacrament again. My new, sin-free life was supposed to coincide with the new year and the new millenium (depending on how you chose to count the beginning of the millenium). I knew I should feel ashamed and guilty at my failure in yielding to temptation, but all I felt was joy. I felt so ridiculously happy with John that my happiness actually scared me more than anything else.
John and I began discussing marriage soon after. The consummation of our relationship meant he would not be able to go on the mission he’d been thinking about, and I had just tossed 6 months worth of repentance out the door. We knew we should stop, break up, and ignore temptation — but we didn’t want to, so marriage seemed an equally reasonable solution (mormon-logic, I swear). I went on a brief freak-out about how serious it all was and hung out a few times with some stoner friends from my inactive days, which John and I fought about some. For the proposal, he drove me out to Tumwater Falls, one of our favorite haunts.
We walked out over the first bridge, the one you can see from the Falls Terrace Restaurant
. He was silent and seemed withdrawn and upset. I thought he was angry at me for all our recent spats, and was afraid he was about to break up with me and had brought me to a public place so as to forestall some huge display of emotion. He started talking, saying how we’d been having some hard times lately, but he loved me and knew I was the one he wanted to be with. Then he stopped right there in the middle of the bridge, dropped to one knee, and looked at me with those incredible blue eyes and said, “I love you, Laura. Will you marry me?”
After I finished screaming and shrieking and jumping up and down and swatting at him, I finally accepted and let him put the ring on my hand. The next day, we took my parents out to my favorite restaurant — Mini Saigon
— and told them the great news. After that, I was flashing my engagement ring in every photo.
|It was like a compulsion, I swear.
We initially planned our wedding for Summer Solstice, but my mom found out we were knocking boots and insisted we move the date up in case I ended up pregnant at the alter. So we moved it to April 20th, because, well, 4-20. John and I both found the idea utterly hilarious, even though we didn’t smoke out. Mom wasn’t anybody’s fool, however, and remembered the reference from my high school days. She put the kibosh on that snap-quick. So we moved our wedding date one day forward, to April 21, 2001.