I’m a sucker for a good love story, so I thought I’d deviate from the usual post and start in on a series of posts to share the story of how we Owen and I met and fell in love. Although we just celebrated our seven year wedding anniversary, we’ve actually known each other for twice that amount of time. We had a long circuitous route to the altar, but in the end, I think it was just right. I wrote out our story a couple of years ago because I love it so much and didn’t want to forget the details. It’s a little long, so I broke it into three parts, and I promise to leave you on a cliff-hanger, because I’m so thoughtful like that.
I met the love of my life in college. Of course, I didn’t know he was the love of my life at the time.
We met in the front entry of the administration building during a small group event for new freshman to get to know each other. He stood out with his tie-dye t-shirt and bleached bangs, but I also remember his handshake and his smile. He doesn’t remember that first meeting, but it was the first time I noticed him.
We saw each other on and off that first semester in small groups and in classes together. He showed genuine interest in me and our mutual friends even before he “noticed” me, and I thought it was pretty cool that a guy would converse so well and be concerned with other people’s lives. He had a little flare to him, too, doing funny or crazy things, just to stand out. The first time he noticed me was a few weeks after we first met when I was walking across the cafeteria to put my tray up after lunch. He saw my bright yellow shirt and thought, “I’d like to get to know that girl” (haha, I don’t even wear yellow much and can’t think of a single thing I own that’s yellow anymore; must have been providential).
He had his chance to get to know me as the Homecoming Banquet (not dance, mind you) was approaching and, in true Christian college fashion, the guys would politely ask the girls to go. After we watched a movie with a group of friends in the guys’ dorm one evening, he walked me back to my dorm and we talked. He asked me if I wanted to go to the banquet with him “just as friends” and I said “sure”. Not exactly the most romantic start to a relationship, but it was just the way we wanted it. I was pretty flattered to be asked by a guy I liked, but I wasn’t interested in a serious relationship and neither was he. Besides, the Homecoming Banquet as a small Christian school was not exactly a date but just a chance to get dressed up and hang out with a bunch of friends.
Certain moments and conversations in our relationship stand out in my memory, and that banquet was one of them. He and a bunch of guys picked us girls up at our dorm with roses, and we walked down to the cafeteria together, talking as we went. I don’t know why, but I remember we talked about camping at one point. Funny the things that stick with you sometimes. Another memory is of going down to the grassy meadow with some friends and laying on a blanket looking up at the stars and talking. I managed to get near him and we talked until it was too cold and we had to go in. We had many more nights like that, just the two of us, staring up at the starry sky and talking.
Though I wouldn’t admit it, I was falling for him; I had had crushes before, but this was more. This was a real relationship with someone I admired and liked spending time with. I would eagerly check the phone for messages from him when I got back to the room after classes, and check my mailbox multiple times a day hoping for a note. In an attempt to appear uninterested and independent, I would leave alone from the cafeteria after meals, secretly hoping he would follow me and we could talk some more. There were many times that he would walk me back to my dorm and we would stand outside for hours and talk, our friends passing us and giving googly eyes.
I think you get the picture: we did a lot of talking. We walked around the outside loop of campus and talked, we sat above the ballfield and talked, we drove to Chattanooga in borrowed cars and talked. We talked about faith, school, family, our hopes and dreams, and the deep thoughts of our hearts. I was gaining a best friend who was closer than any I had had before.
Then came the Valentine’s banquet at the Chattanooga Aquarium. A couple of weeks before, I got a CD and a note in Owen’s distinct handwriting in my mailbox one day. The note was an encrypted poem and I stuck the CD in to hear Owen’s voice tell me to take the first letter of each word in the poem and spell it out. Of course, it spelled out “will you go to the Valentine’s Banquet with me Anne?” and the next instructions were to go down to the mailboxes where I met him to give him my response. I was trying to play it cool (I think my friends got more of a kick out of it than I did) but secretly I was pleased and flattered and glad to have a chance to spend more time getting to know this guy who was turning out to be pretty awesome. The day of the banquet, the girls exchanged old prom dresses and spent the afternoon doing each other’s hair. For a bunch of sheltered homeschool girls, this was a big deal, especially if you were lucky enough to have a date. Owen picked me up at the dorm with another rose, and we rode through the pouring rain with our friends to Chattanooga. It was a leisurely evening walking through the museum and talking.
We both made it into spring choir that year, which meant we would go on a bus tour for the week of spring break. While I was hesitant to seem too eager to hang out with him during that week, we did steal away for a few short walks. It was special to be able to share such a unique and fun experience with him and our mutual friends. Around that time, I was beginning to realize that I wouldn’t be able to afford to go back to Bryan College the following year. I didn’t want to come out of college with insurmountable debt, and the Lord was showing me that I needed to let go of this place I had come to love. As the year came to a close, we still took our routine walks together in the evenings, and hung out with our friends together.
Owen was staying for minimester, so the evening before I left for summer break, we walked down the hill from campus into the small town and wandered the streets until the sun went down. We never touched, we never held hands, but I felt a connection to him that was deeper than anything physical.
Looking back, I can see how God ordained certain things to happen throughout our time together at Bryan to bring us together and really blessed us with the moments we got to spend in such a unique environment together. This was one of the best years of my life, and I’m glad I have those shared memories with Owen.
That summer was the summer I knew that I really loved him. I missed all my new friends and it was a comfort to be able to talk to someone about it. Every Sunday night I would wait expectantly for his calls and look forward to little notes in the mail. Through these conversations, we grew more and more connected. It may have been a bit of a starry-eyed, sappy kind of love, but it was innocent and rooted in a real relationship.
Throughout the next year, I went to college at a state school down the road from my parents’ house and a thousand miles away from my old college, but I made several trips back to visit my brother and sister and my old friends. While I continued to play hard-to-get, Owen and I did steal away for evening walks and trips to Chattanooga. This was his last year at Bryan and his spirit of adventure was becoming more evident. He was struggling with the confines of traditional christian college life and was pushing the boundaries when he had a chance. I tried not to hold on to him too closely because I knew there was a lot in store for us before we would ever be together.
Sure enough, when Owen left college, he lived at home for a year and worked to save up for a car and then he headed out West. His heart was in the West and he longed for freedom and adventure. We stilled talked a lot during this year and he came to visit occasionally, but I think we could both sense a growing divide between us.
Stay tuned for part 2….
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