Chris popping the question at Rockefellar Center
Now, I don’t like to brag, but my husband is pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread. We’ve been together since we were 16 – this April it will be 10 years – and we’ve been married for almost four years. Over time, I have learned that I can definitely live without Chris, but I would never want to.
When we were 16, Chris used to drive us around in this hot little baby blue 1967 convertible Mustang that he and his Dad restored. It was beautiful. I’ll never forget what it felt like to see that car pull up to my house when I was in high school. He parked it on the street right in front of my bedroom. I’d see his car pull up and I’d go running to the front door and watch him walk across the yard up to my house. I have butterflies just remembering that. I also remember that the car had a hole in the passenger floorboard that Chris kept covered with a mat so I wouldn’t get scared. And the car didn’t have defrost, so when it rained my job was to take a towel and constantly wipe the windshield so that Chris could see to drive. I remember being all dressed up for Prom one year in a beautiful dress, working up a fierce sweat trying to keep that damn windshield clean. But it was worth it just to see Chris drive that car.
I remember when we were in high school, we worked at the same restaurant. I worked as a hostess at the big tourist restaurant and Chris was a quick order cook at the smaller branch down the road that mostly served locals. One morning my family had breakfast there and when the waitress brought our order out, Chris had put a red rose on my plate. He used to smell God awful after he was done with a shift. Like sweat and grease (and sometimes beer). And after every late night shift, he would come by my house first. He was always wearing a white undershirt, having shed his clothes because of the sweat and heat. His shirt was always stained and he always smelled, but I’d hear him tap on my window and I’d go let him in the front door to say goodnight. He wouldn’t stay long, usually long enough to talk about our days and to say goodnight. I knew that 9 times out of 10, he was going to meet another girl at a party somewhere when he left my house. That was just how he was. But I also knew that he never said goodnight to any other girl, and somehow that made it okay.
I remember the day he left for college. He applied late – a last minute decision that was probably the best he ever made – and so the only way he was accepted was for the summer term. I wasn’t leaving until the fall. We decided months before that we would go to different colleges. We’d had a rocky relationship in high school (but doesn’t everyone?), and we weren’t stupid enough to believe that we could possibly make it through college. We would go to different schools and the agreement was that we would date long distance until one of us met someone else. When we met someone, we had to tell the other person and that would be it. No hard feelings. More than anything, we were both realists. So that Saturday morning that he left, I thought it was the end. I remember feeling stupid that I was crying in front of his family. We were only in high school. Surely I looked silly. But it hurt so much to say goodbye to him. He hugged me and kissed me, but his family was around and so it was a rushed goodbye. And then he drove away. He was driving a new car, better equipped for the 5 hour drive to college, and his Mustang was parked in his driveway. I remember thinking that Chris and I had no better chance of making it than that Mustang would have had. And so I got in my car and drove home. As I pulled out of his neighborhood, there was Chris. Parked on the side of the road. Waiting for me. One more hug. It would be our real goodbye.
But it wasn’t our goodbye. It wasn’t even close. I spent the majority of my college years on Highway 75 driving to see Chris on the weekends. We tried to see eachother at least twice a month. Usually I went to see him because he had technical rehearsals and shows to run, but I didn’t mind. I remember several Friday nights when I wasn’t scheduled to go see Chris and I’d get a phone call from him at 9 or 10:00 at night telling me that in 3 hours I could be on his front porch. That’s all it took. I’d grab an overnight bag, throw Lucy in the car, leave a note for my roommates and head down to Orlando. Sometimes it was Chris that was unscheduled. I would be coming home from work and I’d get a phone call on my cell. Chris was here. Or I’d pull into my apartment complex and there would be his car. One time he came into town to surprise me, but I had plans to babysit that night. So, Chris went out to eat with my two Meathead roommates to our favorite Mexican restaurant. By 7:00 when I got done babysitting, Chris, Neal, and Jay were so wasted on pitchers of margaritas that they passed out before I even got to kiss Chris hello. I don’t think he realized where he was until Saturday morning when he woke up in my apartment.
While we were in college, Chris was really excelling in his studies. He was teaching classes as an undergraduate to his peers. He was taking one on one private classes with a few of his professors, he was the first student to ever be a technical director at the University of Central Florida. For the show that he was technical director for he needed steel to bend to build the set. But steel benders were expensive, and his public university would never have been able to afford one. So Chris made one himself out of an elaborate pulley system. And he published the machine design in the Yale University Technical Journal. A few weeks later, the editor of the journal called Chris and asked him to come to Yale for graduate school. I was at Chris’ apartment in Orlando when his formal acceptance letter arrived from Yale. Two weeks earlier I had been accepted to law school in Florida, my life long dream. But I knew the minute he opened that envelope. I knew when his face brightened and his eyes teared up. I knew when he smiled. His dream was bigger than mine, and I knew I would follow him anywhere he needed to go to achieve it. I pretended for the sake of my family that the decision to forgo law school to move to Connecticut was a hard one, but there was never a doubt in my mind. I would go to Connecticut with Chris.
And I did. We moved to Connecticut the summer that we were married. I remember our first trip up to New Haven after his acceptance. We were looking for an apartment. We had $2,000 saved, and we thought we were rich. A few days later after putting first and last months rent down as a deposit, we were poor again. But we were so proud of ourselves. We moved in a few months later and Chris started school that September. I worked in the legal field for one more year, thinking I would apply again to law school in Connecticut. But after a few applications were submitted, I made the decision to withdrawal my applications. I didn’t want to go to law school. Instead, I found a position at Yale and decided to change my career path to higher education administration. In Chris’ third year of school, I started my own Masters part-time while working full-time. He finished in May. I finished in August. We moved into our new house in June. In early October of this year over a sushi dinner with Chris I had a passing thought out of the blue that maybe I was pregnant. One pregnancy test and 3 months later, here we are.
This morning Chris came in to say goodbye to me before he left for work like he does every morning. I was still sleeping, but I woke up and kissed him goodbye like I do every morning. And then, just as he was closing the bedroom door shut behind him, he turned and stuck his head back in room. “Call me today if you hear anything from your doctors about the Bean.” He closed the door behind him, and suddenly I was 16 years old again, laying in my bedroom, listening to Chris drive away after coming to kiss me goodnight. In high school, that had been the perfect ending to so many days for me. And now, it was the perfect beginning of so many exciting things to come.
It isn’t an extraordinary story. We aren’t extraordinary people. We haven’t experienced extraordinary things. But I know that he loves me and that I love him and that nothing in my life would be possible if it weren’t for him standing next to me. Sometimes when we’re cuddled up in our pjs and socks and surrounded by our dogs and everything is perfect I ask him why he loves me. He never has an answer. He always says, “I don’t know. I just do.” I used to give him a hard time. What a lame answer to such an important question. But when I think about it, there is really no other possible answer to that question. I don’t know why we love eachother. I don’t know why I laugh in the middle of yelling when we are fighting. I don’t know why when I pull into my driveway at night and see Chris’ car parked I still feel those same butterflies I felt in high school and his blue Mustang pulled up in front of my house. I don’t know why when I see ultrasound pictures of our baby, I can already see Chris’ nose and chin and ears.
I don’t know why our love story is still being written, but I can’t wait to see what the next chapter is about.
Chris and Lucy
The CHRIStmas Elf