April 17th is a special day for me–it’s my birthday! Ten years ago today, I celebrated my 23rd birthday as a single gal, living at home, completely unattached. But all that was about to change…
In honor of our upcoming 10th wedding anniversary, I’m sharing our love story, chapter by chapter, on the blog. Get caught up here. In the last chapter, Mom, Dad, and I were all wondering if our pastor’s son was possibly interested in me. (This chapter is a doozy–I was trying to spare ya’ll a bunch of smaller, cliff-hanging posts. Aren’t I sweet?)
All three of us watched for clues constantly that winter to see if this eligible young bachelor had anything more than a square meal on his agenda. Mom and I would analyze his every move during his evenings at our house and the weekends, while Dad would run reconnaissance for us during the day, casually feeling Jeremy out on a variety of topics, trying to get to know this silent young man who was nearly impossible to read.
At least once a week we’d convene for a bedtime chat to compare notes. Some nights Dad would interrupt me and Mom’s conjecturing to assure us that it just couldn’t be. Jeremy was showing no interest—he must just be here because it was convenient, and when the candy store project was done, he’d fade out of our lives again. Mom and I would regretfully agree, and I’d head to bed.
But other times, Dad would get a twinkle in his eye and say, “I think it’s just a matter of time, Treen!” Then my stomach would flip flop, Mom and I would giggle, and I’d head up to my room to spend an hour writing in my journal to calm myself enough to fall asleep.
Finally, during one of these talks in early March, when we were all in agreement that no one could hang around this much without being at least a tiny bit interested in one of the females in the house, I was finally ready to admit that I really did hope such was the case, and I gave my Dad some important instructions.
“When he talks to you, Dad—if he talks to you—and asks if I’m interested, or if he can date me: tell him yes.”
Two Road Trips
The next week, Dad had the opportunity to help a friend move from Arizona to Pennsylvania. He was to drive the moving truck straight through so he invited Jeremy along to help with the driving. Mom and I were excited, thinking this would give the men lots of quality time to talk and surely, eventually, the subject would come up. Maybe by the end of the trip, this limbo would be over, and we’d know if Jeremy planned on taking this anywhere!
Every phone call from Dad as he kept in touch on the way to Arizona and back had us on pins and needles, wondering if they’d had The Talk yet. Alas, Dad arrived home with no official news, only his continued assurance that it was only a matter of time.
Was it just Dad’s optimism, or could it really be just a short time before my heart would have a place to land?
Thankfully, I had something else going on that spring that gave me a bit of diversion. A childhood friend of mine was getting married in NC and we were planning an epic road trip to attend the wedding and visit friends and family from NY to NC to MI and back. Dad’s work at the candy shop wouldn’t allow him to join us for the whole trip, so Mom and I—neither of us gifted in navigation—were absorbed in planning our route and the best way to get the 7 of us to where we needed to be when we needed to be there.
We left early in the morning, the first week in April to be on the road for nearly two weeks. As I hugged Dad goodbye I reminded him of his instructions—“Say yes!” and we left.
Each mile that put distance between me and home gave me space to think. I’d been so close to this situation for so many weeks. Here at last was a chance to stand back, catch my breath, and try to get some fresh perspective. By the time we’d reached our first destination outside of Raleigh, NC 10 hours later, I had talked myself all the way in and out of wanting a relationship with Jeremy Holden no less than 11 times. So much for the trip giving me a mental break.
We called Dad as soon as we arrived at our host’s house and, though I wasn’t looking for it, I noticed Mom’s face light up in the few minutes she spoke with Dad. She got off the phone and as soon as we got a chance to speak privately, she confirmed what I suspected from her barely contained excitement: Jeremy had finally given Dad an opportunity to affirm that if he wanted to date me, he could go right ahead.
It was surreal for the word to finally come when I was 4 states away, and there was no action or response for me to take! I didn’t have a cell phone and Facebook wasn’t around yet. There was no texting or instant message or any way for Jeremy and I to contact each other casually from a distance. I had never yet had a personal conversation with this guy and wasn’t about to start one long distance on our host’s telephone. It would all have to wait till we got home.
I lay on my air mattress in our friend’s bonus room that night trying to sort out my feelings. Relief was the biggest one. Finally, the wondering was over! Now I just had the task of wrapping my mind around the fact that in the very near future I’d be dating my pastor’s son. And after 3 months of emotional limbo, getting used to the idea that I was dating again seemed a relatively simple task.
I told no one. My sisters were too young to be my confidants—their constant teasing was as much commentary as I could handle. As we continued our road trip, Mom and I had very little opportunity to talk privately. For a verbal processor, it was an interesting situation. A huge thing had happened in my heart, yet life was, for a short while, continuing on as if nothing happened. I journaled obsessively (nothing new there) and anticipated the weekend when Dad would rendezvous with us and fill us in on all the details.
Dad had gotten a ride down to NC with none other than our pastor—Jeremy’s Dad—who was speaking at a conference in the area. They were so excited about the recent developments between their offspring that I’ll venture to say they had us married with 3 children by the time they pulled into the driveway of the place we were staying. My sisters and I watched as Mark and Dad and Mom had a private discussion on the driveway before coming in. They were full of conjecture about the topic of conversation; I knew, and went back to my air mattress to talk to my journal again.
That evening Dad and Mom and I finally had a whispered conference to catch up on everything. I asked Dad for a detailed account of his communication with Jeremy, searching for some hints of Jeremy’s thoughts and feelings toward me in what had yet to feel anything like a romantic experience. Alas, there was not much to go on. Jeremy was apparently as cautious as myself, asking simply for blessing to get to know me on a more personal level, with the goal of that action yet undetermined. Unromantic and noncommittal as it sounded, it was just what I needed. I wasn’t ready for romance and affection. I just wanted a friendship.
So for the rest of our trip, as I attended my best friend for her wedding, celebrated my 23rd birthday with my brother in Virginia, and visited grandparents and aunts and uncles in Michigan, I gradually got used to the idea of beginning a friendship with Jeremy, and little by little, I started to look forward to the idea. Friends. I could handle that. Might even be able to enjoy it.
A Surprising Development
10 days later, we pulled into our own driveway as a family at 10:30, yawning and shivering as we hauled our bags and backpacks into the house through the cool, early spring night. Dad had turned the hot water heater off while we were gone to save energy and of course the coal stove would be stone cold. Our plan was to unload only essentials and get into bed and under down comforters as fast as possible—hot showers to recover from the long trip would happen in the morning.
Except that when we walked in the door, warm air hit our faces and there, standing in front of the stove (which was crackling with heat) was Jeremy, grinning at his surprise welcome home.
My shyness kicked in–I took one look and ran up the stairs to my room.
Mom came in minutes later, chiding me for not even saying hello. I gaped at her.
“Mom, I can’t say hello! I can’t even talk!”
I couldn’t blame my shaking on the temperature—the house was warm. And it wasn’t the surprise of seeing him when we walked in— he’d practically lived her for the last 3 months and warming up the house for us was totally something he would do. No, I was completely discombobulated because I realized he was way cuter than I remembered, and I couldn’t deny that just seeing him gave me a severe case of butterflies. I realized I had already fallen further and farther than I thought I had.
It was a rather breathtaking way to begin what was supposed to be a friendship!