met in 8th grade. I am from Altoona, Iowa and he is from Davenport, Iowa but on that fateful weekend in 8th grade we were both at a basketball tournament in Burlington, Iowa. My friend Danielle and I were walking past the front desk when we saw a reeeealy cute boy checking in with his dad. As 8th grade girls are prone to do, we giggled incessantly and then went to report to the rest of our all female team that there were now boys in the building.
That night we were in a room when we heard a knock at the door. Upon opening, there was a pizza box on the floor. The only thing inside was a little piece of paper that read, “Meet us by the pool, the cute ones are #1, #2, #31”. And because most of us had never even kissed a boy, we were thrilled.
After what felt like a magical night of flirting and talking poolside with “The Davenport boys” we went our separate ways. Many times in the years that followed my friends and I in moments of pure nostalgia would reference “The Davenport boys” who, by then, had been recreated in our heads to be the cutest, sweetest, smartest boys we were to ever meet.
Fast forward to my sophomore year in college. After transferring to University of Iowa, I met a young woman across the hall who promptly told me she was from Davenport.
Me: “Oh really? Man, in 8th grade I met some really cute boys from there.”
Liz: “Really? Do you remember their names?”
Me: “Yeah, I remember one was named ‘Zach’ and then another named ‘Brian’.”
Liz: “I doubt it, but it might be the Zach and Brian I went to school with who also played basketball.
Liz (who went on to become a great friend, roommate and bridesmaid in my wedding) gave me Zach’s AOL screen name (yeah you remember those) and sure enough, it was the Zach. He remembered me! “Tesi from Altoona”. As we chatted for a bit we realized we would both be going to the
coffee shop bars the next night and signed off with a kind of, “Well, maybe see you then.”
2:00am the next night/morning and I’m coming out of one of my favorite bars with Liz. I wouldn’t say I was sober, per se, but I was aware enough to hear someone yelling, “Tesi” right over my shoulder. It was Zach, of course, and after a little chit chatting I walked away with my friends-who saw him check out my booty by the way-promising to go out with him the next night.
And the rest is history. We went out on the town the next night, not really doing a whole lot but talking about everything into the wee hours of the morning. Boy was I hooked on this guy who was unlike anyone I had ever known. After 2 weeks, we were telling each other that we loved one another. After 8 months I found out I was pregnant in a Wal Mart bathroom (a Wal Mart bathroom, people!) and when I told him he said, “Ok, not what we planned but let’s get you some orange juice and figure it out.” 10 months after we first re-met we were married.
I’d love to say that the last (almost) 11 years have been as magical and fateful as our first and second meeting but of course they haven’t.
Getting married at 20-years-old is not recommended for a reason. Zach and I have had to grow up and learn some really hard life lessons. Thankfully, we’ve done most of that growing together but we can see how easily it would’ve been along the way to cash in our chips and take our leave stating simply, “We just got married too young.”
Here’s the thing: marriage is not easy, man, and anyone who tells you differently is lying to you. I think we even owe it to our kids to let us see the struggle (in a safe, non combative way) so there’s no perception for them that relationships should be easy all of the time. Gay marriage isn’t threatening “Christian” marriage, it’s our country’s high value on immediate gratification and selfish win-at-all-costs-no-matter-what-it-does-to-everyone-else that has subtly, over many years, trained us to run away from anything that pushes back.
But push back it will. Kids, adoptions,
summer camp jobs, mistakes, day-to-day monotony-it all pushes back. Thankfully I married a man who is willing to look me in the eye and say things like, “No matter what, we’re in this together.” So we push back…together.
I never really believed fully in God’s forgiveness or grace until Zach. I hadn’t been able to imagine it until it showed up in a living, breathing human who is the best forgiver I’ve ever known.
I never really understand communication until I finally figured out just asking him to put his coffee cup away is a helluva lot easier than quietly stewing over the fact that he clearly left that coffee cup out on purpose to piss me the hell off. (Newsflash: he didn’t).
After 11 years, lots of prayer, great friends who have guided us and some good counseling, we’re in a sweet spot right now. Despite it being in the thick of summer camp (read: him working looooong hours and me single momin’ it) we are better than we’ve ever been. Not because of the fantastic way we met but because of the blood, sweat and tears we’ve poured into the rest of our years together.
The reality is, there is no one else I want to be on this crazy wild ride with. It’s not always easy but every day when he comes home I know he’s chosen me and I can’t help but feel relentlessly thankful for that.
Perhaps a part of me (clearly not the part in a bikini and crop top) knew that when I met Zach in 8th grade. Looking back at pictures of him at that time he was all braces, eyelashes and forehead. Sure there was some of his future gorgeousness in there but it was definitely hiding. I like to think in my heart I knew the guy who made me laugh by the pool that day
would help me make/adopt beautiful babies was going to hold every bit of my heart in his hands and protect it with all that he has, but probably it was something closer to pre-teen hormones.
Still, it’s by far my favorite love story out there, especially because I’m living it and I know more than anyone else it’s not how we spent those first moments that we’ll be proud to tell our grandkids one day but the moments we’ve spent since. Arguing, raising kids, arguing, making love but typically ending with a glass of whiskey and a cigar on the porch discussing in full the reasons we love each other and our life together. And that, my friends, is the truest kind of love story.