Giggling newlyweds, golden anniversaries, glamorous weddings – I’ve covered them all as part of my Love Story series for this newspaper.
And while I’m supposed to be objective and unbiased, I confess I do have a favorite love story – my own.
Twenty-six years ago today, I walked down the aisle toward Derek, absolutely confident I was making the best decision of my life. The years have proved me right.
We met at church. I spotted him sitting down the row from me and whispered to my friend, “Who is that?”
“That’s Darrol’s brother, Derek,” she whispered back. “He just got back from flight school.”
I’m afraid I don’t remember a single word of the sermon because I couldn’t take my eyes off the tall, handsome blond at the end of the row. I nudged my friend, “He looks nice. You have to introduce me.”
And at the end of the service she obligingly corralled Derek and presented him to me. A week later he asked me out. When I came home after that first date, I couldn’t stop smiling.
“Well, what’s he like?” my mom asked.
“He’s nice,” I said. “I really, really like him.”
Love may turn some into poets, but it decimated my vocabulary.
Four months later Derek proposed and 11 months after that first date, we married.
Derek was a helicopter pilot in the National Guard and attending school full-time at Eastern Washington University. I was waitressing and attending Spokane Falls Community College. In short, we were young and broke.
That didn’t matter.
We filled our tiny apartment with garage-sale finds and castoff furniture from our parents’ homes. We didn’t eat out or go to movies. Instead, for fun we used my tip money to play video games at a neighborhood arcade.
We call those blissful first three years of married life the BC (Before Children) years. Then came parenthood and home-ownership. Suddenly, we had four people calling us “Mom” and “Dad” and a special little thing called a mortgage.
The years passed in a blur and our identities shifted and changed. Derek became a business owner, and I went from being an at-home mom to a rarely home writer.
Now, we had money for dates but no time. So we settled for “home dates.” We sent the boys to their rooms at 8 p.m. on Saturday nights, lit the candles, got out the cloth napkins, turned on the stereo and had a grown-up meal.
We talked about things other than carpool schedules, soccer games and report cards. Those evenings kept us connected and reminded us who we’d been before we were parents.
And then our two oldest boys turned into teenagers. They drove our cars. They stayed out late. They broke the rules. They broke our hearts. They made us mad. They made us laugh. They brought girls home to meet us.
We learned whole new ways to worry. It was hard to have conversations about religion or politics or music.
And as the younger two boys grew, we all got busier and busier. I started writing a book and I started wondering. Had I squandered too many income-earning years at home with little boys?
I questioned many decisions I’d made including the one to marry so young. I wondered about what I’d missed.
But in spite of the wondering and worry, Derek and I clung together. We found moments of quiet and respite and nurtured our marriage.
Our wedding napkins were embossed with this phrase: “Forever as now, shall be our love.”
It’s a sweet sentiment, but one I haven’t found to be accurate. Twenty-six years later, our love is richer, deeper and far less fragile than the day we said our vows.
One thing remains unchanged. Not only do I admire, respect and trust Derek, but the words I said to my mom after our first date are still true. I really, really like him.
So forgive my indulgence as I use this column to say “happy anniversary” to my life partner, my husband and my friend. Our love story is my favorite and I can’t wait for the next chapter to unfold.