10 years ago, Thom and I met in a science class. We hung around each other like awkward nerds, trying not to make it too obvious. He bought me a Dunkin Donuts card for my birthday, which meant we liked each other. Then, on November 19, we had our first date.
It was a cold day—I wore a sweater and jeans, with bland sneakers and a blue and pink scarf. I didn’t do my hair. I didn’t wear much makeup, if any. I was a college kid having the best year of my life…one of those readers and writers who didn’t get out much, though I had great friends with whom I studied, watched foreign films, and went for long walks in the woods. So no, I didn’t dress up for my first date in years.
Actually, I was looking at pictures of my baby cousin when Thom came to pick me up—she’s 10 now. When her birthday rolls around, we know how long we’ve been together. I think we talked about that in the car.
I know we talked about problems—we hadn’t been in the car 5 minutes but we were talking about my learning problems and his inability to ride a bike. I didn’t want to wait until I was crazy about him to discuss all the weird stuff about myself. And honestly, I didn’t have high hopes about this date.
I mean, he was very nice—more than nice. I could tell he was a good man. But I also knew he was a year younger than me and was going to study in Italy in February, and wouldn’t come home until after I’d graduated. So why start something?
I knew I was kind of a weirdo and not very good at being a girlfriend—I was suspicious and clingy and bad at trying new things (so we better have all the same interests). So why get HIS hopes up?
But I went to Panera with him, ate salad, said thank you when he insisted on paying. I asked polite questions and we discussed books we’d both read, places we’d visited, our favorite professors. He was a tour guide at the House of the Seven Gables, so we probably talked about that.
Then I think the topic shifted to what we would do with our degrees—history and English. And I confessed that I was probably going to move to Texas after graduation. No, I didn’t intend to stay in Massachusetts, though if a great job came along…
I don’t recall him having any kind of reaction—not surprise or disappointment that I probably wouldn’t be around for long.
Maybe he just wanted to go on one date, I thought…a little sadly.
I remember sighing and regretting that I’d talked about the future at all. I put my elbows on the table, rested my chin in my hands, and said “Thom, I don’t know what God wants for me anymore. I have no idea what happens next.”
Was I over sharing? I didn’t care. I had resigned myself to a life with no more boyfriends, what did it matter if I scared him away with what was REALLY happening in my life? I was tired of the game—I was tired of trying to assess if boys were ‘ok’ while keeping them at arms length AND showing them the best parts of my personality. I was tired of worrying about what I wore—did it show too much? Did it make me look sloppy? Was I pretty for real, not just with lots of effort?
But this revelation of my fears did not freak him out. One of the things I’ve learned in the last decade is that Thom is an even-tempered man, and it’s almost impossible to rattle him.
And he doesn’t remember specifics about our first date, by the way . He remembers the salad, and he remembers liking my scarf. And when the date was over, he remembers thinking it was fun and he hoped we would go out again.
He says the conversation flowed naturally, which surprised him. No, he doesn’t remember me over sharing. But he does remember talking about problems in the car.
I don’t know how God chooses people for each other—He saw those two dumb kids, sitting in a car on a sunless afternoon in Wenham, Ma, one anxious out of her mind and one blissfully unaware, and He saw…well, this right now. He saw all that when we were infants and Thom’s dad was praying for his son’s future wife. And when I was getting my heart broken by…well, my own dumb decisions. And when the world was yet to be made, He knew—like He knew every other day He would set in motion, for every other person on this spinning planet.
And He saw me here— I’m sitting in our living room surrounded by our son’s toys. I can see our engagement photo we took after he followed me down to Waco. I see pictures of our little boy, pictures of them together, a handprint the two of them made for me on Mother’s Day. At my feet is a six-foot cardboard box with ‘fragile’ written on it—it held Thomas’s new guitar, but now Drew likes to crawl through it like a tunnel.
Again, I don’t know how God chooses people for each other. But I remember Thom and I taking a walk somewhere when we’d been dating a while; we were talking about something dumb, and I thought something I often thought—“I wonder if there’s someone better for you.”
That was a reflex—I didn’t want to get my hopes up, which was getting harder and harder.
To make this exercise less painful, I tried to imagine someone better for me. And I couldn’t do it.
“Lord, please let us stay together,” I prayed.