I met this girl who loved God and Shakespeare (in that order). She was smart. Creative. And as pretty as English china. Outwardly decorous, inwardly stubborn—Jane Austen meets the Rebel Alliance. I thought I’d found heaven. I had and I hadn’t. At first we flared up like a firework stand, but then we got scared and put on our flak jackets.
We were a mismatch. She was a soft-spoken church girl who’d secretly turned away from God, then privately clawed her way back to Him; I was a former atheist with too much personality and a very public passion for God. But somehow we thought we could make it work. Same God, same Shakespeare, and yet it wasn’t enough. After two tumultuous years of dancing in flak jackets, we gave up. We’d apparently done something wrong.
Some time after that I ran into her at the same coffee house we’d gone to when we first met. Absent the need to “make it work,” we were astonished at how much we enjoyed each other. We began meeting regularly just to talk (Dutch treat, of course; we were only friends, after all). Soon regularly turned into daily. Anytime anything of significance occurred (roughly every 5 minutes), my first thought was to call her.
We soon realized what our sniggering friends had known all along: we were a thing, a whatever-it-was-we-hadn’t-been-before. And both of us had abandoned our flak jackets. She looked at me one night and said in very un-church-girl language, “Oh, what the hell!” and kissed me. Not in the way you kiss a friend.
One month later, at a ridiculously romantic spot along Monterrey, California’s 17 Mile Drive, I asked her to marry me and took her picture as she said yes. Romantic? Oh, yes. Except that I then opened the back of the camera (thinking it had one of those state-of-the-80s film cartridges—it didn’t) and ruined the entire roll of film. Nevertheless, the image of her saying “Yes!” is firmly mounted in the photo album of my memory.
We set a date for the ceremony and began attending prenuptial-bliss counseling. We took a test. I should have studied harder. The result? We were dangerously different (“tell us something we don’t know”) and were advised to consider spousal alternatives. We’d apparently done something wrong.
We got married anyway. There were bumps in the road, of course—hello, this is marriage. But we never put our flak jackets back on. And we never stopped being best friends. Well, OK, sometimes we did. But when we did it hurt so much we just had to go and tell our best friend about it.
And then there were kids. We apparently did something wrong there too. And something wonderful. Parenting is never just one or the other. It’s always both.
31 years later (today is our anniversary) she’s still beautiful. Still my best friend. Still loves God and Shakespeare. And still loves me. And the firework stand still threatens to go up in flames sometimes.
We apparently did something right.