Linked up with Grace!
When I think of sound of the summer of 2008, I think of the peculiar non-boing and non-chime sound that you receive when someone IMs you on Skype. Keyboard click-clacks, chat alerts, and the piercing ring of an incoming Skype call were the summer jam for me. I had no idea what Skype was when I first left for home, but Chris was a long distance extraordinaire so he made sure that I became acquainted with the tin-cans-on-a-string of our time.
You know in the beginning of a relationship when you don't want to do anything else but spend time with each other (oh wait, did I say in the beginning? ... we are still like that so luckily both of us feel the same way)? We definitely were feeling that pull, and my dad could definitely see it on the family phone bill. Oops. After that multiple page and multiple dollar sign bill, we were more careful about only talking on Skype for the most part ... you know besides the endless emails. I camped out in my brother's empty room that summer, and the internet signal seemed to enjoy prohibiting me from being comfortable during those hours long Skype talks. The internet did not work near the window where the chair was, worked about 50% of the time when positioned perfectly on the desk, worked on only the left side of the bed, and my computer charger had a short cord so I could only be in a few of the comfortable spots for a short amount of time (okay maybe a couple of hours, but that is minutes in new relationship time) before I had to camp out near an outlet.
We talked about everything that summer, and I mean everything. I think when you know, you become extra confident and don't scurry around the important questions. What's your favorite color was covered, but so was faith and family size. It was almost like we were testing each other to see if the other one was really, truly as good as we thought. And from my point of view, Chris was. I actually love that we were long distance for four months because we were forced to get to know each other and get a bit closer to becoming experts on communication. The expert title still hasn't been bestowed upon us and won't ever be, but I know that we built such a good base that first summer. Muchas gracias, grazie mille, merci beaucoup, Skype.
For the first part of the summer, Chris was in San Diego. He and Brad (Harrington #3) slept in the same room so Brad normally joined in our conversations. Sometimes, Chris' sisters would pick up that he was skyping with a girl and all of a sudden try to give him a hug while he was sitting with his laptop. It was really cute. I was so fascinated by Chris' family that I had them memorized them all long before meeting any of them. My dad is the oldest of thirteen so I grew up with the best Christmases and family gatherings with my grandma's 34 other grandchildren. I always felt sad that my kids wouldn't experience the same joy of a big family so I was determined to have a lot of children so my grandchildren could experience the fun that I did (of course, there are other reasons I want a big family, but holidays sure are a perk). Imagine my happiness when it dawned on me that my own kids could experience having a big extended family.
One of our inside jokes that is about to become an outside joke was always talking about MIRL (apparently this is a common acronym on dating websites?) ... when we would meet in real life. I thought it was funny how nervous I was to see him as the end of summer approached even though we talked for hours. Of course, my excitement towered over the nervousness. It was so amazing to finally be in the same place.
We hadn't kissed before I left for the summer because Chris had been set on not getting into a relationship yet. Once after my return to school that fall, when he was being particularly cute and I was feeling particularly impatient I accidentally jumped the gun and gave him a really, really, nanosecond-quick peck of a kiss. I rationalized that this was made inevitable by his obvious foot dragging!
One night soon after, Chris came to take me on a walk late at night. I was wearing a red long sleeve top. We walked around the lakes talking about our relationship ... After circling the lake once, we stopped at the benches ... And we kissed. It was a perfectly sweet kiss. So for the record our first kiss was very pleasant for both parties. Our second kiss that followed immediately after? Chris says it was one of the worst kisses ever because I basically crushed his lips into his teeth. I blame four months in different states.
A couple weeks later, Chris got a wonderful job offer right there in South Bend! We were beyond relieved. Chris looked mighty fine in his new suit (hilarious side note: Chris bought a new suit just for his final interview in Indianapolis. When he took it out of the suit bag in his hotel room the night before the interview, he discovered the the sales associate hadn't removed the security tag! It was in a very conspicuous place on the back of the suit jacket, and there wasn't going to be a store open before his interview. Skyping with him when he discovered the mistake was pitifully hilarious, but he is Chris Harrington so he was able to let the tag break the ice and ace the interview. Proud girlfriend, I was).
Our relationship was blissful, but I had this mindset that nothing was going to change from my precious freshman year. I didn't know how to balance my friends and Chris. Furthermore, it was very hard to juggle what I thought I was supposed to be doing as a young woman because of all of the romantic comedies that I have watched, magazines that I have read, etc. (I'm easily impressionable, sue me) and what Chris actually deserved. For example, I thought it was completely normal to hang out alone with a former crush on a regular basis. (What? Everyone doesn't do this?) I took Chris for granted so much because I knew I could count on him no matter what. I wish I had Verily magazine around when I was a sophomore in college. This article about men and women being friends is spot on and would have helped me avoid building so many bumps in our relationship. Nevertheless, all of those bumps in the road did help me grow in my appreciation of our budding relationship.
Chris always was the dream boyfriend. He brought me endless flowers and treats after class, made me flashcards with funny notes, and most importantly, always went to Mass and Confession with me. We used to see this family of a young couple with a little blond baby boy whenever we would be waiting in line for Confession. I would jab Chris' arm, and whisper, "Let's be them!!" Now, I actually know that family so it is neat how things come full circle.
He came to Thanksgiving at my Grandma's and met my huge family. Then, I went to San Diego for New Year's (well technically, I spent New Year's Eve alone in the Nashville airport weeping into (some food item). I was very nervous about meeting his mom because Chris had mentioned during the summer of Skype that she liked to take tea at a local estate when they were growing up in England. This made me think she was someone who would be able to tell that my favorite tea was iced, came from the golden arches' drive-thru in a giant American cup, and was half sugar. What would she think if she found out that my exposure to British culture consisted of The Parent Trap, Winning London, and my fascination with one of my former crushes. Well, I was just being silly because Chris' mom turned out to be a fellow country girl like me who was from middle of nowhere Texas who prefers corny jokes over tea and is frugal beyond belief. My trip out to San Diego was fabulous. The next month, Chris called me and dared me to guess what his parents had just told him. Baby #11 was on the way!
In the summer , I worked an internship in Belize for about eight weeks. I was miserable. I was Chris-sick to the max. I ended up having a fabulous time because of the wonderful community, but I definitely was on a first name basis with the potbellied man who sold the phone cards.
That fall we flew to San Diego for little Johnny's Baptism. When it came time for family photos after the baptism, I tried to stand in the back and take photos, but oh my goodness was my heart soaring when his family called my name and insisted that I step into a family photo.
I kind of stick out.
Both Chris and I knew that marriage was on the horizon, so I had a pretty good idea of when Chris was going to propose. I knew it was going to be before I left to study abroad for France since we wanted to book the Basilica and would have to be engaged before the first Monday of March and I left for France at the very end of January. I also knew that it would be on campus because ... come on ... that one is not hard to guess at all ... so before Christmas break. I knew it had to be after Thanksgiving when he would see my dad and would be able to ask for his blessing. So that left any time post-Thanksgiving and before the second week of December was over. We had figured out over the course of our relationship that we had met on February 2, first told each other that we liked each other on May 2 and first kissed on September 2 (scarily, none of those dates were planned. We are just really good at making it easy to not forget those ever-so-important milestones). Based on that trend, I thought he would propose on December 2. Exciting! I'll be honest though that I wanted to be at least a teensy bit surprised so I was bummed that I had pinpointed the event so precisely.
December 2 also happened to be a jam-packed day. I had a ton of class, work, and project meetings, and Chris also had a lot of work and meetings. I was confessing all of this to Laura, and she was empathetic as best friends are and hatched a plan. How about we switched up our traditional Wednesday night post-work-at-Reckers Grotto trip to Tuesday night after work? We would go to the Grotto and then have a "college night" (when we would get semi-dressed up and go grab tea or coffee (okay tea for Laura and then whatever I wanted)). That way there was a bit more time on Wednesday for me to see Chris if that happened to be the day of the proposal. At first, I thought something was up. Did this mean that Laura was trying to plan something with Chris and the proposal would actually happen on Tuesday? However, Laura was so convincing so I believed her.
Well, I had 97% confidence that it wasn't happening on Tuesday, but that remaining 3% told me to pack my red shirt that I was first kissed by Chris Harrington in for the college night post-Grotto trip for my change of clothes. A pizza-covered Reckers T-shirt wasn't going to cut it. I was soooooo distracted during work. I just kept thinking about the next day, and I kept zoning out. After messing up the second pizza of the night, my manager asked me if I had something on my mind. Ha! Of course! When was it going to happen!? Looking back, I realize that I was very lucky that the key question dealt with when and it wasn't "Will it happen!?"
Chris texted me good night since he had an early meeting the next day. Okay, it definitely wasn't' going to happen on Tuesday. I now 100% didn't think it was happening then. Laura and I changed into our clothes and began our walk to the Grotto arm in arm as we always did. She lead me to the kneeler. The spot was way farther to the left than where we normally knelt at the Grotto, but I didn't think anything of it. I bowed my head down to pray and saw a single red rose right in front of me. I smiled. I knew it was from Chris. He always did sweet things like this. I still didn't think it was happening; I thought he was just being Chris! Then I heard footsteps coming from behind. I turned around to see that blond-haired blue-eyed boy who had told me good night walking toward me.
"What are you doing here?!"
He got down on one knee, told me a lot of sweet things that I have no recollection of and opened up a ring box to reveal the ring. Yes! A thousand times yes! (Okay I said yes, obviously, but I was in no way as eloquent as Miss Jane Austen, but I am sure you could have guessed from reading my blog).
We went and lit a candle right away. He and Laura had fooled me; although I was suspicious in the beginning of Laura's plan, I was still so surprised and so so so happy. Surprise of the year: I could not stop smiling.
It turns out that Chris almost didn't make it on time! Chris was always very good at getting onto campus whenever he wanted, but that night when Chris asked to go park by the Grotto, the guard told him that he would have to park in the outside parking and walk there. Chris even showed him the ring and told him that he was going to propose and was going to be late, but the guard still refused. Chris had to sprint to the Grotto to put the rose of the kneeler.
Our engagement was a wonderful, but way too long time. We were engaged for sixteen months since we wanted the Basilica on April 2, 2011 after I graduated in January of 2011. Plus, Chris moved to a town almost two hours away and I went to study in France. The extra-extra long distance relationship was no fun especially when all you want is to be married. Thankfully, Chris got to come visit me with his aunt after a long delay that involved me breaking down in the Pisa train station thanks to a certain Icelandic volcano (thanks for calming me down, Laura M!)... but that is a story for another day.
I wasn't nervous to marry Chris. There were no jitterbugs at all. I had been waiting for that day since we talked on the deck at the rugby formal almost three years before; now I had just swapped out my seersucker Target dress for a wedding dress. We had over 300 guests there to celebrate with us, and it was incredible.
Photo by Yue Wu
The next day, Chris whisked me off on our honeymoon. He had managed to keep it a surprise, and I had no clue where we were going other than it would be warm. I could not believe it when he showed me on his phone where we were going right before we went to the ticket counter. I saw a beautiful island resort, and then I saw ... The Philippines! We were going to the Philippines!
It was the best two weeks (although Chris would say it was the best two weeks minus the few days he was in severe pain because I did a less than stellar job after volunteering to help him apply sunscreen. His legs looked like a variation of these.
Two weeks after we got home, on the day that William and Kate got married, I saw a positive sign almost immediately after I used a pregnancy test. Surprise! Ryan got to walk in the graduation ceremony a month later at the ripe old age of eight or so weeks in my belly. Sneaky kid.
And now here we are. Would I ever have guessed that I would be here?! Here = met the one at the age of eighteen and have two kids by 24. H-e-l-l no. I had convinced myself that I wouldn't find the perfect guy for quite a long time, and I remember I would hop around from career plan to career plan because my heart wasn't in any of them. I didn't think that my dream that I wouldn't tell anyone would actually come true. When someone in my dorm got engaged my freshman year when she was a junior, I told my roommates that my parents would kill me if I got engaged as a junior. Ha! Little did I know ...
I am happy that I was doubtful. It makes the okay days, good, and the good days, the best. So there we are, future grandkids: the how we came to be story of your madly in love grandparents.