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Once upon a time I had a crush on this boy. It was the first time in my life I ever experienced attraction to the opposite sex. He was fun, flirtatious, and the way he hugged me put butterflies in my stomach. Whenever I was around him I felt exhilarated. Especially in those early months I remember our interactions with a crispness–the memories and experiences around are fuzzy and shadowed, dimmed with age. But his face shines out of the darkness. One memory in particular stands out sharply, and has become more tender with the years passing.

I was at church on a Sunday night. There was an event and normally scheduled activities had been cancelled. This boy was there. My heart fluttered and I stood near him, laughing and talking. I ran my fingers through my shoulder length hair and hoped I was everything to him that he was to me. He introduced me to his really tall best friend and I laughed and flirted. Over the next few months I fell more and more in love with this boy.

But fate intervened with a little help from my mom. She called his mom and asked this boy to stop calling me because she didn’t like the three year age gap for my 14 years. I was horrified and embarrassed. I think my mom was hoping I wouldn’t find out.

It was hard–this forbidden, unrequited love. But in it’s absence something else began to grow. The boy was still my friend but eventually he moved on and dated others. I hung out with him and his girlfriends and his really tall best friend–we were thrown together so much that on cold days this tall friend would give me his letter jacket to wear. We sat next to each other at movies. We would hold hands and chase each other around the roller skating rink. We skied together on youth group ski trips. He would drink a soda and then press the torn off tab into my hand and I would sneak them back to him later–promises to exchange kisses. And at some point the flirtation turned to something else.

He first gave me a coke bottle tab.

Five years later he gave me a ring.

17 months later he made a promise to love me forever.

Ten years later, he’s still keeping that promise.

He’s helping me become the best version of me. We have grown and sharpened each other. We’ve given each other the freedom to change from the kids we once were into the humans that we are still becoming. We have our flaws and our fights and sometimes he drives me bat-shit crazy, but in my best moments I remember his love and that he fights for me and with me. Today I remember and honor all that has come before–even the day we met when I was hopelessly in love with someone else.

 

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