#16: Write the story of how Chad and I met and fell in love
On December 15th we will celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. So how did it all begin? That's a good question. It seems like ages ago. Being married and having kids seems to have muddled my memory of life before all this. I'm guessing that I have this story written down in a journal somewhere, but I can't find it at the moment. And I have never been a dedicated journal-writer (starting this blog has helped to change that), so a written version of our love story may not actually exist. I do, however, have a scrapbook with a few photos to remind me of what actually happened all those years ago. So, between those and my and Chad's memories, I'll do my best to recreate the details.
I was a 19-year-old Junior at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, spending the summer of 2001 completing prerequisite courses for the nursing program. I was living in a nasty apartment in the ghetto around the corner from the university. It was a 2 bedroom 2 bath, cockroach infested slum, housing 5 girls (one slept on the living room couch). The weirdness level of my roommates was astounding (one of them already had her wedding dress, but no prospects), and I spent as little time in the apartment as possible.
I attended pretty much every single-adult activity that was offered, and I had scrounged up enough money to go on that summer's beach trip. The trip started in the institute building parking lot, where we all loaded onto charter buses that drove us four hours to the California coast. The day was fun, but pretty uneventful. I don't remember much about it except for one particular girl who wore a bikini. I recall being shocked that she would wear something so immodest at a church activity, but was secretly jealous of all the male attention she was getting. Anyway, things didn't get interesting until the ride home. I was slathering aloe vera on myself, when I noticed that this guy a row back and across the aisle was watching me. He was extremely sun-burned, so I said, "Do you want some?" and held the bottle of aloe vera towards him. He replied, "Sure, if you'll put it on me." I sputtered out something like, "I don't even know you," appalled at his brazen flirting. He introduced himself as Chad Wallace, shook my hand, then said, "Now you know me." By this time we had the attention of all the people surrounding us on the bus, and my face was on fire. I couldn't think of a cool way to extricate myself gracefully from the situation, so I relented and said, "Okay." Chad proceeded to take off his shirt, which caused me to blush even more. I rubbed aloe on his back, trying to act nonchalant, then sat back down, cheeks burning. I pretty much ignored him the rest of the ride home, but every time I glanced back his eyes were on me, and he'd give me a devilish smile and a wink.
The details of the next few weeks are hazy. When I saw him at church the next time, he remembered my name, which surprised me. I kept my eyes out for him at the single-adult activities: a sports activity at the park, a pool party at someone's house. He was there, and we flirted, but I remember being annoyed because the girl to guy ratio was at least 3 to 1, and I hated competing for attention. Chad was playing it aloof to boot; I remember him shrugging his shoulders a lot. And then there was my friend Mindy, who warned me to stay away from Chad, with the dire warning: "He's a player." (Come to find out later, Mindy had a thing for Chad, and was trying to deter the competition. Some friend.) It seemed doubtful that anything would come from the initial flirtation on the bus.
But then one night there was a dance in the institute parking lot where I was finally able to get Chad's full attention. He was wearing a sort of tribal print shirt, and a beaded necklace with a little tooth on it. And he smelled like garlic. I mean really smelled like garlic (he had just eaten at Boca di Beppo, where they serve garlic bread with huge chunks of garlic on it). For some reason I found the combination extremely attractive. We danced together for a while, then we ended up in his truck where we talked for hours, and I discovered that there was a lot more to this aloof "player" than I thought. And we kissed for the first time. We stayed there almost the whole night. Then he took me home. So when we think about our first "date" we consider this night to be it, even if it was a little nontraditional.
From then on out we stopped dating other people and spent a lot of time together. We went to the Vans Warped Tour at the Thomas and Mack on June 23rd, rocked out to Alien Ant Farm, and moshed to Rancid. We went boating with Chad's friend Brett, and I tried to water ski. We went hiking the Lost Creek trail at Red Rock, and kissed under the waterfall. Chad was helping me pay my rent, because I had lost my job at the collections agency. And then he took me home to meet his family (he still lived at home). I spent Fourth of July with them. I ate meals at his house. His parents were kind and welcoming, and I felt so comfortable there. I rarely went home to my apartment if I could help it. We barely slept and I hardly studied (but thankfully passed all my summer classes anyway). Then I called my mom and told her I had met someone amazing. She knew from my voice that I was in love.
At some point during the next month we said the "L" word to each other. I remember that exchange pretty clearly, because I was afraid to say it. It's hard to explain why, because it was clear to me that I did love him. I guess I was worried that things were too good, and my hopes were too high, and I didn't want things to get screwed up, and part of me didn't trust myself (my relationship track record was pretty rocky). But Chad made me say it first, and once we "officially" loved each other it was downhill from there. We knew we were going to get married. I picked out a ring.
We planned on going to Washington so Chad could meet my family, and he wanted to plan the proposal during our trip (after he had gotten my dad's permission). He asked his mom for ideas on proposal ideas. She said something about how women love flowers and tuxedos. Chad made a plan, and he called my mom to enlist her help in procuring the flowers and a tuxedo. We flew to Washington and Chad met my family. We did some sight-seeing around Seattle, and went to a baseball game with my friends. Then it was time for the Echo Lake hike; a sort of rite of passage in our family. My dad, my friends Tina and Mackenzie, Chad, and I all backpacked to the campsite at the lake. We did the traditional trout fishing, and mostly tried to stay dry despite the constant drizzle. The next morning, Chad secretly woke up at 6:00 am and got in position for the big moment. Us girls were all still asleep, and Chad got impatient after about half an hour of hiding and waiting. Then I was awakened by what I thought were pine cones hitting our tent (Chad was throwing rocks to wake me up). Tina and Mackenzie were still snoozing away, so I unzipped the tent to investigate. As I went to put my shoes on, I saw a little yellow flower on my hiking boot, with a trail of flower petals leading way from it. I quickly put on my shoes and followed the trail to a tree stump on the other side of the clearing. There was a jewelry box sitting on it. When I opened it and discovered it was empty, I turned around. There was Chad, in a tuxedo, holding the ring. He got down on one knee, told me he loved me, and asked me to marry him. I teared up and said yes, and he slipped the ring on my finger.
Four months later we were married in the Las Vegas Temple. It was the best decision of my life.
Happy 11th anniversary, Chad. I love you.