I would like to share the story of how Mike and I met each other and fell in love. I thought it was an appropriate time of the year, having just celebrated Valentine's Day.
I was 21, and I worked at the Christian Book and Gift Store. Emilee was a manager there. She trained me as the store's "visual merchandiser" (a job I absolutely loved!!). We became good friends and hung out a lot outside of work. She and her husband Ken got four tickets to a KC Royals game and Emilee asked me if I wanted to go to the game with them. She said that Ken was inviting one of his friends too.
"We're not trying to set you up or anything, nothing like that... it's not a date... it's NOT a DATE!!!" they both urged emphatically.
So we went to meet Ken's friend (guess who!) at IBM, where Mike still works. When he walked out of the building, I thought he was good-looking, but I didn't form any opinions about him since I didn't know him. I had never dated anyone before (unless you count the guys I met in a Christian chat room, but that's another post... plus, I didn't like any of them once I actually met them); I wanted to wait to date until I knew I was willing to marry the man I was dating.
Some might say this is idealistic, but I knew what I wanted and wasn't going to settle for less. I know that I had been protected from a lot of heartache since I didn't attach myself emotionally to anyone before Mike came along. I had learned a lot about courtship over the years, and I really didn't want to get hurt by quickly developing an in-depth relationship with someone and then having him break it off because he wasn't as serious as I was. I wasn't going to date, I was going to court (makes me sound like a criminal!). I had my mind made up, and nothing and no one would change it. WELL.
After the baseball game we all went to Sylas and Maddy's for ice cream, and we sat at this little round table. It was so small that we couldn't really all scoot up all the way to the table. I sat across from Emilee, and Mike sat across from Ken. Which meant that I was sitting next to Mike. We had to sit so close together that our knees kept on bumping, and I was a bit embarrassed about it at first, but quickly realized that it wouldn't do any good to get embarrassed and red-faced about something that didn't seem to matter to him, and I tried not to pay attention to it, but it was hard!!
Mike and I got to know each other a little better over the next couple of months (we met in July of 2001), by going to Ken and Emilee's house and playing cards and visiting with them. I kept asking Emilee if this guy was ever going to show any interest in me (yeah, I was already starting to change my mind about the whole dating/courtship thing), but she said that she wouldn't give him my phone number unless he asked her for it. Well, I must have bugged her about it every day at work, because I really liked this guy!!
He was a Christian, and he was polite, funny, witty, smart, and "established" (he already had a house and he had worked at IBM for a long time). Those had all been on my list of requirements for my "perfect courtship relationship". I knew I didn't want to get involved with a guy who didn't have a steady job. I didn't have any age "requirements", but an older guy was probably going to fit my ideal a bit better. The fact that Mike is eight years older than I am is a definite plus, in my opinion!
So anyway, here I was pestering Emilee about Mike, when is he going to call me, do you think he's even interested in me, and on and on... I'm sure I drove her nuts. Then one day, about 3 months after our first (it's not a) date, I got a call from him. I knew it was him because we had caller ID, and when I saw his number I whooped and shrieked and told Mom he was finally calling me!!! I'm sure she was relieved, because she had heard little from me but "Mike this, Mike that" for a very long time... maybe since the day I met him?
He WAS calling to ask me out, and he came by either that night or the next to pick me up for dinner. Our first real date after months of getting together in a group setting... I'd say it wasn't too far from courtship standards. Call it "modern courtship". Plus, I was 21 and he was 29, and neither of us were immature by any means. Since neither one of us could decide where to go to eat (a problem we still have to this day), we ended up going to a place we really aren't too crazy about, but we did have a great time talking.
He kept asking me "What does that face mean?" whenever he thought I was having a facial reaction to anything. Well, apparently I don't even know when my face decides to do something, because most of the time when he thought I was making a face, I hadn't been thinking about anything in particular, and was just chewing or smiling. He says he was just trying to figure me out and get to know me better, but that had to be the most annoying thing that happened that night. I don't know why I thought it was annoying, because now I enjoy it when he asks me what my facial expressions mean. Hmmm... Anyway, other than that it was fantastic. He cracked great jokes, knew how to have a good conversation, and didn't just let me talk the whole time, but also asked intelligent questions, and he responded with more than one-word answers to my questions! What a guy!!
We soon established a pattern. Mike only worked about 2-3 minutes from where my parents lived, but he lived about 30 minutes away in another city, so almost every weeknight he would come from work, pick me up and take me to dinner and the occasional movie, and then he'd bring me back home and go home himself. During the next two months that's how it went.
Then he went to Paris with Ken and Emilee and his parents and Ken's parents for a week. It was a VERY long week, and I missed him so much!! When they got back, he took me to dinner and gave me some presents (a soft, fuzzy black scarf; some chocolates; an Eiffel Tower keychain; some laser-cut glass blocks with the Eiffel Tower etched into them) . I loved the presents, but I was just glad to have him home! I had decided that he was the one for me. Now I just had to wait for him to figure it out too. When he got home it was late November, and we continued our "pattern" for a few more weeks, until one night at Applebee's. By this time I was working at EXPO design center, and Applebee's was right across the street from where I worked. No hard decisions there!
We sat down and made small talk for a while, and then I got really quiet. He asked me what was wrong and had to prod me a bit before I finally came out and asked him what he wanted from our relationship. Where were we going? We had never even held hands, and yet it seemed like we were pretty serious! He told me that he had always been a "one-woman man" and that he had assumed that we were going to exclusively date each other and be a couple. He asked what I wanted from "a relationship". Not knowing that he actually meant our relationship, I said "Well, I want to get married! I want to have children and be a stay-at-home mom." I'm sure this surprised him, and he probably thought I was being very bold. But I hadn't understood him and I just assumed he was asking me what I wanted out of life in general. I found all of this out after we had been married for a couple of years and had a conversation about that date!
Anyway, when I went home that night and the next day told Mom that we were "official". Mom said something to the effect of "It's about time!" and "You're getting married, right?" I just couldn't help myself. I cracked up laughing and told her that no, we'd just decided to officially be a couple until further notice. She seemed a bit disappointed!
Mike and I continued dating for 2 more months (during which time we looked at rings just "for future reference"), and then he took me to a special Italian restaurant called Gambucci's on Valentine's Day, 2002. After we were done eating, he said he needed to use the restroom. This wasn't typical, but I didn't suspect anything yet. Well, when he came back from "the restroom", his shirt was wet with raindrops (it hadn't been raining when we came in). Hmmm... Now I was suspicious. He sat back down in his seat, but he didn't stay there for long. Before I knew it, he was kneeling beside my seat and opening a box with a beautiful ring and asking me to be his wife forever. It was such a wonderful moment, and I answered with a hearty "Yes!!" and hugged him tight while the people seated near us looked on and smiled. He sat next to me in the booth and we talked for a long time. The waitress had apparently seen what happened, and they came out and took our picture, so now I can look at it and always remember how happy I was at that moment. It was so special!!
We talked over the next week and decided on September 21st of that same year as our wedding day, and seven months of planning and preparation later, we were married in our church. We did all of the decorating ourselves, except for the bouquets; I had a TON of help from my very artistic friends and family. The music was played mostly by the church pianist, who did a beautiful job. He always wowed us every Sunday with his talent, and it was no different at our wedding. Everything went off without a hitch (except ours, of course!). I started getting teary-eyed when Dad gave me away, but managed to compose myself. The only time we could have messed up was when we almost forgot to blow out the two small candles on either side of the unity candle. But we remembered at the very last second. Maybe it was because Wesley, my brother, was playing "How Beautiful" on the trumpet (he's a very talented musician!) and we were so overcome that it was hard to remember much of anything at that time! I finally lost it when, after we enjoyed our kiss as Mr. and Mrs. Kidwell(!) the recessional started playing, and I was so overwhelmed with everything that I started crying as we walked back up the aisle. They were tears of joy, and I was able to pull myself together so that I could greet everyone as a newly married woman. I felt so fulfilled and peaceful at that moment.
The feeling gets stronger every day.