Despite dating three years, this past Christmas marked the first I spent with my now-husband J. When we met at a Bronx subway station on a frigid January night in 2014, I dropped my MetroCard, startled by J’s looks. It was a groan worthy cliché –especially when J, ever suave, gave me his MetroCard, mine already lost.
We met on a pre-Tinder dating site. I encompassed another cliché—that of grudgingly content single woman in her early thirties, yearning, even desperate for love—until I wasn’t. Other dreams existed: future hobby farms, published books. But while I was no longer yearning, exactly, nor desperate, lifelong love remained my biggest hope—even if I was currently burnt out. So I would let my latest Match subscription run a month, then give up another six.
I loved relationships, despite my scant history scored with brief, failed connections in between. With J I felt something I had never felt toward a prospective partner before: overwhelming tenderness.
We talked so much within minutes of meeting we missed our first two trains. Once on the subway, we continued chatting past our Manhattan stop, landing in Brooklyn. Along the way, J’s knee knocked against mine. It felt more intimate than a first kiss. Our second date three days later ended with a first kiss—and then some—in an alley adjacent to Times Square. We would be together, I knew then, together, perhaps, a long time.
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Friends who declared that relationships were “easy,” that you just “knew” when you found “the One” terrified me. I’d been wrong before. Though I knew our connection was unique, it was hard to trust it. When a married friend said a relationship with the right person shouldn’t be hard—ever—I second-guessed myself.
J and I started our days shuttling between my Connecticut condo and J’s place in the Bronx and later Manhattan. We dealt with challenges that tested our relationship.
Now I know those trials were necessary for our growth—to bend but not break, so to speak. I am grateful for not giving up.
To mark my first Christmas in J’s native Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, his mother sewed me a giant stocking featuring cats frolicking under a Christmas tree. Since we’d arrived the day before, she’d ushered me twice into her sewing room to consult on the stocking’s colors. Though unable to sew a button, I helped craft bows out of string and agreed the beaded “ornaments” should be sewed in sweeping rows across the tree.
Later, sitting with J in a cozy pub in downtown Coeur d’Alene, I joked about all the gifts that could fit into such a huge stocking. “Or maybe lots of small things, too,” I half kidded, emboldened by a single glass of Chardonnay.
Amused, J’s eyes brightened. Without a word, he reached into his coat, revealing a small velvet stocking.
I pulled out the delicate opal ring set in a slim gold band—J’s great-grandmother’s engagement ring.
We called parents, friends. Paid our bill and meandered to the Coeur d’Alene Resort to celebrate.
We planned our elopement in five days. The decision came after my mother relayed my father’s suggestion to marry while we were in Idaho.
It was the blessing we had hoped for but dared not expect. The plan worked—as a writer and PhD student, money is tight. Most venues with elopement packages can become expensive when you tack on a handful of extra guests. Besides, within two days of our engagement, I’d already emailed my mother links to a dozen venues in upstate New York, Connecticut, and Idaho. In less than a week, we were crazed.
Now a soothing calm descended. By New Year’s Eve, we’d acquired our license. An impromptu visit to a Coeur d’Alene boutique resulted in buying a pink chiffon dress (under $100!) with a cream-colored wrap.
We lined up an officiant and photographer within hours. Reservations were made at an upscale restaurant for dinner, complete with simple chocolate cake for dessert. I made an appointment at a salon to get my nails and hair done. A suite was booked at a local bed and breakfast for our wedding night.
My mother, sick with what turned out to be severe bronchitis, booked my father a trip to Idaho two days before we tied the knot. Though not able to go, she was thrilled for us—a blessing itself.
The day went by quickly. Simplicity suited us. My father cried enough for everyone. I was remarkably composed, more excited than nervous or emotional.
This morning my mother-in-law texted me a photo of a gorgeous sunrise. It was a wonderful way to kick off our first day as husband and wife.