Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A decade later

Rock N' Roll Runza, Lincoln (man I miss that place!)
Tonight, it will have been ten years since Sweetie's and my first date. Ten years. A decade.


We had worked at church camp together during the summer of 1996. She was a counselor, I was a Site Manager (which basically meant I was the direct supervisor of 10-15 counselors each week). I knew she was a helluva counselor, so for most of the summer I requested to have her at the site that I managed. That summer especially, good counselors that you could count on were prized treasures, and Sweetie was one of the best.

She was also pretty darn cute.

Not that I noticed, of course. I was, after all, her supervisor, and she had a boyfriend and I was engaged to someone else (long story for a different time).

So the summer flew by, we got to know each other pretty well as friends and co-workers, then the fall came and we lost touch.

In December, for a number of reasons, all of which are unimportant to this particular story, my fiancee and I broke off our engagement.

Then came an announcement that in February, there would be a 2-day reunion for camp staff from the previous summer.

Sooooo....with that scene set, I arrived the first day looking forward to reconnecting with some old friends and just getting a taste of camp life again. As an aside, in my opinion every Christian ought to work at least one summer at a church camp while in college. There's a very real sense of community and living faith that in many ways makes it a more powerful experience for staff than it even is for the campers. And it's the perfect environment to discern and connect with your personal sense of call.

So I get to the reunion, I'm enjoying hobnobbing with everyone, including Sweetie, when a friend of mine pulls me aside. Telling me about Sweetie, she asked me, "did you hear that she recently broke up with her boyfriend?"

Oh reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally? I was immediately interested.

I was also a big fat chicken. Because even though I had this information, and even though I totally wanted to ask her out, I didn't. Which was a problem, because the reunion was a Saturday to Sunday affair, and I worked as a youth director and needed to be back at my church 130 miles away for Sunday morning. I don't think I even talked to her again after I found out that she wasn't seeing anyone anymore.

So there I was on the interstate very early Sunday morning (5 AM or so), alternately dreaming about "what-if" and hitting myself over the head with mental anvils for being an idiot chicken and not doing something to allow any of the "what-ifs" to come to fruition.

I made a decision. If I attended the early service, my Sunday School duties would be done by 10:45 or so, and I could drive back to the camp to be less of a chicken. I could get there around 12:30, and still have a little while to redeem myself before the reunion ended (I forget exactly when, but maybe 2 or 3). So that's exactly what I did. Even then though, it wasn't until everything was done and everyone was getting ready to leave that I finally mustered up the courage to go to Sweetie and say "it was great seeing you again."

"Yeah, you too."

"I oughta give you a call sometime. We should get together, get caught up, you know, just talk...whatever..."

"Sure, here's my number." (YESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!)

"Cool. I'll call sometime."

The next day, I called. It was a Monday, so I asked if she wanted to meet for dinner on Friday. She lived in Lincoln, and I was almost 2 hours away, so I offered to come and meet her at the only place in town I knew how to find at the time...Rock and Roll Runza. We agreed on a time and hung up, and I started doing a victory dance there by myself in my house.

And singing a victory song. Catchy little ditty.

So I danced and sang my way over to the calendar, and looked.

Friday was February 14th.

Holy Crap! I just asked her out on Valentine's Day!

Well, this changes everything! She'll be expecting cards, flowers, a limo, candlelight, a string quartet serenading us the whole evening, and probably Josh Groban personally singing You Raise Me Up in a private concert! Well, I can't do a bunch of that other stuff on limited time and Hmmmm....maybe not on the very first date...don't want her to run away screaming in the night, fearing for her life from her gentleman stalker.

But a card? Yeah, I need to do that.

Do you, dear reader, have any idea how hard it is to find a Valentine's Day card that tells someone you really kinda like them without being too over-the-top or too cynical? Something you can give someone on a first date when you accidentally asked them out on the "day of love" and even though you really do like them a lot and hope that you can become more serious, you still realize that this is only the beginning?

After (I kid you not) almost 3 hours in the Hallmark store, I finally found the card. It was a Garfield card...he had a Nestle Crunch candy bar in his hand. On the outside I think it just said "Valentine..."

On the inside it said "I have a crunch on you!"

It was perfect. Cute, but not too cute. It said that there were feelings there while acknowledging that at the time, it was just a crush...but hopefully she'd read into it that I wouldn't mind exploring if there was more to it. Not too sappy, not cynical, not stupid.

Now the next problem was what if things went really well at dinner and we wanted to spend more time together but didn't want to take up a table at the restaurant forever? Hmmm....okay, a movie! There should be some romantic movies out--it's Valentine's Day, right?

Let's see...The English Patient. It's about falling in love while you're cheating. Not the best first date movie.

Okay, here's one. In Love and War. Sounds like it could have possibilities. It has love for her, war for him. Chris O'Donnell for her, Sandra Bullock for him. Sandra plays a nurse (Sweetie was in nursing school) for her, Chris plays a writer (I was an English major) for him.


But what if there's a steamy sex scene or something? Talk about uncomfortable.

Soooo...early in the week, I previewed the movie. That's right, I went to the theater and watched a movie that I was planning on suggesting we watch during the date.

Satisfied that I had left no stone unturned, I went into Friday confident and ready to go!

Okay, I was actually nervous as hell.

And ten years ago tonight, Friday came. How did it go? Well, we're married, aren't we?

I'd say it went pretty well.

Sweetie, I love you. Even though I still spend a long time finding the right card for you, I'm glad I don't have to preview our movies anymore. I'm looking forward to many more years of dates with the girl I still have a "crunch" on.

Happy Valentine's Day.

And happy "Decade Date-a-versary!"


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