Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Engagement Story Part II: Milestones and Memories
I've told the story of how Rebecca and I met. That was almost 2-1/2 years ago. In that time, we passed a few dating milestones. This is the story of those milestones, in snippets. Enjoy.
April 10 2007: Our First Dance
We were not yet a couple, though I asked Rebecca if she'd be interested in going to a dance. The UT Orange and White Ball was fast approaching, and the rumor was that the UT Ballroom Dance Club was in charge of music: there would be waltzing and swing dancing, primarily, and good clean dancing in general. She immediately liked the idea of going, and $30 later I had a pair of tickets. Only one problem remained: Rebecca didn't know how to dance.
If memory serves, we planned to go to the Fed to practice some swing dancing the week before. That, I could show her. And we needn't do anything fancy to have fun, and why worry about looking cool--there are plenty of people who show up to these dances and know nothing about dancing, so even repeating the basic step with a few spins would be dancing enough.
Yet, even the thought of venturing to the Fed unprepared was a bit worrisome, so earlier that week she asked me over to her apartment to teach her the basic swing step. And so it occurred that I came on a Tuesday evening to her apartment, and there in that living room she took her first steps in that strange world of rhythmic motion, and learned the six-counted step of single-time swing.
The floor may have been less-than ideal (or even suitable), for the carpet surely damps the motion of the stepping. Yet we found a Frank Sinatra song with some swing to it, and than other songs which served as well. And in that tiny space we danced for the better part of an hour--in what was our first dance together.
April 20, 2007: The Orange and White Ball
Soon enough, the big date actually arrived. We had planned to go to dinner with friends before-hand: you can't go dancing until you've eaten, after all. I arrived at her house that evening to pick her up. I stepped to the door and knocked. The door opened, and there she stood.
She had chosen a green cocktail dress for the night, and it did an amazingly good job of bringing out the red of her hair. Earrings dangled near her shoulders, and here blue-hazel eyes held both the serenity and the fury of the seas. She invited me in--thus bringing me back to earth--and said that she had a few last things to do before she was ready.
Minutes later, I drove her to the Brazilian restaurant where we would be meeting our friends. We made some small talk until they joined us, and then it was into the restaurant and to the table, with all of the usual interrupted activities of talking and then ordering and then talking some more.
I had been thinking about whether I wanted to ask her out (officially) or to stay friends until after the summer--it was fast approaching. I didn't know it at the time, but similar thoughts were going through her head: half-hoping that I would ask her out, half hoping that I wouldn't. It was pretty early in the relationship yet, so of course neither of us really knew where the other stood. What we did each know is that the other was pretty ambivalent about the whole dating thing; there is certainly something to be said about the societies which do not put their members through the whole ordeal which is modern dating.
Fate, ever the agent of Providence, decided the matter for us when our eve-so-awkward friend would ask--out of the blue, I might add--how long we had been dating. The silence of the next few seconds was palpable. We replied in unison that we weren't dating. It felt like a scene out of a bad romantic comedy (pardon my being redundant). That, of course, changed by the end of the night when I did ask her out. Apparently, patience does not always profit.
Dinner concluded and we drove together to the the ball, and that's exactly what we had that night. There is a certainly feeling of exhaustion which comes naturally to anyone who has ever tried to walk (let alone dance) for several hours--doubly so in dress shoes or heels. We both rediscovered this feeling that night, though how we danced! 'Twas as if, in that room crowded by hundreds if not thousands, we alone were unwatched by the eyes of Texas. Or perhaps it was the other way around. We danced in the only manner in which one ought to dance: the carefree one, the one which might be summarized by Chesterton, that anything worth doing is also worth doing badly.
September 20, 2007: Our First Kiss
I'm not going to share the details of this one so much as the ambiance. This story perhaps explains why we like stargazing so much, though we did some stargazing before then. This is one of my few happy memories relating to St Edward's, a university with which I associated more often sadness than joy, even after considering the friends I have from there.
We had just dropped by to say hi to my brother, and had left his dorm. It was a relatively clear night--as clear as the light pollution from the university and the city would allow--and we decided to go for a walk in the moonlight (or would those be streetlights?). Whatever else may be said about St Edward's University, they certainly have a nice view of the town, and the stars are actually visible in spite of the lights--a thing which can barely be said about UT.
So we found ourselves strolling along the hill top, gazing first at the city, then the sky, and at last into each others' eyes, and at last back to the stars. It was in this setting that we shared our first kiss. And after more stargazing and eye gazing, and a few whispered words, we continued o our walk.
We came at last to Our Lady's grotto, that loving little hole in the hill in which may be found a small shrine, where we stopped to pray, for even in those romantic evenings when two people want to be alone together, there is room to stop and ask for the Lord's blessing, and to thank Him Who made this possible. And in today's culture, it wouldn't help to ask the Virgin Mother for help on the chastity front, even if the more blatant sins of fornication are far from our minds. Our Lord's and Our Lady's blessings having been prayed, we continued our stroll, pausing perhaps to count the other blessings thus far in our lives.
December 2007-January 2008: Her First Visit to Oregon
God may have blessed Texas with His own hand, but most of the scenic views from heaven are of Oregon. This is a point which I had made a number of times to Rebecca, and so she was quite excited to come at last to Oregon, even if during the winter. And though I had since met her parents and both siblings, she had not yet met either of mine. Thus, this was a big trip for her.
It was her first time to the West Coast; her first time skiing; really, her first time seeing that much snow at all (we went to Bend and Mount Bachelor). The skiing was more fun for me than for her (she ended up inner-tubing with my cousin the second day we were there. Mostly, this was a time to meet the whole family (and oh boy did she!). The old saying that when you marry a person, you marry his family is true to the extent that you marry into his family--so it was good for her to finally meet my family, even at this stage of our relationship. What is dating if not a preparation for marriage, after all.
The views of the mountains all around us on that trip were breathtaking for me, and even more so for her (she is from the plains area of Texas). The coast she described as "surreal"--even if we got rained on for most of the time there. She will forever remember riding Jose' (the farm's pony) and feeding the giraffe. I will never forget seeing her standing by the shore as the waves crashed upon a rock, foam spilling over its jagged edge.
January 2009: My First Trip to Canyon
At this point in the relationship, I had long since met most of Rebecca's immediate family. I had not, however, driven to her hometown (Canyon, about 9 hours of driving through the midlands of Texas followed by the plains in the Texas panhandle). The drive was pretty long and boring, but the trip was worthwhile.
I mentioned that when you marry a person, you marry her family, so it was a pleasure to meet her uncle and grandmother. It was also a pleasure to see the house in which she grew up, to walk around her neighborhood, and to watch the sunrise through sleep-blurred eyes as we prayed our morning prayers together. Hiking through Palo Duro Canyon, for which Canyon is named, was also invigorating. However, I will probably never forget her directions to me as we drove to her house that first night:
"Now take a right turn, and it will be the brick house on the left."
And I turned onto a street filled with brick houses.
These are some of the milestones of our relationship, and some of the memories I've had leading up to the engagement. This isn't exhaustive, by any means. I wish I had the time to reminisce over Wildseed Farm, or meeting her parents for the first time, or our cayacking trip along Barton Springs--or any of a hundred other memories. But this is all the time I have for today. Thanks for the memories, and let us pray for many, many more good memories together. It is not the end of this engagment story, however, for there is more to be told.