There were more than a few people surprised to hear I was getting married. It's not because I used to come across as completely un-marry-able. I think most people actually thought the opposite. I also don't think it's because my relational skills are completely lacking, though they kind of are. I think it was because most people I knew and interacted with at the time didn't know I was dating anyone. So, when I began introducing Gina as my fiance, there was usually a noticeable degree of "What!", even if they didn't actually say it. But our story started long before I began calling Gina my fiance, or my girlfriend, or my anything. Our story kind of started on a Sunday morning in the fall of 1998. I was teaching a Sunday school class for young singles, which I was myself, and everyone was mingling before the opening ceremonies. Opening ceremonies? Well, if you have ever been to singles Sunday school at a big church, you know it goes something like this:
- Arrive early and visit with other singles. Some guys, who aren't afraid to look too obvious, will look for attractive young ladies to arrive, especially those who appear to be new, and rush to "welcome" them to church and get the 411 (does she have a boyfriend, and all those other details) before anyone else.
- Everyone sings a few praise songs as a whole group. I always found this odd, because we all just came from the worship service, where we did plenty of singing. Of course, only a dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist like myself would even make such a ludicrous judgment, as if praising the Lord has some sort of quota that must be balanced with bible study and potluck luncheons. We Southern Baptists must be careful not to sing too many praise songs, or people might start closing their eyes and lifting their hands.
- Someone with a lot of energy and enthusiasm stands up and makes announcements, such as where everyone will be going to lunch afterwards or what the next singles' event (or as I called it, the next "group date, but not really") will be. Steps 2-3, when combined together, are "opening ceremonies" for the large singles' department.
- Everyone splits up into smaller bible study classes. You can choose your class based on: the topic, the teacher, the person you are trying to convince to go out with you, or whether they have donuts.
Anyway, back to my story. So I was mingling with some friends and contemplating if buying donuts would increase my class enrollment, when a friend of mine introduced me to one of her friends from college. The friend was Sherri, and her friend was Gina. I immediately thought Gina was attractive and thought, "Wow, I should try to get to know her a little more." But, by the time I had finished that thought, she was gone and being introduced to someone else. Well, it just so happens that she also came to my class after everyone split up, but that really didn't mean anything at the time. There were still about 40 people in the class, and I didn't talk with her again. Shortly after this particular Sunday, I began teaching a different class, and Gina started attending another class altogether, so I really never got to know her.
Fast forward about more than a year. By this time I was pursuing my dream of going to graduate school in Colorado, and my time as a member and teacher in the big singles' group was becoming a memory. One of my other friends, Charmaine, had called me and told me she would be in Colorado with the big singles' group in January to go skiing for a week. This was right before the spring semester started, and I was able to drive down and meet her to ski for one day. I actually drove down the night before and went to dinner with everyone before skiing the next day. My plan was to crash on the floor with some of the guys. That night everyone was supposed to pick up their ski equipment at the rental shop, so I stood in line with Charmaine and got caught up on all of the happenings in Texas since I had moved. Right in front of us was another small group of ladies (Gina, Lua, and some other people I can't remember). We all began talking, and I recognized Gina right away (though I couldn't remember her name). I still thought she was cute, but I thought it might be a little strange showing a lot of interest in one girl when I was there to go skiing with a different girl. So, everyone got their ski equipment, and that was that. I had a great day of skiing with Charmaine the next day, which was an excellent way to start the semester.
Almost one year later, I was in Texas visiting family for Christmas and the New Year. By this time, I was one semester away from graduating with my Master's and I was looking for a job in Colorado. It just so happened that during my visit, one of our good friends from Wyoming (Gregg) was getting married to a gal he met in college (Rachel). It was a great ceremony, and I was so glad it had worked out that I was able to attend while visiting Texas. I don't think I would have come down for the wedding otherwise. The pastor who married them was also a good friend (Jeff) who was a youth minister in Casper when I was in high school. The thing about weddings for me is that no matter how good the friends and the ceremony are, my real motive for attending is the reception. I mean, where else are you going to find an endless supply of mystery punch, party mints, mixed nuts and both chocolate and white cake? A baby shower, perhaps, but no thanks. As I was waiting in line for my second helping of cubed cheese, crackers and pineapple, I heard someone say, "Curby?" Actually, she may have said, "Kirby?" but I couldn't tell.
I turned around and there she was, Sherri's friend who I saw in the ski rental shop. But what was her name? Jenlaurmarallikatessica? Or something like that. Well, she obviously remembered me, and I would be able to put the pieces together after visiting with her for a minute. (She later confessed that she remembered my name but couldn't recall how she knew me). Well, that minute turned into about an hour, and before I knew it the reception was wrapping up. And I didn't get any cake. And I didn't seem to mind. Our conversation ended with us exchanging e-mail addresses because there was another ski trip coming up and I might be able to meet her to go skiing for a day. Oh, and her name was Gina.
Well, this serendipitous meeting almost ended tragically when my dad blew his nose in the napkin on which Gina had written her e-mail, but thankfully she followed up with me later that day. So, now I had her address in my contacts. Isn't 21st Century romance wonderful?
This wasn't exactly a romance at this point, though. I missed the ski trip because I had to teach. We wrote back and forth for awhile, though the messages were getting further and further apart. I graduated. My cousin was getting married in Texas, and I asked Gina if she would like to have dinner while I was in town. I considered this a date; she just thought we were having dinner. She paid (in celebration of my graduation, she said). We talked for a little while longer that night, then I flew back to Colorado. I think I e-mailed her when I got back, thanked her for dinner, etc. We may have written a little more, then she told me she was moving to North Carolina for graduate school. I was moving back to Wyoming to be a teacher. I wrote her sometime in November to see how graduate school was going, and she said her boyfriend was moving to North Carolina. Her who?! Oh well, I had papers to grade and kids to coach, and I was buying a house and we didn't really write that often anyway.
So, that seems like a good place to end for now. Let's recap: boy meets girl, boy teaches girl, boy moves away, boy sees girl on a trip, girl is very cute, girl sees boy at a wedding, boy finally learns girl's name, boy and girl decide to keep in touch this time, boy drops the ball, girl gives another chance, boy still can't hold onto the ball, girl decides to pursue a different happily-ever-after, boy settles into a new life.
What good is a story without some suspense? You will just have to come back to find out how this one ends. Wait, you already know how it ends. Well, it hasn't actually ended. It's still being written. OK, I'm confused now.