On May 24th, Tony and I will celebrate 5 years of marriage. (more wedding posts here and here!)
I feel like it's gone by pretty quickly, yet thinking back to the sweltering late-spring day when we made it official, it seems like we were just babies. Young and happy. Naive and optimistic and a little unsure of what the world held for us.
Perhaps we've now dropped the "young" and "naive" parts, but our happiness has expanded and matured and grown in a way we couldn't have fathomed on that May day five years ago.
Five years is just a blip compared to the decades and decades that stretch out before us. Yet I do think that these five will be some of the most fondly-remembered ones of our marriage. These years stretched us. These years loved us. These years certainly blessed us and shaped us and have set our lives on a course that we can embrace.
These years saw us through jobs and new jobs and money stresses and financial blessings. These years witnessed heartache and frustration and satisfaction and joy. These first five years led us to our baby. We learned together, we grew together, we schemed and dreamed together. These past five years were real.
Tony and I aren't the public affection type. Or even much of the private affection type (kidding. sorta...). We are both so perfectly in sync on how we love each other in that neither cares for gifts or declarations or grand gestures. And in truth, that's much how our relationship started.
(And guess what?!? Here's where I belabor the story of our love...)
It was fall of my sophomore year of college at the University of Georgia. I was feeling my independence and the need for cash and had decided I needed a job. I had browsed ads half-heartedly with little success. I happened to take a short cut through our student center one day and happened to notice a sign advertising a local job fair than happened to be going on that very moment (see what tales of fate hold? lots of "happened"s).
I decided I didn't have much to lose so I gave it a try. Seeing as how the job fair was school-sponsored, it held lots of strange companies and not quite the restaurant job I had in mind. I was about to leave when I saw one booth where the woman working it had the same black flower necklace that I had which was one of my favorites. I lingered longer, simply because of that necklace. She caught my eye and I walked up to her booth.
She was pitching the Holiday Inn that was super close to campus and Athen's lively downtown area. There were positions available in the on-site restaurant. I took a flyer and went home, brushing it off a bit. Yet as my options remained slim, I decided to apply. I remember asking my friends if it would be totally lame to work at a hotel restaurant, the Holiday Inn, no less (Chingy's song was in in those days...) We all decided that it probably was, but money was money.
I interviewed, wowed them with my college-student skills and prowess, and was told to come in for my first day. I was supposed to wear black pants, a white button down shirt, and the typical terrible non-slip shoes that make your feet look like they are immersed in black cement bricks. I am already shy and nervous in new places and felt like a total idiot walking in there that day.
(I know, this is terribly long already - sorry.)
As I entered the deserted restaurant and bar (a typical scene, I would soon discover...), a guy was standing behind the bar, watching tv, eating, and doing his homework. I quietly introduced myself as the new person and he barely looked my direction. "Friendly" and "welcoming" were not how you would describe him. I already felt like a fool and he didn't help. His name was Tony.
|(Thanks Addison, for capturing this special moment... ha!)|
|Don't tell the health department...|
We worked together in this way for nearly a year. He had a girlfriend, that I knew, and I remember passing by him one late night as we were both enjoying Mardi Gras with friends. It was the first time I started to notice him in a non-colleague sort of way.
|I'm eternally grateful to our friend who snapped this picture - we weren't dating yet - but I think Tony was already in love. :)|
I'll spare you the sappy details - but believe it or not (you wouldn't believe it if you know me in real life - I'm shy!) - I kissed him first.
Tony came into my life at a time when I needed him the most. He was unexpected. We didn't seek each other out or over-try, life simply brought us together and what blossomed was real.
We've never been sugar-coated or sappy and we like it that way. We don't take ourselves too seriously.
Tony makes me laugh every day. He supports me, he thinks of me in ways I am constantly surprised by. He knows what I like on a sandwich and knows to not give me the spoon used to scoop the ice cream because I don't like the sticky. He cares for me, and shows it in a way that is so uniquely him.
We spent the rest of our college years working together at that infamous Holiday Inn. We would bartend together and I would crack up as he won over the older single women who just wanted someone kind to talk to. He paid off my credit card balance so I wouldn't pay interest (I paid him right back!! He set us up right from the beginning, though, that's for sure...). We would go to Waffle House at 5 am after working the bar all day long on football game days and he would tip the waitress a $20 because we had a good night. He loved his dog Sandy in a way that was so very special. He painted me a music box when I insisted we do homemade gifts for Valentine's. He gave me a Christmas card that sang Feliz Navidad. He cooked for me, introducing me to a diet beyond cereal and mac and cheese. He made me happy.
Tony comes across crusty, just like he did that very first day I came to work, but spend just a few minutes getting to know him and you will see the kind, compassionate, selfless person who I have the pleasure of waking up to every single morning.
We bonded over restaurant exploring and beach trips and our dreams for the future. We didn't really talk about it, because we never needed to, but I knew I would marry him after only a few months of dating. It was just that easy. That real. No pretense, no crazy, just real. I blinked, and here we were, inextricably together with such ease.
Tony is the source of joy in my life. He makes me so very happy, each day. We don't live in a fairy tale, and we don't get into big shows of romance and affection. But the real, the real life we live each day is full of happiness and joy.
One April Saturday, when I was out of town on a day trip for school, Tony woke up, made a decision, and drove to Atlanta and bought me a ring. When I got home that evening, he let me pick a movie (Love Actually!) and afterwards, as we were just talking, he went into his closet, nonchalantly. My heart started racing because I could just tell something was off. He emerged with some laundry and I felt silly for letting my mind get ahead. Minutes later, he was talking, telling me all of the wonderful things that were so true and so wonderful about our lives. He asked me to marry him and I said yes among tears and shaky hands. I so wish I could remember what he said (that was the first and likely the last time I will ever get that kind of emotion out of him!!)
Before we knew it, we were growing up. Out in the big, wide world with our big dreams. We lined up jobs, we figured out where we were going to live. We were so eager to grow up and be adults. We were thrilled with the idea of our lives together, facing it all together.
Well, we soon learned that we were a little too eager to grow up, since the real world holds real struggles and efforts, but life surged on anyway. We built our lives together and learned how the real world worked, slowly but surely.
We bought a house.
We got married.
We had a baby.
A silly little necklace brought us together. Or fate. Or something bigger. (I'm going to go with that one). The last five years of marriage have been so revealing: life is at times plain or boring or stressful or rocky, but at times, life can truly surprise you. It can make you so incredibly happy that you wonder how you could have ever really and truly been "living" before. Tony is my all, and I am so grateful we've traversed these paths together, and will forever more.