I often get asked for the story behind Kristin and I meeting each other and how the entire relationship came to be. I’ve shared the short version of the story perhaps one hundred or more times, but I don’t believe that I’ve ever turned it into a long-form story for all to read. She says she doesn’t get mentioned enough in my blog, so Krissy – this one’s for you! 😉
Nine years ago this week (January 4th, 2003 to be exact), Kristin and I went on our first date. Looking at the calendar this week and realizing how much time has gone by just blew my mind and it’s beyond my comprehension how, despite the years, it still feels like we should be counting months.
But first, we’ll go back to the previous July. The previous year, I had lost a decent job in Columbus to a merger and was having trouble finding something to get me by. Lost in the world, I decided I would make lemonade out of the lemons life kept handing me by crossing an item off my bucket list… operating a roller coaster. I packed up what I could and threw the rest in storage and headed for Sandusky after being accepted at Cedar Point as a ride host for Power Tower. It wasn’t a coaster, but I figured I could get there eventually. Clearly, I wasn’t at a point in my life where I had set my sights too high.
There was on-site housing at Cedar Point and this is where I lived. None of the housing was private; I chose a four person single-room dorm and met the guys who would be my roommates for the summer. I had gone from the comfort and privacy of my apartment to sharing a single small room with complete strangers and my income was cut by about two thirds. I tried to keep my head up but I didn’t expect the sun to come out any time soon.
Life went on and I was trained and prepped and uniformed and the season got under way. Fast forward to July on a day that couldn’t have been less than 90 degrees. The sun had indeed arrived, literally speaking, and was about to shine on me metaphorically as well. Three young girls came through the line while I was in the seat-checking position and, as is pretty customary between ride ops and teenage girls, there were some lighthearted flirtatious comments made before liftoff. They came through a couple more times that day and I did my best to make sure I was there as opposed to up in the air conditioned control booth I typically preferred.
These girls were a riot. I had several interactions per day like this but this one was more entertaining somehow. I’m not sure if it was the mismatched two-striped tube socks or just the ridiculous line of conversation, but it sure didn’t feel like work. Somewhere in the momentary chats before and after launch, I passed along my AIM screen name (2003, remember?) to continue our random craziness later. I didn’t admit it to myself at the time, but the quiet girl in the group was exceptionally cute and I was hoping to get her to talk eventually.
Turns out, the quiet one of the group talked plenty. After getting her screen name and chatting for a bit, I learned she worked at Toot Sweets, a dessert shack near the back of the park. We decided to work out a way to take a lunch together, then another, and then it became a regular occurrence. We were friends.. I was still in a relationship and she claimed to be at the time. Besides, I wasn’t supposed to be seen with an underage “green tag” anyway. Yet here we were, having lunch every day and chatting on AIM every night. I guess I should’ve seen it coming quite a bit sooner.
The season ended. I found a house to rent and a temp job at a magazine distribution facility in the area. We kept chatting but we didn’t see each other after she quit in August. Hiding behind our keyboards made us feel a little more bold, a little less vulnerable to the reality of our situation and we started arriving at the conclusion that we weren’t just talking because we shared the same taste in so many things… there was something a bit more “real” developing that neither of us had anticipated. It wasn’t the easiest realization for my 22 year old self nor my 14 year old friend. The world has a way of placing people in awkward situations with no clue on how to proceed.
At some point, I think it must have been around my 23rd birthday in October, I decided that it was time to stop pretending this wasn’t happening. I suggested a movie. She accepted. I immediately became a nervous wreck because I literally had no idea how I was going to pull this off, but I knew that it was too late to turn back. Time went by and we arrived at that date I mentioned earlier.. January 4th, 2003. I arrived at her house for the first time and she came to the car. She let me know that her mother was under the impression I was, let’s say, a bit younger than I was. *gulp*
We got lost on the way to the movie theater. I’d never been in the town we were heading for and I learned quite early that Kristin is not in charge of navigation. 🙂 Eventually, though, I asked at a gas station, where the clerk let me know I had been going the wrong direction for quite some time and set us back on the right course. She wasn’t nervous about being lost in the middle of nowhere with me, so that was comforting at least.
Lord of the Rings 2 was our choice.. neither of us had seen the first one, but it was the longest movie playing at the time and we just wanted to be together longer, being the first time we had seen each other since admitting our feelings. Apparently, the movie was a little too long as she fell asleep on my shoulder about halfway through.
(I cannot explain in words how amazing it feels to know that someone could trust you so much, so quick that they are literally comfortable enough to fall asleep on your shoulder on your first date.)
Months passed before we saw each other again, but we started talking constantly via AIM and phone. I fell hard and fast for this girl and her mock reluctance fooled me into falling even harder and faster. When the next season started at Cedar Point, every moment near that park was planned out to the minute so we could enjoy our lunch breaks together, ride coasters before and after work and just generally spend time around each other whenever we could. I was moved to Corkscrew, a classic coaster that I fell in love with, and she was moved to Coasters, a 1950’s diner-style burger joint at the edge of the Corkscrew.
That was the best summer of my life, and when I need nostalgia, I just think of her and I meeting beside Coasters after work to just sit and talk. Eventually, she left Cedar Point again and I was offered a great job in Columbus that I couldn’t resist. Sadly, we parted… and two weeks later, we decided that the distance couldn’t stop us. On August 19th, 2003, we made the relationship official. We’d make it through anything and everything together; we’d be the ones that proved everyone wrong.
I put thousands of miles on my car driving to see her every third weekend, then every other weekend, then every weekend. Eventually, I couldn’t take any more goodbyes and I went all in – I quit my job, broke my lease and moved back to Vermilion with nothing but my love for her to keep me going. After two months of being unemployed, I was hired at Best Buy in Sandusky and this July, I’ll celebrate eight years with the company. Thirty-two days later, I’ll celebrate nine years with the girl of my dreams.
Sure, there have been some rough patches. Life isn’t a fairy tale. Her older sister definitely wanted to see me die a slow and painful death and fighting the school board to let us attend her senior prom was a rather unique experience. However, I stood my ground and declared our love as the real thing. I told them all to check back in a decade for their proof. I know people say things like that all the time, but in our case, it really meant something. In a decade, our ages wouldn’t matter anymore.
We have one year to go and it’s only getting better.
There’s so much that came after those first few chapters, so many ways she’s improved my life and helped me achieve things I once thought impossible, but I can’t type all night. Perhaps I’ll go a little more in depth in a few weeks on the rest of these first nine chapters and get some more of our story out there for the masses. Regardless of all that, the tenth chapter will be bringing me home to her this year and I can’t wait to live it.
In this book, every chapter has a happy ending.