Part III, and the last! Here are Parts I and II.
We left off with an important question hanging from Tom’s lips…
Silence in my brain. Utter shock, probably, on my face. I consciously reminded myself not to let my jaw drop. How in the world, how, had he read my mind?! I had wanted to hear nothing else from Tom since the day I met him, really. And here, at a table of about 12 people, in the middle of a very ordinary conversation, he asked it. I think I smiled and said, “Yeah, I’d love to!” and then heard Stephen, our friend who was one-half of the other date say, “Ohhh, did I just hear the magic words??” Apparently, all the friends who had taken Tom to the show were in on his plan and had been helping him prep for the nerve-wracking task of asking me out. If they only knew how easy it would’ve been for him all along! Tom confessed he had meant to do it on the car ride over, and had chickened out both times. I felt oddly tickled by the fact that there was something intimidating about me to him. We worked out the details, and then texted back and forth a few times in the next few days. I had mentioned some time before this that I would gladly watch the new Harry Potter movie in theatres with him since he hadn’t been able to, and assumed he’d drum up his usual crowd to go. However, on Sunday night, a week before our date, he called me up as I was helping dissemble the set from the musical. He asked if I wanted to see Harry Potter the following Tuesday, and explicitly added, “just you and me.” Those four words did it. Up till then, I was still forcing myself to believe that even the date and his obvious interest was some fluke or passing fancy on his part; but when he said that he wanted to go out even sooner, with just me, knowing I’d be the one to pick him up, I knew. This was a little something more than fleeting interest. He then said we should throw in dinner beforehand, but since dinner and movie is a lame first date, I was not allowed to call it that, and the berry-picking was to be recorded in our history as our official first date.
The week night “non-first date” was so much fun, and all the butterflies and uncertainties I’d been feeling as I prepared washed away as soon as I saw him waiting on the curb outside, propped on his crutches. We talked non-stop during dinner, and reluctantly took a break during the movie. Tom, as he told me later, used the dark theater as an excuse to stare at me intermittently throughout. I was totally oblivious (I guess engrossed in the film I’d already seen? Oops!). We parted ways even more reluctantly that night, looking forward to Sunday and our first official date. Sunday came bright and early, as our date was to start with morning mass. I was still recovering from a pretty nasty head cold or flu, but I was determined. Nothing would get in the way of the date I’d waited to be asked on for 5 months, even if my internal temperature did feel close to that of the humid August air outside. The infamous Sunday date lasted from about 10:30 AM until 10:00 PM, and included mass, a fancy brunch at a French restaurant, berry and peach picking with our friends, and a barbecue at Tom’s friends’ from college. For some reason, this intense first date didn’t cause me to think twice at all. I felt so natural and right spending my entire day with Tom, and gladly assented to coming over to his apartment the following Tuesday to cook a meal with Les and Stephen using our farm pickings.
By this time, we were starting to rack up dates, and I knew my feelings for him were not just a passing fancy. I jumped at every opportunity to spend time with Tom, and when I was with him, time flew by at an alarming speed. He seemed pretty interested in me as well, and was being exceedingly gentlemanly about all our dates, setting up details and logistics and making everything absolutely a blast. Yet I still reminded myself to steady on; after all, the whole thing could fizzle out and I didn’t want to get overly attached. But on Tuesday evening when I went to Tom’s to prep our dinner, something did feel different. We grocery shopped and cooked together in his kitchen, and I sensed a deeper intimacy than casual friends dating. Maybe it was the chills I felt when I offered him a taste test off the spoon or the way we had to keep dancing around each other in the narrow kitchen. Either way, cooking with someone can be a very telling activity: do we collaborate well? Enjoy creating something together? Laugh over our inevitable mistakes? Yes to all. The evening was going well, and Les and Stephen arrived to eat and chat a while, but left soon after. I stayed and as usual, Tom and I talked for another several hours. He walked me out to my car and I started thanking him for the evening.
He said he had really been enjoying the last few days together, to which I heartily agreed. Then my heart stopped for a second, because suddenly he was asking if I wanted to make it more official and would I be his girlfriend? Thank God for straightforward men. I immediately said yes, and as I drove home that night, I suddenly realized the significance of the date on which we’d met: March 19th, the feast of St. Joseph, patron of finding a spouse. I was truly still in shock about this dream that had just materialized, and tried not to over-analyze the St. Joseph thing.
But as the next few weeks rolled by, and we spent every day adventuring together before we both had to start teaching, so many things clicked into place. God may not create soulmates for us, but He absolutely creates and forms a person for us to marry, if we’re called to that. I was floored by how perfectly Tom had been prepared for me. Even the silly little preferences that aren’t deal-breakers, such as a man who loves music and singing and letter-writing and British period pieces; all were fulfilled in Tom. And the big things– a great sense of humor and fun, a (hugely) bright intellect, a compassionate heart, and an ardent faith, well, they were there in spades. He wrote me a beautiful letter the week we started dating that explained why he was dating me, which was essentially to see if we were called to marriage. For once, I had no doubts, didn’t second guess, or nervously over analyze the relationship.
Wine-tasting with my brother and sister-in-law (their way to see if Tom was “good enough”. He passed!!)
Marriage was talked of casually from the get-go, but it was around Thanksgiving that we really started to discuss it earnestly.
Here we are at Thanksgiving, where Tom met the extended Smith family
They all approved!
I tried to be frightened by the fact that I’d only known him for nine months and dated him for four, but I couldn’t be. Tom flew me out to visit his family in Southern California over Christmas, that being the last major “hurdle” for us to make sure this was going to work out.
Enjoying the sun in Cali
Ringing in 2012
All went smoothly and we ended the trip by going ring shopping for the first time at a quaint little antique shop in the City of Orange. When we flew back to D.C., we got serious about the planning business. We chose about five or six churches in the area that were beautiful, so that we could pounce on one once we had a date in mind. Tom called his family to ask what they had thought of me, and let them know I would be a permanent part of the family. And then one night, Tom met me at his apartment and completely surprised me by telling me he’d just come from a dinner with my dad. Apparently, they’d arranged it all and Tom had asked for his blessing, which my dad gave heartily. When he asked Tom what our time-frame was, Tom mentioned next Christmas, a time we’d been discussing. My dad immediately told him it would be much better to do it that summer, as in just under six months away. I was floored that not only had my dad not thought we were rushing, but had actually encouraged us to shorten our engagement!
We ended up calling around to our churches with a late July date, and St. Rita’s, our top choice, was open. So we met with the pastor at the end of January, before we were officially engaged, and walked out of the meeting with a wedding date. It was surreal. And very difficult to keep secret! We also had to be quick about everything, since we had under six months to make it all happen. Tom did propose, of course, on a beautiful, crystal-clear winter night. He chose our favorite little park in Georgetown. And that’s all you need to know about that, other than the fact that our jeweler (a very old, scatterbrained lady) did not have the ring ready on Friday afternoon as promised, so Tom had to propose without it. I still said yes, and the ring made its appearance on Saturday afternoon, well worth the wait.
Under the gazebo where Tom proposed
The day after our engagement, celebrating with family
All professional engagement photos by our fun and talented friend, Hannah!
Those six months flew by, or dragged by, depending on the day you asked us. I am so very glad we did NOT wait until that Christmas, though. Six months was plenty long. I also thought we would be judged or criticized for such a short dating and engagement period, but of course, we weren’t. Both our families were thrilled, and our friends were so happy for us. The only judgement we received was from a snarky clerk in Paper Source, who was shocked that our wedding was this July, not next July, and informed us that we couldn’t possibly get everything done in time. Well, we did. And we did a pretty good job, with the help of our family and friends.
So on July 28th, 2012, a week shy of our one year dating anniversary, we made our vows and began that great adventure known as marriage.
All professional wedding photos by Aaron Thompson
Did I ever think that I would begin dating, get engaged to, and marry someone in under a year? Not at all. Thankfully God had other plans. When you know, you know, and there was absolutely no reason to wait. We often laugh at how rapidly everything happened with us, once Tom finally noticed me and remembered my name. And we like to be consistent of course, so here we are gearing up for our second child in under two years of marriage. 🙂 Ready or not, here comes life!