Disclaimer- if you already know this story, feel free to skip it. If you hate detailed narratives or love stories, skip away!
Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph, the patron of so many things: the Universal Church, finding a job and a house, husbands, fathers, and maybe the lesser known invocation– finding a good husband. And on this feast, I have something to be especially thankful for. Today, three years ago, I met my husband. In honor of that felicitous event, I’m finally writing up the whole story. Here’s how it happened…
The night Tom and I first met, I was certainly not expecting to lay eyes on my future spouse. For one thing, I was trying quite consciously to adopt an attitude of abandonment, in order to cease wondering and worrying about Mr. Right’s existence (well, more like I was trying to convince myself I didn’t care one jot while still caring deeply somewhere in the recesses of my heart). For another, I had on a highly unusual outfit– more a costume, really– and suffice it to say, I looked (intentionally) ridiculous.
My life at that time was also a bit messy; I held a teaching job I wanted desperately to leave, I was eager to be out of my parents’ house and living independently, and just in general felt muddled up about what I should do with my life. It wasn’t at all the “self” I would’ve imagined presenting to and attracting my future husband.
But there I was on March 19, 2011, at the birthday party of a college friend, recently relocated to D.C.. Tom had known her since high school, and was helping her become acclimated to the area. I had heard about this Tom Cox fellow but had no idea who he was. I do remember my first sight of him and of Leslie’s introduction at the party. Nothing magical happened, though I did have to explain my odd attire (we were all supposed to dress like a crazy aunt or uncle in honor of Les). He wasn’t fazed.
Throughout the party, I ended up seeing more of him, especially his extremely excitable side during a game of Movie Charades. He was rather impressed by my skills and his excitement was pretty contagious. Later on, we ended up sitting on the same couch and chatted about our lives; I told him why I was so unhappy at work…so unlike me to share something that personal with someone of two hours’ acquaintance. But he was incredibly comfortable to talk with, and I didn’t think twice.
I remember feeling particularly drawn to him throughout the rest of the night; something about his obvious enjoyment of life, his spastic antics, and the way he just was who he was, without caring what others thought– a trait my super self-conscious nature both envied and admired. Like a moth to a candle, I was drawn to his effervescence and without fully realizing it, I wanted what he had, or rather, who he was. The night ended, but the memory of Tom stuck annoyingly with me over the next couple weeks. I found myself hoping to see him at social events, but disappointed when he wasn’t there. I told Les vaguely that I liked her “guy friends”, trying to hide Tom in a cloud of anonymity, and that she should include them in all future hang-outs.
I didn’t see Tom again until early April. Several things were going on for me– I’d just that day had my first interview for the teaching job I would end up accepting, my spring break had just begun, and my Dad’s older brother had just died of brain cancer. The next afternoon I was to fly out to Portland, Oregon to spend time with my cousin. So that night, a few close high school friends and I decided to spend the cool spring evening in D.C. We drove out to the Lincoln Memorial, and as we were walking towards it, someone in the group asked who else would be meeting the four of us there. One of my guy friends mentioned that Les, Jackie, and Tom Cox were coming (among others). And to my dismay and horror, my heart skipped a beat. Or two. “Stop. Stop that right now!” I chided myself. “He doesn’t even remember who you are! This guy is Mr. Social Butterfly; he probably has at least three girls after him right now. He knows everyone in the entire world! Why would he remember your silly conversation at the party a month ago?!”
With these encouraging thoughts battling my unbidden excitement at seeing Tom again, we approached the marbled steps of the Memorial. Tom and the girls showed up, and I really thought he didn’t remember me for a while (because, honestly, he probably didn’t). But, maddeningly, I found myself veering towards him as our group sauntered over the green grass, and we struck up a conversation about all manner of things: our spring breaks, Disney classics and our favorites, the story of my uncle’s death, Tom’s passionate love for Portland and ensuing excitement for my trip. Again, I was struck with how naturally and glibly I could chat with Tom. We all made our way to a pub, and I forced myself not to even look towards which chair Tom was heading at the table. Lo and behold, seconds after I sat myself down, he plopped down in a chair right next to me. I swallowed a happy smile. We continued our conversation and eventually everyone paid the bill and we made our way back towards the car.
Tom brought up Portland again right before our group parted ways: “I’m so excited for you! You’re going to love this city! Here, give me your number, and I’ll text when you’re there about some great places to see.” Score. We texted each other our numbers, and I felt unreasonably happy about this little event. I also told myself that most likely, he would forget all about me in the next 24 hours so I should just get over whatever excitement I was feeling. I left the next day, and was immersed in spending quality time with my grieving relatives. My cousin did ask if there was a boy in my life, and I actually told her that yes, there was one who I thought I could like (read: did like), but it was a very, very remote possibility. On my last night there, we were eating dinner at a restaurant overlooking the beautiful Willamette River, when suddenly my phone buzzed, indicating a text. Could it be…? Yes! Tom Cox had texted me. What was more important was that he really had remembered me and reached out. I was, again, far too ecstatic about it.
My life was running at a frenetic speed of busy-ness as the school year drew to a close, and my next interaction with Tom wasn’t until about two or three weeks later, in the first week of May. I was trying to decide whether or not I could make it to my friends’ wedding in Ohio, and texted to Tom on a whim to see if he was going. He said he was and offered to carpool. I enthusiastically responded I’d love to, and then he called me to more easily work out the details. We talked for a few minutes and worked out the travel plans, though neither of us had a place to stay while there. I could not wait for this to transpire! Six hours in the car each way, just the two of us! Perfect time to get to know him even better. The wedding was to take place at the end of May, but a few days before the event, I received a terribly shocking call from my friend Tommy, who told me that Tom had just fallen 30 feet in the Shenandoah Mountains on a hiking trip, and broken both ankles. He was still in the hospital. I felt awful for him, but we weren’t close enough for me to actually do something for him or insert myself in the stressful time of recovery he was undergoing. I was also, selfishly, rather disappointed that our little trip was off, and most likely, all my chances with him.
After this, both our lives became crazy, though in totally different ways. I was juggling many, many things, and Tom was stuck in a bed, and then a wheelchair, nursing his broken ankles. The rest of May went by, and all of June, and I think our only interaction consisted of my posting on his Facebook, asking if he was doing ok. My best friend Meghan’s wedding was coming up and she offhandedly mentioned on the way to setting up the reception hall that she had sent Tom Cox a last-minute invite, since she felt so sorry about the circumstances which led him to miss our mutual friends’ wedding.
When she told me this, that silly heartbeat-skipping phenomenon occured again. I was terrified that my face was showing a reaction of joy and unbidden excitement. I tried to remain cool as a cucumber, even when Meghan glibly talked about how he was “an eligible young bachelor” and suggested him to my other closest friend as a possibility. Despite my stern self-reminders to play it cool and be realistic, I definitely checked the name tag table to see how close his table would be to mine the next day: two away, so I could totally spy on him. What was I thinking?! He wouldn’t remember me anyway.
Part II to come…stay tuned!