Love Story

It was the fall of my junior year in college the first time I saw my husband Dave. It was at an audition for the drama department’s fall play. I remember it vividly. He was up on stage reading from a script. Having come just from practice, he was still wearing his soccer goalie gear.

Smugly I sat in the back of the auditorium wondering what this freshman jock was doing trying out for the school play? This usually wasn’t the kind of activity that campus athletes participated in. They had all their glory on the court and in the field. Couldn’t they leave this one relm for us artistic, intellectual types? I’d been Involved in drama since my freshman year, and had grown a pretty big ego and though a little too well of myself. I paid no attention to what he was saying up on that stage that afternoon. I figured our paths would not cross again.

That evening I as my friend Mindy and I were walking into the dinning commons Dave was walking out. He stopped me,

“When do you think we’ll find out if we got a part,” he asked.

“Look for the cast list on the board outside the Theatre Arts office Thursday morning,” I answered him coolly. If we got parts? There was no we. Sure I had a good chance at getting a part, but him? Please. Mindy and I walked out the door and left him standing there. He admits now that he was busy enjoying the view as I walked away.

“Who was that?” Mindy asked.

I dismissed him agian, “Oh, just some freshman jock who tried out for the play.”

Well, Thursday morning came. My name was on the cast list along with other familiar ones. But there was one name I didn’t recognize, David Stout. I never imagined in a million years that he was the soccer goalie. When we had our first read-through there he was, shin guards and all. It turned out he was also a friend of my boyfriend at the time, who was cast in the same play.

I got to know Dave during rehearsals and discovered that there was more to him than just being a ball stopper. He was a talented singer and musician. But that didn’t sway me from thinking he just an obnoxious, goofy freshman. I’d heard stories about the campus pranks he’d been involved in.

I remember late one night during a final play rehearsal, standing on stage waiting for instructions from the director and looking out at Dave who was sitting in the first row of the auditorium. I gave this assessment in my head. “He’s cute. Soccer certainly keeps him in good shape. Tan, blond, nice hair. He’s well dressed. Must have a mother or a sister that picks out his clothes for him. No girlfriend that I know of. It would be fun to make out with him. Oh, well. Already have a boyfriend.” If you’re shocked by the making out part just remember I was a 20 year-old college student at the time.

The play came and went and we would run into each other on campus. I saw him once walking around with a Band-Aide on his nose. “Oh, know? What happened to you?”

“Why?”

“You have a Band-Aide on your nose. Did you get hurt at the soccer game yesterday?”

“No.”

“Then why do you have that thing on your nose?”

“Just to be funny.”

I didn’t think it was funny, just weird.

My mom and dad and his dad had attended Bethel together too in the 60’s. Once he said to me, “Isn’t it funny that our parents were friends in college and now where such good friends?” I answered yes, all the while thinking, “We’re not really friends.”

He would stop me and talk and talk and talk. Sometimes I thought he’d never go away. One day he followed me all the way back to my dorm. Bethel is a conservative Christian college, and the rules did not allow members of the opposite sex in your dorm room except on certain nights that were supervised by resident assistants. So I stood there in the doorway of the campus house I lived in, one hand on the door knob, while he chattered away on the porch. All the while Mindy and the rest of my housemates were looking out the window giggling. They knew how much he annoyed me.

The next time our paths would cross would be the strangest double date I’ve ever been on. For Christmas that year my boyfriend bought tickets to take me to a musical in Detroit. Dave was also coming with us and bringing a girl. A girl who I did not like.

Over the Christmas break my boyfriend and I broke up, but he insisted that we still go to the musical together. It is not fun to drive all the way to Detroit with your ex-boyfriend who you are very angry with because he took you on vacation with his family, only to break up with you during the vacation, leaving you stranded there with him until the trip was over. (That’s a whole other crazy story. The things young women put up with in the name of love. Today I would throttle him into the next decade, and scalp my ticket to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.)

Because of that awkward situation, I was never more happy to see Dave and Girl-I-Didn’t-Like when we picked them up. It was a miserable trip though. There was nothing left to say between my ex-boyfriend and I, and apparently not between Dave and his date either. I ended up riding home in the backseat with Dave, while his date road up front with my ex. We spent the hours talking, and I began to see that he wasn’t so bad after all.

Somehow a few weeks later when the new semester began, he ended up at my house on an open dorm night with some other friends. There was snow on the ground, and we all engaged in some very mature snowball fights and snowman building. We went inside to warm up, where he claims I was very attentive to him, plying him with offers of hot chocolate and cookies. I don’t remember it this way, but after that night I did have to admit to myself I was a little attracted to him.

A day or so latter he called me on the phone only to ask me what he should do about Girl-I-Didn’t-Like, because she hadn’t talked to him since the ill-fated trip to Detroit. He wasn’t over her yet, and I decided that if he was that into her, I was over him. That drove me to write that night in my journal, “I really would like to move on and find a new boyfriend, but NOT DAVE STOUT!” I really did write that, and many other now embarrassing things.

I don’t remember talking to him the rest of the semester. I recall seeing him hobbling around campus on a cane after spring break. I rolled my eyes at him again, assuming the cane was a prop like the Band Aide. Turns out he was recovering from knee surgery.

That summer I stayed on campus to take classes. Dave was there that summer too, and he came over to my dorm to see one of my roommates. She wasn’t there, but I invited him in. The open dorm rules didn’t apply in the summer. We sat and talked on the sofa, and I remember thinking, “Why didn’t I notice how great this guy is before now?”

I didn’t see him again until that next fall when both our names again appeared on the fall play cast list. We didn’t know most of the other cast members, and started spending a lot of time together back stage. What started out as playful flirtations to pass the time evolved into real affections. The only problem was I had acquired a new boyfriend over the summer.

While play rehearsals were going on, the yearly school wide community work day came around. I was assigned as a team leader, and I managed to get Dave in my group. Something I did intentionally just so I could spend more time with him. We did spend the whole day together. When we came back to campus I went to a soccer game, something I’d not done in the four years I’d been there. We ate dinner together afterward, then I went with my roommate to a girls volleyball game, somewhere else I’d not been in four years, because I knew he’d be there. Then Dave and I walked to play rehearsal together. By the end of the evening I was completely smitten. I’d forgotten all the reasons I couldn’t stand him just the year before.

But there was still the problem of my boyfriend. I remember lying in my my bottom bunk the next morning thinking about my predicament. If I wanted any chance at pursing a relationship with Dave, I had to break up with the other guy. It wasn’t serious with him at all, but what if I broke up Other-Guy and then things didn’t work out with Dave? He probably wouldn’t take me back after that. Then this thought came into my head, “What if Dave is the person you are supposed to marry, you never give him a chance, and you loose the one opportunity at finding the love of your life?”

I determined to break up with Other-Guy. But just like the play we were in, life’s plot has its own twists and turns. The day I was going to break-up with Other-Guy he suddenly declared his undying love for me. I didn’t share the same feelings, but felt guilty about dumping him. It was almost Thanksgiving, and his last girlfriend had left him for another guy also. I was afraid I’d ruin his holidays so I kept seeing him, all the while falling harder and harder for Dave.

The week of our last performance, after a final rehearsal, Dave asked me out. I just had to break up with Other-Guy. I told him I wasn’t ready. So stupid, I realize now. Dave probably should have just walked away from me right then.

I can’t remember exactly how we ended up there, but after our Friday night performance Dave and I were at a park near campus, sitting under a gazebo talking. I was a very cold November night, and as we were talking the first snow of the season began to fall, sparkling in the glow of the street lights. We came to a pause in our conversation and were both gazing at the stoplight in the nearby street. I will never forget his next words, “Green light means go.” Perhaps the corniest line of all time, but it didn’t matter because when he leaned in and kissed me for the first time. That gazebo on that freezing, snowy night was the warmest place I’d ever been.

I finally broke up with Other-Guy the next day. Dave and I dated for almost a year. He proposed, I said yes, and we got married. It was ten years this March. Looking back, I new that day lying in my bunk bed trying to figure out what to do, that he was my future. It took me along time to arrive at that. We laugh now about how much I disliked him that first year. I suppose really I did like him, I just didn’t want to admit it.

I am so grateful to be married to Dave. He is not just my husband, but my best friend. I think if you want to have a great marriage you’ve got to feel that way. While romance is an important part of marriage, but it isn’t enough. Romance burns more brightly at some times in a marriage than others. But friendship is is unwavering loyalty, support, sharing a common purpose. That is what will will get you through the dark times.

There has been romance, there has been laughter, there has been heartache these last ten years. We’ve shared all of this with love together, and I wouldn’t change any of it. I can not wait to see what the next ten years hold.

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