Thursday, February 4, 2010

How do I love thee?

See those stacks of letters tied with ribbon in the blog header above?  They are love letters.  Byron and I wrote them to each other the year we were engaged. There is another box of them besides what's pictured.  If you read them and think they sound "high schoolish" it's because they do. They also sound like two people in love.  <3 

We started writing those dear letters when I was 17 and Byron was 18.  And yes...that was the year we were engaged--my senior year of high school and his freshman year of college.  My senior year, I wore an engagement ring instead of a class ring. I bought a wedding dress instead of a prom dress.  I sent out wedding invitations along with my graduation announcements.  I made my mother insane. 

I was the oldest child and the only girl in my family.  My parents had never done a graduation, a wedding, or college plans before--and we did them all at the same time.  Byron and I got married two weeks after my high school graduation.  June 8, 1986.  We were so excited to be married! 

it all started like this...
Byron and I met when we were seated alphabetically in psychology class my junior year.  But before we met, I had heard all about him. My aunt had suggested him to my mother as someone she thought I should meet.  A friend's mom had suggested him to my mother as someone she thought I should meet.  My younger brother had met him on the cross country team and thought he was a great guy. He talked about him every night at the supper table.  But I wasn't looking for a boyfriend, so I paid no attention to any of it. 

As we were seated together in class, we became good friends.  We were both typical "firstborn" children--good students, responsible, respectful, etc. We weren't in any activities together though, which explains why we had never met. Our high school had over 500 kids.  I was in all the music and drama stuff; Byron was in sports and academic stuff.  Byron ask me to the homecoming dance while we were supposed to be paying attention to psychology.  As a matter of fact, we talked a lot during that class.  So much so, that sometimes Mr. Jackson would interupt our whispering to say, "Byron and Angie, you're going to want to hear this part, because it's going to be on the test."  Mr. Jackson knew us and liked us and we did well in his class, so he let us get away with talking all the time. (I'll bet he didn't realize that we'd soon be married.  He found out the next school year though, when I started wearing a diamond on my left hand. We loved Mr. Jackson and he even attended our wedding.) 

Sooo... we began dating the fall of my junior year.  After the first few dates, I didn't consider us anything other than friends.  I didn't want want us to be viewed as a couple.  But by the Christmas dance, I had been shot by Cupid's arrow.  Byron kissed me for the first time after that dance. My little brother Jason, who had just turned five, saw the whole thing happen, even though we had tried to get rid of him.  He screamed at Byron: "You're under the rest, you're under the rest!" and shot him with his cap gun. (translation: you're under arrest)

We were officially a couple--Byron had sent me flowers at school and we had shared our first kiss.

Our list of typical dates seems rather short and somewhat atypical for high school kids:
  • hanging out at each other's houses--Byron ate supper at his house and then drove to my house for a second supper and then spent the evening.  I don't think he even gained a pound eating two suppers.
  • attending school dances--including prom my junior year, but not my senior year
  • going to church--I played keyboard for a Christian singing group and we traveled on the weekends to perform at different churches.  Byron often came along with us to help out.
  • track meets--me watching, him running (Not sure that counts as a date, but in our marriage today going to a track meet is one of our most common dates. Sad but true.)
Byron knew he was going to Iowa State University to study electrical engineering. I was pretty sure I wanted to study music...somewhere...maybe even Iowa State University.  By the time Byron graduated and summer vacation arrived, we were spending a lot of time together and were officially "serious" in our relationship.
We were also beginning to talk about m-a-r-r-i-a-g-e.  We were in l-o-v-e.

Then August came. Byron left for college in August.  Ames, Iowa was three hours away.  It seemed like the other side of the world.  We racked up hundreds of dollars worth of phone bills and sent lots and lots of letters to each other.  We talked on the phone on Saturday nights.  He'd call me for an hour, then I'd call him for an hour.  I usually had a $90 phone bill. I paid for it with babysitting jobs, teaching piano lessons, and my piano playing gigs.  We couldn't stand the thought of being apart for our college years. We started talking about marriage even more seriously.

We never contemplated putting our relationship on hold.  As a matter of fact, Byron started looking into married housing options on campus.  He came home for the first time in late September and we had a heart-to-heart talk with all four of our parents around my family's supper table.  Our dads crunched numbers to see if we could afford to get married.  (What they didn't know was that the United States government would be more than happy to loan and grant a couple of poor, married, college students a bunch of money to go to school.  And that because they were married, the income of their parents would be irrelevant.)  The numbers sounded bleak.  We didn't even know what to figure for an income for ourselves since we were both currently unemployed students.  I knew our wedding plans were doomed.  We were too practical and responsible to make marrriage plans that seemed unwise.  I quietly went to my bedroom to hide my tears and disappointment, while everyone else talked around the table.  Byron found me there and announced that he thought we should "go for it!"  I could hardly get my mind wrapped around it.  Our parents decided to give us the go ahead too.  I've never asked them...I wonder if they thought we would never make it to the point of getting married. We were really young afterall. But we weren't typical teenagers. We were mature, responsible, and good Christian kids.  I think all the adults in our lives gave us their blessing and knew we would go through with it.  We were getting MARRIED !!!

In October, Byron got us on the waiting list for married housing on campus.  I applied and was accepted to Iowa State University. (This ended up costing us thousands of dollars in out of state tuition.  If I had applied after our wedding, I could have paid tuition as a resident of Iowa.  We had no idea.)  I also had my 18th birthday. We bought wedding rings over Thanksgiving break and I started wearing the engagement ring.  We continued to write letters and make phone calls, and Byron drove back home about once a month.  We sat and talked for hours when he was home.  My little brother Jason was often on the couch with us--between us if he had his way.

After the first of the year, we picked our wedding date and reserved the church. I started shopping for a wedding dress, while some of my friends started thinking about prom dresses.  I dropped an economics class and added a home economics class for my last semester of high school. That simple act spoke volumes about where my mind was.  I was ready to be a wife, and not interested in studying very much!
We continued making wedding plans. The moms and I picked the patterns and fabrics for dresses for the bridesmaids and flower girls, which the moms would be sewing.  We registered for gifts and ordered invitations--graduation and wedding, flowers, etc.  My best friend Amy and I picked the music. This wedding was really going to happen.  It didn't even seem strange to be doing all of this during the end of my senior year.

We got married on a Sunday. Our wedding was beautiful and attended by so many of our dear family members and friends (and teachers, too). I remember loving every minute of it! After the simple reception of cake and punch, we drove to our new apartment on the campus of Iowa State University, in Ames, Iowa...on the other side of the world, to spend our wedding night.  No honeymoon for us, we were poor.  (We were also terribly practical, and I needed to register for summer classes the next day.)  Moving to Ames was like a great adventure/honeymoon anyway. We began our married life at 18 and 19, as college students at ISU, we became adults together, and we lived happily every after... (most of the time anyway).

This summer we will celebrate 24 years of married life.  If we had waited to get married, maybe things would have been easier.  Maybe not. We might have understood relationships better. We would have had more time to learn how to be a good husband/wife to each other.  We would have known ourselves better and been more mature. Instead, we had to figure it out as we went along.  What we did know at our young age was that we were in it for the long haul. When we said our vows, we knew God's plan for us didn't include bailing out if things got rough.  And things have been rough. It's been bumpy and smooth, happy and sad, but I have no regrets. I would do it all over again.

I have loved being married to Byron for 23 1/2 years and counting. And I look forward to the rest of the years we have to be married. Sometimes he still writes me love notes. I hope he writes me one for Valentine's Day. (I wrote that because I know he reads my blog. I love you honey!)

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