Amber and I are approaching the Crystal Anniversary, and if I were the Birk-wearing, emu raising, New Age sort often found in these-here Ozarks, this might serve as a sort of mystical omen. And though we both have well-hidden inner hippies, we don’t believe in crystal omens. That being said, fifteen years of marriage is, I think, a sort of mystical miracle. Now before you get carried away and begin wishing us a Happy Anniversary! in the comments, allow me to be clear–our fifteen years does not run until November 13th. However, as a way to commemorate the seeming breath of time comprising these years, I’ve decided to write a series to celebrate our life together. In honor of Amber, I’m writing these pieces in list fashion. (Boy, does that woman love a list!)
Today, I’m sharing 15 Things You Might Not Care To Know About Our Dating Years, But Here You Are Anyway. Is it a bit self-indulgent? Perhaps. Even so, enjoy.
1. A Good Drawl is a Terrible Thing to Waste.
When I first met Amber, she was wearing a purple bow in her hair, and informed me in the thickest southern drawl that she was from Alabama. I asked her whether she rooted for the Tide or the Tigers, and she quipped, “I don’t care about football.” Way to woo a man, eh? She was clearly in to me.
Later that day, Amber was walking down the hall with a girl whose underwear was sticking slightly out of the back of her jeans. I heard her quip, “hey girl, your drawers are creeping out the back of your breeches.”
The girl stopped, stood upright and said, “huh?”
Amber mustered her best mid-western accent and responded, “oh, I’m sorry; your un-der-ware is coming over the top of your blue jeans.”
2. We Christian Mingled to Jars of Clay Before Christian Mingling Was Dot Com.
We took our first date to a small Jars of Clay concert that was held in a neighboring university’s theater in Conway, Arkansas. This is more than a little embarrassing to admit, but every time I hear the theme music for ChristianMingle.com, I could swear I’m back in that little theater.
You might ask why this is embarrassing. Come on… have you seen these commercials?
3. She Often Lies About Our First Kiss.
Amber recalls that I asked her whether I could kiss her after that first date. This is a lie. Let’s be honest; we were having deep and thought-provoking conversation when she jumped over the center-console of my too-tiny Mitsubishi Eclipse and laid one on me.
4. Turtle Cheesecake Can Relieve Sexual Tension
In the early days of dating, there was a good bit of pent-up physical tension. (Ahem.) I recently read, though, that chocolate consumption is addictive because it releases the same chemicals into the brain as certain acts of physical intimacy. (Ahem.) This must explain why we ate our weight in turtle cheesecake at the local coffee shop in those early days.
5. We Were a Part of a Cult, But Not the Kind That Drinks Kool-Aid.
Perhaps this heading is a bit misleading. For the sake of clarity, we attended a very rigid Church of Christ university that, to the best of my knowledge, had boxed God up and shelved him in the library somewhere between Robert Frost and Earnest Hemingway. I had begun an inter-denominational service in those days, one that boasted a few charismatics in attendance. Sure, there are other details, but evidently, when a handful of kids assemble to talk about the wild and unpredictable Holy Spirit at a cessationist school, that assembly gets labeled a cult.
6. She Wore Too Much Purple.
It’s true. Just ask her.
7. I wore Too Much Purple.
This is true, too. You can ask her.
8. Patience and Diamonds Are Mutually Exclusive Things.
Our first date was on my birthday, October 25. By Thanksgiving, I had bought a diamond ring. By January 2, we were engaged. We were married before the next Thanksgiving.
As you can imagine, patience is not one of the most practiced virtues in the Haines’ household, even today.
9. We Were Once Caught Making Out in an Abandoned Train Yard.
I’m not sure there is much more to say about this one. It’s every bit as sordid as it sounds. The truth is, when you go to a rigid Christian university (see above), you’ll look for any old private place to mug down. A word to the young-uns reading this piece: floodlights can reach into every nook and cranny of an abandoned boxcar.
10. Even Scotch Irish Girls Fight in Italian.
Amber’s maiden name was Carothers. For those of you who are into this sort of thing, you’ll note that this means she’s Scotch-Irish, and she has the family tree (and pictures of the homestead castle from the motherland) to prove it. You should note, though, that even fiery-tempered Scotch-Irish girls fight in Italian.
While dating, I suppose I hurt Amber’s feelings in some overtly dude-bro kind of way. I don’t recall the exact details, but in the heat of passion, with malice afore-thought, Amber wrote a blistering all-but-break-up note and dropped it in inter-school mail. (For those of you too young to know, this was our version of email, but it required the use of actual paper and an actual pen.) After dressing me down, she signed the letter “Ciao.”
11. It Pays to Have the Apology First.
In the days of inter-school mail, delivery times were a bit of a crapshoot. Some mail could be dropped through the mail slot and immediately delivered, while other pieces were locked in mail-purgatory until the mailroom gods released them from their penance.
In the morning hours of some otherwise non-descript Tuesday, I received a note in the mail from Amber. It was an apology. I found her on campus, apologized for my dude-bro offense. We side-hugged an apology (in that rigid Christian university sort of way), and then I asked, “but why are you apologizing to me?” She looked at me, blinked in disbelief.
“You didn’t get the other letter?” she asked.
“Nope; not yet,” I said.
It was the Ciao letter.
12. We Broke Up For Twenty Minutes.
Nearly two months before the wedding, we broke up for twenty minutes. The details are irrelevant, but during our brief separation, we sat on the couch and had ourselves a good-and-ugly cry. I looked at her and said, “I don’t really want to break up.” She looked at me and responded, “neither do I.” We immediately broke into laughter. That was that. We’ve been together ever since.
13. We Spent the Last Two Months of Our Engagement Apart…
…for the sake of keeping our hands off each other. In retrospect, I suppose we could have simply eaten more turtle cheesecake.
14. Gerbera Daisies Were at The Funeral of Our Dating Relationship.
The death of dating happened in a beautiful church on Lake Guntersville. Amber held a bouquet of gerbera daisies. I held a fistful of tissues for all my blubbering. My groomsmen’s names were Bill, Billy, Kyle, Matt, Connor, Chad, and Grady. I don’t recall the names of Amber’s bridesmaid. The pastor’s name was Phillip. These folks had faith in us, I think.
15. It’s the Memories That Remind Us That We’ve Always Loved Each Other.
In our thirties, we’ve seen too many marriages unwind. When it happens, one party spins some sort of revisionist history, says things like, “I never really loved her,” or, “he’s just always been so selfish.” Remembering the truth of early love is a good place to start when those little lies begin creeping in.
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