I told my friends that if he and I would just have one conversation, I knew that the magic would happen. We orbited around each other for 6 months, bumping into each other at parties or somewhere on campus–I was a baby, 18, it was my freshman year, he was my first serious college crush.
We finally did have a conversation and once it got going, it lasted until sunrise. Drew’s beloved grandmother had just passed away and he had returned from her memorial service only days before. We sat in his tiny little dorm room and he showed me pictures from his sister’s wedding the previous fall because he wanted me to see a picture of his Grandmother Jean. He had a classically gross college couch, it was white with blue stripes, but I distinctly remember thinking that the casual dirtiness of a 20-year-old boy’s room was a threshold into the next stage of my child-adult life. We talked for hours about our families and told funny stories and hashed out what we believed about life and death. It was a conversation that only young love can tolerate, but the big words and thoughts, the big ideas, the instant intimacy of wanting to absorb as much as possible about another person is the apoxy of love. The sun was coming to get us, there was a kiss, and then the footprint for our future started to take shape.
“Maybe we’re making a mistake.”
“You think? But what do we do? The wedding’s in 2 months, we can’t just call it off. “
“We can. We should if it’s the right thing to do. We don’t have to do this yet. We can still get married, but do you think we should wait?”
“There’s 150 invitation in the back of this truck right now. They say May 21st. They say that we want this.”
“We do want this.”
“What would tell our parents?”
“That we talked about it and realized that we’re too young. That marriage doesn’t make any sense. That we haven’t done enough. That we need more time.”
“And then what? Do we break up?”
“We could? Could we? Can you imagine marrying anyone else? Are we afraid of marriage or each other?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to marry anyone else though. I want to marry you. I don’t even know what that means, but I know that it has to be you–we’re freaking out because we don’t know what we’re doing, but even if I don’t know what marriage is, I know You. Do you want to call it off?”
“I don’t think we can–I don’t think I could do this with anyone else.”
“So we’re doing it?”
“We’re doing it. I love you. I want to marry you.”
“Me too. We’re being ridiculous. We know that this is right.”
“Should we still go inside and rent a movie?”
“Sure. Do you think the invitations will be ok in the back of the truck?”
When we pulled up to the Grand Canyon, it was weeks before my 19th birthday. Drew looked at me and said, “no matter what happens, you will always be the person that I saw the Grand Canyon with for the first time.”
My mind flashed to him pulling up to the canyon in 20 years while a wife and two kids got out of the car. They would be looking at one of the world’s natural wonders and Drew would be staring into that space and thinking about that girl, Amelia Uffelman, the girl he saw the Grand Canyon with when he was 20 years old. He would be thinking about an ’88 Toyota Camry and the surprising number of rainbows that we saw as we made our way across the country, and eating out of tin cans, and digging a moat around a tent to survive a storm. No matter what happened, I would always be in this memory.
I shivered and thought, what if it’s me that he shares all of this with in 20 years? What if I’m the one that gets out of the car?
I didn’t do any kind of big romantic surprise to tell Drew that I thought there was a baby taking root in my stomach. We’re too familiar for secrets, and even if I had tried he would have known right away. Instead, I was surrounded by sticks with faint pink lines, but I needed proof. I am a woman who exists in a world of words, not shapes. I needed a word.
“Hey! So…on your way home, will you pick up a pregnancy test for me?”
“Mmm Hmm. But it needs to be digital. It needs to be the kind that will say pregnant or not pregnant. It needs to actually tell me, ok?”
“Ok, digital, got it. Hey babe? Are you telling me that you’re pregnant?”
“Maybe. I think so. Maybe?”
“I’ll be right there.”
We broke up for a little while. He had graduated college and we couldn’t see each other through the dim light of being young and getting older. He moved to Colorado, I went to India, we needed to step away so that the tiny dots could turn back into a picture. We dated other people but instead of calling friends after those dates, we called each other. Drew checked out CD after CD from the library and made me mixed tapes or sent me whole albums. He wrote long letters on index cards telling me about snow capped mountains and frying sausages next to a lift house. Soon he started writing about love, about ideas that he had, about our future. Soon I was writing back and we were making plans and starting to tell each other ‘I love you’ when we hung up. Soon he was getting in a little red truck and driving over a mountain pass and across the country to come back. Soon I was jumping off of a couch to run into the driveway and literally fling myself into his arms. We refer to this as “that time we tried to break up”.
“My stomach isn’t feeling right.”
“Ok…so you just said that four minutes ago.”
“Yeah, and you said it four minutes before that.”
“I did? You’ve been watching the clock?”
“Of course–isn’t that my job?”
“Drew, do you think I’m having contractions?”
“Well, let’s keep watching, but I think so.”
“Oh my God, are we going to meet our son today?”
“We just might.”
We got married on a Saturday in May. It was 3 months before my 23rd birthday, four months before his 25th. I am astonished by how young that sounds, how young we were.
We wrote our vows to make promises about a future that seems to always be upon us and always still ahead. Drew stared at my forehead because he was afraid that if he looked in my eyes he would cry too much to speak. I kept pressing my lips together because I was nervous about wearing lipstick. The birds and the bees were literally all around us, humming and chirping with the inherent knowledge that life goes on, reminding us with their confident song that there are constants in the world no matter how much we press forward or slip back.
It’s been seven years since that day. We are still standing by our promises, although we’ve had to think on our feet and revise this or that as we’ve gone along. We created a child together and fell in love in a new way that humbles us and forces us to keep our roots growing together. We work hard at this. We laugh a lot. We get to say, seven years ago, I married my best friend. We talk a lot about being young and getting old. Sometimes we yell. We forgive and figure it out and do a lot of really normal married stuff. We’re growing up together.
I love you, Drew.