Our Love Story

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The first time I met him, I was 15.

I fit the stigma of the new kid on the block to a ‘t’. Painfully shy and self-conscious, my family had moved from our quiet home in the woods up north, to the south full of bubbling belles. I wasn't in the least bit southern or fashionable, but I wore killer wind pants with three stripes going up the sides paying homage to Adidas, a ponytail pulled back with long thick hair, and just the slightest trace of rouge on my cheeks for good measure. I like to think it was the wind pants that caught the popular Steven Johnson's attention, but the truth is, I don't think we noticed each other until two years had passed and we found ourselves sitting next to each other in church choir. I bet you didn't know love stories could happen in a baptist church with a music director glaring at two googly-eyed kids in the back row, but they can.

We've both tried to remember the day we first noticed each other, but neither of us have come to any solid conclusions. I only know that just about every single girl I knew came up to me at some point between the day I first met him and my senior year of high school to tell me they had noticed Steven Johnson and they were madly in love with him. Why I was a magnet for schoolgirl crush conversations, I have no idea, or maybe I was just naive and they suspected we had the hots for each other long before we even knew, and they were staking their claim. Either way, I cheered all those girls on. Steven Johnson was a fine man, but he was good.

And I liked a touch of wild.

He went away for the summer and he missed my graduating piano recital...for some reason, I do remember that. I wore a long sparkling gown that I found at Goodwill for a few dollars and I did my own hair in an up-do sprinkled with jewels. And maybe, just maybe, I was hoping he'd notice. By the beginning of my freshman year of college we found ourselves in the same state, at the same strict college, with the same circle of friends. And that's where we got to know each other. Without any touches of wild, I can assure you of that.

I like to say our love grew softly. For we would go to events together, pursue other relationships, and help each other with homework for a long while before we ever realized we would end up being together for the rest of our lives. But it was somewhere over Coldplay and California that we realized we had a lot of the same dreams, shared many passions, and we both wanted to live adventurously. It took him the longest time to spit out that he liked me, but when he finally did (in the parking lot after a volleyball game), the school police squad drove up and told us to break it up, for the curfew had passed.

That became the mantra of our life: breaking rules. We got married before we finished college, got pregnant on our honeymoon, took our 8-day-old infant to the movies, had three more babies in the two years that followed, bought a dump of a house and somehow flipped it in a year and a half, moved across the country at 35 weeks pregnant, began a business, drove thousands of miles to see the US with our children, and now we're about to move again, living in two different states, so that I can write a book...all with three kids in tow and plans to have more.

And it's not a conventional story. Because of that, we've weathered our fair share of criticism and gossip over the years. There seems to be an insatiable appetite for filling in the gaps of a story hard to understand with one's own interpretations and bets for failure. And in a way, I get it...although it sure does make things a whole lot harder. Somewhere in the first year of our love story we decided we weren't looking for easy. We wanted to be open. To change, to the pursuit of our dreams, and ultimately, to growth. And that had brought more roses into our story, than any Valentine's Day bouquet.

When we've gone through hard times, I've been asked if I would have chosen to do it all again. Would I get married young? Would I have children so young? Would I have moved blindly across the country again?

And I don't look at it that way.

For as Dr. Steve Maraboli said,"I refuse to live with the regret of gambling for tomorrow. I will not lay on my deathbed wondering what might have been. I will ride the waves of purpose and chance towards the wonderful splendor of my dreams. At the end of the day, I will rest my head on the pillow of a day well-lived, and a life well-ventured."

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In the 26 years I've been given, I have lived well and loved fully with that man at my side for the past 7. And really. What more could you ask for in a love story?

Mary BethComment