Friday, September 7, 2012

14 Years of Together Bliss

I have mentioned many times before that Eric and I were high school sweethearts. Today, in fact, marks 14 years since we first officially became boyfriend and girlfriend. Oh, sure it wasn't really 14 years of consecutive togetherness - our college years brought some on and off times to break that up a bit. But 14 years ago today, Eric asked me a question and I gave an answer that would shape the rest of our lives. In the past 14 years, whether we were officially "together" or not, we were always friends, always talking, always loving each other. Even during the times when we weren't together, the reason for our split was always just that we felt too young to have found "the one" so soon and felt pressure to step back from one another and see what else was out there. But ultimately, we just couldn't stay away from each other. I guess when you know, you know. And deep down, I think we always knew.

At Eric's senior prom, 2001

I first saw Eric at the pool in the neighborhood where both our mothers lived, early in the summer of 1998. He was there alone while I was there with my sister Heather and my mom. We didn't speak to him, but boy, did I think he was cute. From that day on, he gave us a little something to look forward to during our times at our mom's house, and we were constantly on the lookout for that cute boy.

In time, we saw him around more and more and eventually he struck up a conversation with us. We talked about the fact that he liked the Yankees (gross) and other lighthearted things. We watched him play basketball and he walked my mother's dog with us. When Heather and I wanted to see Eric but were too chicken to go up to his house and ask him to "come out and play," we would bounce a basketball up and down the street past his house in the hopes that he would hear it and the sound of sports would lure him out. And hey, it worked!

I turned 16 years old that summer and so very much wanted that cute boy from the pool to come to my birthday party. My shyness kept me from inviting him, but Heather worked up her nerve and asked him on my behalf. And he came! And at the end of the night, he even hugged me before he left. I nearly died.

A photo from my 16th birthday party. Can't you just see me thinking, "OMG HE'S TOUCHING MY ARM, HE'S TOUCHING MY AAARRRRMMM!!!!")

From then on we started to hang out a bit more, just as friends - watching movies, playing pool, etc. One night he overheard me telling my friends that I hadn't been roller-skating in years and would love to go. When his sister then planned a skating outing with her friends, he remembered my comment and invited me along. It was the first time we really hung out together alone and I was so excited. I even remember exactly what I wore! And we had the best time. We skated and talked and laughed until our faces hurt. I had liked Eric all along, but I think that was when the feeling started to turn mutual.

The early days - dancing in my bedroom (yes, that is a Leonardo DiCaprio Titanic poster on my closet door. Oh, 1998!)

On Labor Day 1998, Eric joined my family at the beach. He and I walked along the sand and talked, getting to know each other better. Finally, he asked me The Question: "Will you go out with me?" My little 16-year-old heart nearly burst, I said yes, and we walked back along the beach hand-in-hand. I was excited to have just gotten a new boyfriend, but little did I know how my life had really changed.

Kids at the beach

Eric and I went to different schools, so we saw each other when we could and talked on the phone every night. I also wrote him letters and drew him pictures while I was at school, to give to him when I saw him next. When we were in Florida this past July, Eric's brother dropped off boxes of his stuff that he had been storing for us, and one of those boxes contained a folder of all those letters. Those are the letters that we read through on our wedding anniversary.

Many were lighthearted. I kept crayons, coloring books and markers in my backpack in school (super student!) and colored for him:

I drew these collages of pictures of things that reminded me of Eric and our relationship, like the theme from my homecoming dance and our rollerskating date

A page for Eric from my Peanuts coloring book!

Football stud hearts band nerd. The high school rom-com practically writes itself.

We also found brief notes written on Steak 'N Shake order pads, and lovely decorated station charts from our days as steakburger servers (I actually got my first job at Steak 'N Shake when I was 16 so I could afford to pay for Eric's ticket to my homecoming dance!):

That's my handwriting, so I know I made this station chart (and I gave myself a rockin' station). I very sweetly didn't stick Eric out in no-man's land (back right corner), but instead gave him the far more preferable "corral" section and easy bathroom sidework (the fact that I remember that "#3" corresponds to having to clean the bathrooms after all this time saddens me). I also clearly deocrated his station with lovely hearts and cupcakes. I was a sweet girlfriend like that, and not at all embarrassing.

Some were just short, sweet, and to the point.

"I love you!" 100 times. And the P.S. at the end: "Ha! No 'cut and paste' for me!"

Many of the letters, however, were more serious. Some were a bit sad, as we hit an occasional rough patch. But many were just filled to the brim with love and sweet thoughts. Common themes included how happy Eric makes me and dreams for us to someday have a house that is "our house," when neither of us has to go home. This letter, written on our seven-month "anniversary," was one of my favorites:

April 7, 1999 
Dear Eric Ryan, 
...In these seven months you've made me happier than I've ever been, happier than I ever could've imagined. I'd have to say that this relationship is the greatest thing I've ever experienced. I never realized it was possible to love someone so much, and it feels like every day, I love you more. I wake up in the morning and I see the homecoming picture by my bed and I start my day thinking about you, and how someday I'll start each day with you. Then I get home from school and you call and just hearing your voice makes me smile. When we hang up I'm thinking about when I'll get to see you. When I get to spend time with you, I always hope it will never end. 
I love you, and I love the relationship I have with you. I love the way you say things, the sound of your voice, your laugh, your smile, the way you shake your head, the way you put your finger on your mouth when you think! I love that I can talk to you about anything and everything. I love that you aways know how to make me feel better when I'm upset. I love having you in my life as both a best friend and a boyfriend...We're always in tune with each other and it's great. I love to remember what we've gone through and experienced so far. I love thinking about how great today is and how wonderful you make me feel. And I especially love thinking about the day when neither of us has to go home! 
...Thank you so much for the incredible seven months you've given me. I hope you won't mind a few (or hopefully MANY) more months with me! I love you with all my heart. 
All my love, always and forever,
Meghan Elizabeth

Reading through those letters was strange, embarrassing, and beautiful. We were just kids - what did we know about love? Did we really know we were meant to be, or was it just teenage puppy love that got lucky? I did all the usual teenage love stuff, like practicing writing my first name with his last name. Did I really know then that someday, that would be my name? In a way, it's surreal to read those letters and put myself back in the mindset of that 16-year-old girl, head over heels in love with the cute boy from the pool. Yet at the same time, it doesn't seem strange at all. I know how I felt then, and how I feel today. Of course we ended up married. Of course we're still so blissfully in love today, 14 years later. Of course his name is now mine. My 16-year-old self just knew it, and now I'm living my teenage dreams.

My homecoming dance, junior year of high school, 1998
(Also, this is the picture mentioned in the above letter)

I know that Eric and I are the exception and most teenage relationships don't end up where we are. I consider myself extremely blessed to have found my true love so early, and to have already had so many years to share with him. We grew up together and will eventually grow old together. We love each other more and more with each passing year and now have a beautiful family to show for it. I am so insanely lucky.

Happy 14th Anniversary to the best boyfriend ever.


Lauren said...

Oh my goodness I love you guys! Cute love letters and pictures can't believe how short your hair was!! :-)

Dad/Grandpa said...

Cherish it...feed it every day and never lose it.

Love you guys

Jessica Renee said...

That is true romance and the best story ever!!! I love it!! Hapyy 14th, you lovebirds <3

Nichole said...

So, so, so sweet! I love the old photos, too. Happy anniversary!

Sara said...

Sweetest story ever ever.