I was 19, he was 22. It was Christmas break 2003 and Brad Paisley had a new single out. John likes to say we met in a bar. I prefer telling people that a mutual friend introduced us. Both versions are true. A bunch of friends talking around a table in a local bar turned into just two people immersed in conversation as all the other people faded away… home, to work, or off to another group.
As our waitress brought the checks I realized my friend had forgotten to pay her tab. I looked at the amount and realized I had just enough cash to pay for hers and mine while still leaving a tip. With that taken care of John and I walked to the parking garage where we had both parked. I was driving my parent’s minivan. He was driving his old ford ranger… a navy blue pick up truck. I miss that truck. We said an awkward shy goodbye at the minivan and I started to drive away – the wrong way. Embarrassed, I shifted into reverse and just backed my way down the spiral until I got to a place I could turn around. John was following in his truck the whole time. He was driving forward, the right way, out of that garage.
When I pulled up to the booth (which I had expected to be closed because of the late hour) I knew I didn’t have enough cash to pay for parking there all night. I asked if they took debit cards. They didn’t. I had to fill out a form or two so they could mail me a bill. John was watching papers pass back and forth as he sat behind me waiting his turn. Confused he finally got out and walked up to my window to see if everything was okay. I was so embarrassed as I explained that paying my friend’s tab had used up my cash so I didn’t have any for the parking garage. He laughed when he realized I was signing an I.O.U to the city and handed the attendant a $10 bill. He walked back to his truck and I took my wounded pride with me as I drove away. But as John drove the opposite way, back to his parent’s house, Brad Paisley’s new single came on the radio and he smiled while he listened.
The next night we went on our first date. We were both broke so we took his mom’s full tank of gas and drove to the state line and back again just talking the whole way. I thought I knew a shortcut on the way home, but got the name of the road wrong and we ended up way lost down a country road. Finally we made it back to my parent’s house where he dropped me off at the porch with a hug and plans to go Christmas shopping together the next day. On his way home Brad Paisley’s new single came on the radio again.
Eleven months later he made a pathway of candles to a single chair in his backyard, got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. While I admired my new ring he went to adjust a candle and the whole right sleeve of his sweater went up in flames. After a bit of flailing it went out easily and we laughed about how I was so in awe of my diamond that I didn’t notice him catch on fire. On our way to my parent’s house to share our news John popped in Brad Paisley’s new CD and we laughed as we listened to our song.
Eight months later we said “I do.” As we drove away from the reception site John stopped at a red light to rip some of the streamers away from the windshield and as he did his VMI class ring went sailing off his finger into the grass across the street. I looked out the window to find my groom sprinting across the road. Not what you want to see just hours after the wedding. Thankfully the ring was right there in plain view and he ran back to the car as fast as he went.
A few weeks later we were settling into our first little apartment and I was learning to cook. John came home from work to find cheese dripping from the kitchen ceiling and me crying at the stove with flour everywhere. I was trying to make my mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese and something (I still don’t know what) had gone really wrong. He immediately started laughing. We ate out that night. And Brad Paisley came on the radio in the car.