Ours was not love at first sight or first meeting. I’d attended DH’s church on-and-off for over a year before speaking to anyone there. Eventually, a cheerful girl on the welcoming committee got me to stop being timid and anti-social, stay and mingle after Sunday services, join the Christmas choir and even visit her small bible study group for post-grads living near one another. As chance would have it, DH was in that Christmas choir and the discussion leader of my small group.
As I got to know the others in these intimate group settings, my impressions of DH were that he was kind, godly and wise. At some point, he must’ve noticed my stubborn cough persisted for months because one evening after work, he surprised me by stopping by my place with some fresh ginger in hand and offering to boil me some tea. “If that doesn’t work, I can prescribe you some antibiotics.” I thought to myself, “What a thoughtful group leader.” About a month later, DH emailed to tell me a co-worker couldn’t use his tickets to the symphony the next week and offered them up to DH.
“Would you like to go? Concert’s on the 14th. Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, the 6th. One of my favorites.”
“Sure, that’d be nice.”
Well, it so happened that “the 14th” was Valentine’s Day but because DH’s invitation was so casual and the tickets fell into his hands by chance, I didn’t think the date was “a date.” The symphony was magnificent, as promised. I thanked DH as the curtains dropped. Later, as he dropped me off outside my apartment, he walked around to the trunk of his car and pulled out a box of chocolates and a small, wrapped box containing a glass ring holder dish. (Can we say foreshadowing?) He totally caught me off guard.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Oh! Wow. Uh…I’m so sorry. I didn’t…uh…realize… I didn’t get you anything.”
He smiled. “That’s ok. I wasn’t expecting anything. Have a good night.”
And with that, DH drove off. All sexy-like. Like when Rhett Butler tells a stupid-faced Scarlett, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” and coolly turns on his heels and walks away. Except d*mn, I didn’t have a gorgeous floor-length gown on, nor did I get to glide down a grand, cascading stairwell, nor was DH walking out of, but into, my life. Ok, ok, so it was nothing like that iconic movie scene, but still. It was pretty sexy. And that‘s how “we” came to be. (Months later, DH confessed that he had, in fact, bought the tickets after I accepted his invitation. Sly one, that Rhett, I mean DH.)
Even without living together, DH and I were inseparable from that unknowing Valentine’s Day first date to our wedding day fifteen months later. Between that time, DH and I had some hurdles getting to the altar but they only made us all the more determined to get there. Most of those hurdles involved winning our mothers over and satisfying the soon-to-be-in-laws on both sides.
As a mom, I know in my head that my job is to raise my kids to be confident, independent, responsible people so they can manage life well on their own someday. As a mom, I also know in my heart that there will be a huge lump in my throat and a tiny voice in my head whispering “no, please, not yet” when I drop my kids off at college (or maybe even sleep-away camp) for the first time, when I help them move into their first apartments, homes away from home, and when I watch them walk down the aisle with their chosen beloveds — all very natural, organic steps of leaving the nest for good. Because this dichotomy lives in my own head and heart even now when my children are far from leaving home, I can understand that our mothers would’ve had a hard time of letting us go regardless of when and whom we married. At the same time, holding on too long is a no-win situation.
Parents of a willful toddler learn that yanking away a toy, snack or whatever else is his heart’s greatest desire at that nanosecond is not an effective way of getting him to accept and relinquish the thing. He’ll kick and scream for the thing that’s become the bane of your existence over your futile attempts to calmly explain why it was taken, your feebler attempts to bribe him with an acceptable alternative, and your most desperate attempts to threaten him to stop making a scene. Instead, experts say expressions of empathy followed by concise, matter-of-fact explanations, or the offering of choices work best with kids. So we wear a mirroring sad face and say something like, “I’m sorry. I know. You really, reeeeally wanted that cookie. But you know the rule: no sweets before meals. We’ll have dinner soon. You can have your cookie after you eat all your dinner.” Or we offer our toddler a choice: “we can do this the hard way, where you keep throwing a fit and I throw the cookie away OR we can do this the easy way, where you stop screaming, save the cookie, and eat it after you eat all your dinner. Which would you like to do?” These seem to be sound, or at least the most promising, strategies at any age.
I wasn’t a difficult toddler. But when it came to DH, my heart’s greatest desire at the age of 27, I became that willful and defiant child. And Mom, a first-gen Korean immigrant, wasn’t exactly using those “tools and strategies” espoused by today’s mommy ‘n me classes and parenting books. When Mom questioned our match for reasons too superficial for me to name, I just couldn’t understand. If she had sound reason to protest, I promised I would listen and take it to heart. But her concerns were arbitrary and almost callous. (Man. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’d think that if your daughter fell for one who happened to be a tall, intelligent, kind-faced, altruistic, same-religion, same-race/culture, well-educated physician, you’d be more than content, no?)
It didn’t help matters that Mom didn’t fully conceal her less than enthusiasm about our pending nuptials at her first meeting with DH’s mother, a generally calm and collected but justifiably proud and strong mother who, for all I know, may not herself have favored the match or me. After all, I heard later that DH had been the “most eligible bachelor” at the church. But if dear MIL did have objections, she graciously and wisely sheltered me from her disappointment. Regrettably, following that initial meeting of the matriarchs, emotions flared beneath calm exteriors, offense was taken, and some damage to future-in-law relations was done — damage which took a few years to fully heal, but healed nevertheless. Thankfully.
So DH and I didn’t have the most promising start with our families. There was a lot of middle-man finagling and damage control to be done, and we were busy going about it while also trying to juggle our careers, wedding-planning, and us-time. Still, we remained a solid team of two. Actually, I had three prayer-warrior sisters to whom I’m forever indebted, who comforted and prayed me through all the stress, hurdles and complications that arose on our trek to the altar, so we had more than just us two. Nothing was going to stop us. And nothing did. DH and I were married as planned and nothing dampened the overflowing joy we felt on our wedding day. I must’ve shed more tears during our wedding ceremony than any bride in the history of weddings for Mom asked me afterwards, “What’s wrong?! Are you sad? Why were you crying so much? I’ve never seen a bride cry so much.” Mom wouldn’t have understood but I said it nevertheless.
“Because I’m so happy, Mom. I’m soooo happy.”