1982. Atlee Recreation Association. A chubby, freckle-faced, 6-year-old girl walked into the pool area. It was the first day of swim-team practice. No big deal other than the nerves she felt about being new to competitive swimming. Donning a very unflattering blue bathing suit, her long hair braided and forced into an unusually tight silicone cap, and goggles on her eyes, this little girl dove into the water. By all accounts, this day could be described as ordinary. Nothing special about it at all. Or at least that is what she, and likely everyone else, thought at the time.
This little girl fell in love with the water, and she learned to swim well. And for the next 10 summers, she spent every spare moment at this place…in the water…with her friends. They played Cross Pool and Water Polo. They hid during games of Marco Polo and fought over watermelons greased with baby oil. They learned how to do flips, back dives, and other tricks off the diving board. And, at times, they simply sat and talked. And laughed. A lot. And at some point during these years, amidst the laughter,the way-to-early-in-the-morning swim-team practices,and the hours spent in front of the snack bar eating the best lollipops known to man, this girl met a boy. And while it is hard to say what day these two met, and there is no account of how it actually occurred,there is no doubt that it happened. For most every one of her memories of these summers at the pool is filled with this boy. And, this was no ordinary boy. This boy, too, was freckle-faced, and he had a head full of the most beautiful, white hair one had ever seen. (And she remembers well the way it looked beneath the sunshine). And, to a girl who, on most occasions, followed all the rules,this boy was intriguing. He appeared free from the need to conform—not only to the expectations of the swim-team coach (which, by the way, proved to be this girl’s biggest romantic competition),but also free from the need to be like everyone else. This boy appeared fearless. Appealing to her sense of curiosity, she watched. She watched him take risks as he tried new tricks off of the diving board(usually during swim-team practice when he was supposed to be swimming laps),and she admired him from afar as he spent hour upon hour in the pool parking lot doing tricks on his bike. And she knew that whenever he got out of the pool and went missing for 5 or 10 minutes,he was usually behind the building smoking a cigarette. And she didn’t care. She loved him. Really loved him( or at least loved him as much as any pre-teen could love somebody). And she went home every day and doodled his name on paper,called her best girl friend to talk about him,and she counted down the minutes until she could go back to the pool, hoping and praying (and crossing her fingers…and toes) that he would be there again. And he almost always was.
Until one day, another seemingly ordinary day, when this girl, now 16, was swimming in the deep end of the pool. This boy’s best friend arrived. She immediately scanned the area for any sight of her white-haired dream boy,since the two were most often together. Upon realizing that he was not there, and acknowledging that this was highly unusual, she mustered up the courage to ask where he was. It was in that moment that she learned that her love, the one boy who had been the apple of her eye every summer since she was six years old, would not be at the pool that day. Or the next day. Or for a very long time. The details did not matter. All that mattered was that her heart hurt. And there was nothing she could do about it. Many years passed and she lived her life. She accomplished goals and overcame obstacles. She lost her way and dug through the mud and muck to find herself again. She pushed God away, cried for His grace, and brought Him back to her side. She was blessed with the best friends a girl could ever have and laughed so hard she cried….more times than she can count. And she learned to not take life so seriously, for it is short and should be lived well. She gave birth to the most amazing little boy she could imagine, and she has had to acknowledge her selfishness and shortcomings in her attempt to parent him selflessly (which she still struggles with). And throughout these years away from this boy she met when she was 6, she grew. She faced her flaws. She examined her mistakes. She planned for ways she could avoid those mistakes again in the future. She was given friendships beyond compare and family who loved her even when they shouldn’t have. She was held in the hand of an amazing God who prepared her, even when she had no clue she was being prepared, for this boy to come back into her life. But this time, as a man. And in 2010, he did. Three months later, she became his wife. Now, late at night, as I lay beside this man, my husband, my Eric…as I hear his steady breathing and I see his peaceful face, I am in awe. In awe that this boy I was smitten with so long ago has ended up my husband…in awe that my faithful God trusts me to take care of, and protect, his heart…and in awe that I, in all my undeserving ways, have been given a gift—a love more amazing that I have ever dreamed of. We may not be perfect—individually or as a couple— but we still choose each other. We chose each other as children. We chose each other in January when we wed. And we choose each other every single day that we wake up and face the world. And when I take a moment to stop and I look into Eric’s eyes, I often see that boy from years ago, and I am reminded of those summers…of OUR summers…and I smile. I feel like that girl again…loving that boy. And I know, for certain, that I am exactly where I am meant to be, with the person I am meant to be with. And this time, he’s not going anywhere.
I love you, E. You have always had my heart. You always will.