Like something straight out of a fairy tale, I knew I was going to marry Ben the night I met him. Looking back, I realize how naïve that sounds, but when he walked under the picnic shelter at the pond where we were celebrating the birthday of a mutual friend, that’s exactly what I thought: “I am going to marry that guy.”
Although we ended up talking a lot that first night and exchanged cell numbers, nothing else happened. I learned later that he was actually still seeing someone else so even though that relationship had fizzled some time ago, he was still being respectful of a boundary. Within two weeks, however, that had ended officially and we were talking quite a bit on the phone. When I got invited on a group trip to KS to see a friend from college, I asked Ben to come along (he knew another friend traveling with me), so just like that, an overnight birthday party trip to another state became our first date. We spent the rest of that summer (2005) getting to know each other while also getting ready to dive into big years of education – his first as an 8th grade math teacher in Hastings and my final as an ENGL grad student at UNL.
Despite the distance, we continued the trends of talking on the phone a lot and driving a lot of miles to see each other on weekends. That said, long distance wasn’t the worst thing in the world. We’d touch base most nights and talk for anywhere from an hour to several, depending on what we had going on in our worlds. As a result, we got to know each other really well during those early months of the relationship. Our weekends, in either place, were precious time, too, and we made the most of each one either spending it in my apartment in Lincoln or sometimes out with friends from college or hanging out at Ben’s little rental house in Hastings. It did not take long for either of us to know that things were serious.
Just after our first Christmas together, I got sick with a bad cold but wasn’t willing to give up any couple time during my winter break, so I was holed up at Ben’s place in Hastings, germs and all. For dinner one night, I made us a lasagna and it was while we were at the little table in his kitchen that he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I have no idea exactly what words either of us said, but I remember thinking that if he loved me when I was a total snot-faced mess, he must really mean that whole “in sickness and in health” business and of course I said, “YES!”
The great part of this is that Ben didn’t even have my ring yet. He’d picked up a birthstone ring for me on the cheap and that’s what he used to propose. He knew he wanted to get me something special but didn’t want to wait long enough to actually do that before popping the question. I wore that blue-stoned aquamarine ring for about six weeks with a twist tie wrapped around it because it was too big for my ring finger. Then, for Valentine’s that year, he gave me the real deal and the wait was worth it because I got the perfect three-stone square cut ring with white gold band that I had wanted.
I found out later that people totally thought we were pregnant and that was why we’d gotten engaged so fast (just six months after first meeting each other) and set such a “quick” engagement (just eight months after the proposal). But nope – we both just knew that we’d found our person and this was what we wanted for the next step in our lives. At the time I thought we were so old, even though I was among the earliest of my friends to get married, but now I look back at our engagement photos and think, “holy moly cow, we were just babies!”
In the time since, I haven’t always worn my wedding ring much because, as a SAHM caring for her actual babies, I had no need to wear it. In fact, doing so was a bit hazardous because the prongs on my ring are intense and I was worried I would scratch a kid, not to mention the one million times I had to wash my hands during those years of feeding, changing, and wiping up after kids that made jewelry wearing seem pointless. But eventually we grew out of those ages and stages and I started wearing it again, even around the house. Turns out my fears were confirmed because more than once I have made a kid cry out because I poked them with my ring while giving a fist bump or handing them something! The children have now nicknamed my ring my “cactus” and everyone knows that you either have to keep an eye out for it or be prepared for a potential prong encounter.
That said, I still love my ring(s) and that I was right all along about my gut instinct that night at the pond.