Eleven years ago today, January 17th, I was fifteen years old and sitting in the darkness of the computer room in what now is simply known just as my parent's house. It had been close to five months since I first locked eyes with a boy who made my fifteen year old self swear it's different this time and kept me up half the night crying, longing and contemplating a lifetime alone should this boy never feel about me the way I do him. (And graciously thanking Taking Back Sunday for having penned the lyric, "if it's not keeping you up nights, then what's the point?" a few months later on.) But it was on this day, January 17th, back in 2002, that this boy told me he thought I was the most beautiful girl in the world and couldn't imagine his life without me in it. It was a sentiment that caused a lot of eyerolling, a lot of sarcastic laughter, a lot of pitiful nods because, after all, we were fifteen and sixteen years old. What did we know about love?
The answer is, apparently something, as today marks eleven years since my love story began.
I've managed to receive a lot of (unsolicited) feedback on having fallen in love as a teenager. There is the criticism from those who cannot understand being with the same person for so long and there is the saccharine-infused it's just so sweet praise from those who do. The truth is, there is something intense about falling in love as a teenager, during those times where you just feel so much more than you could ever imagine possible. There's a level of uncontrollable emotion that lends itself dramatically, beautifully, desperately to such a love during such a time. I am thankful for that love, the one that still sends chills up my spine when I think back, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have grown up alongside my best friend. We have grown up and experienced love together, both adolescence and adulthood, both being carefree and ultimate responsibility. He was by my side the day I took my learner's permit driving test and he was by my side when our beautiful little boy was born all those years later. There will never be proper words for how grateful, humbled and downright lucky I am to have experienced what living means alongside the love of my life or having watched the sixteen year old boy with the argyle socks steal my heart and go on to become the grown man who works so hard to provide for his family. Our family.
The above photograph was taken on what I imagine was a typically hot Florida afternoon, a Friday, just before the sun was to set back in the summer of 2003. It was our year of long distance and I had been eagerly waiting for his arrival, to see his car pull up onto the driveway after spending days apart. The self-timer on my film camera captured the moment more perfectly than I could have imagined. This will forever be one of my favorite photographs, one that will always perfectly sum up the way my heart feels and has always felt -- and will forever feel.
On this day, the anniversary of my love story, I remain thankful. Thankful that we shared that passing glance in that high school walkway. Thankful that he loved me as much as I loved him and thankful that eleven years later, we still argue about who loves who more. I'm thankful for being able to grow up and grow with the love of my life. I'm thankful that our love proved that love always prevails over any obstacles people will try to put in your way (and, believe me, they will try). I'm thankful for every last moment of these eleven years, from our first date at the punk rock show and that AOL instant messenger conversation that kicked it all off to watching the way our son looks up at my husband as if he shines brighter than the moon, stars and sky.
On our one year anniversary back in 2003, I composed a journal entry with the lyric, "in my eyes, you're still the best prize."
Eleven years later, I couldn't agree more.