It was a beautiful weekend when Chris and I met, much like it is today here at Vogel. Though it’s colder here today, the sun is warm and has a way of making everything look so much prettier. This time of year makes me think of how Chris and I got our start 3 years ago, though it was a few months earlier than that when we first met.
As I said, it was a beautiful weekend – or at least in my mind it was. Meeting my future husband was, most definitely the last thing on my mind that Friday when I opened the door to Chris.
In 2016 I was living with my roommate in Athens. We had a large house with 2 spare rooms and a spare bathroom. We decided to capitalize on this and rent the spare rooms out through AirBnB. This proved to be a very lucrative venture for, in case you’re unfamiliar with Athens, GA, it’s the home of the Georgia Bulldogs (American college football). On game weekends the population of Athens almost doubles from ~125,000 to ~200,000. Their stadium holds about 93,000 but many come just for the spectacle of the tailgating events where fans spill onto the streets to grill out from the back of their trucks and play various drinking games on any square inch of outdoor space they can find. The place becomes a circus.
Hotels hike their prices way up and still sell out for these events forcing fans to find alternative places to stay. By renting our 2 spare rooms, and eventually our large sun room at the back of the house, we would make enough money in one weekend to cover the rent for the month. We had up to 13 people staying in the house at any one time before.
So when Georgia played their long-time rival, Tennessee, on the last weekend of September in 2016, it was no surprise when we were booked up months in advance. One such booking was from two young men from Memphis, TN; Bo and Chris.
They arrived on the Friday and we immediately clicked. I had two friends, Sharryn and James, visiting from the UK, so we all hung out together for the weekend. After Chris and Bo arrived I showed them to their room to get settled and then they came downstairs to the den for some drinks with us. We had a lot in common – including the same twisted sense of humor, and we all became old friends instantly. The Memphians found it hysterical to hear us Brits cuss so we gave them a lesson in British swearing – in my opinion one is not a true Brit unless they can swear and drink like one. They asked where the good bars were in Athens so I invited them out with us that night and they gladly accepted.
We ended up hanging out all weekend, tailgating together before the game and then meeting up afterwards to go home, get refreshed, and then head back out to the bars for commiserations (Georgia narrowly lost thanks to a hail mary from Tennessee in the final seconds of the game).
Chris told me that weekend that he was going to marry me. I laughed and rolled my eyes. Yeah right, I thought, I’ll never see this guy again.
On Sunday it came time for them to go home. We all exchanged numbers and social media info and said we’d stay in touch. I remember thinking that I would love to see them again and hang out, but figured that it just probably wouldn’t happen given that they lived an 8 hour drive away.
Chris has told me numerous times that as he and Bo drove away that day that he reiterated his vow to marry me. He’s not right often, but on this occasion he actually was.
A couple months went by and we had sent the odd message to each other and loosely stayed in touch but never mentioned any plans to hang out.
Then right after Christmas I took a trip to Memphis, TN with my Canadian parents.
I am fortunate enough to have many loving parents across the world. My Mom, Tron, and Step Dad, Rob, live in England. My Step Mom, Morgan, and Step Dad, Ara, divide their time (when they are not gallivanting around the world) between Washington State and Victoria, BC. My in-laws, Ric and Cindy live in Tennessee. And our Mountain Mama, Carol, lives in Cornelia, GA.
I spent a few days over New Years with Morgan and Ara staying at Bo’s in Memphis. Being that we were all in our twenties we had planned to hit the bars again for drinks and maybe some pool. That first evening of our trip on December 30th 2016, at a bar called Arcade on a chilly night in Memphis, Chris finally kissed me and started something that neither of us had any idea would change our lives forever.
The next few days we were inseparable. We took a freezing cold motorcycle ride from Chris’ house in Titpton County to downtown Memphis and, though my legs were numb within minutes into the ride, I’d never felt so content as I was on the back of that bike with my arms around the man that I already knew I was quickly falling in love with.
By the end of the short trip my heart ached at the idea of saying goodbye. There was one question lingering at the back of my mind that whole trip but I didn’t dare ask it for fear of the answer; am I ever going to see him again?
We kissed goodbye and I tried to be happy for the time we had together and told myself that it was unforgettable few days, if nothing else. But as we drove away I felt sick and couldn’t get that pesky Memphian out of my head.
In the weeks that followed we spent every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment on the phone to each other, texting and snap chatting throughout the day, then talking for hours into the night. We visited each other a few times in the following months, every couple of weeks. He’d drive 8 hours after work on a Friday to visit me in Georgia, returning on Sunday. Then a couple of weeks later I’d take a Friday off, leave on the Thursday night, and stay until Sunday. We’d spend the ENTIRE drive there and back on the phone to each other.
Then in February Chris came to visit me. The weather was still pretty cold, but it was dry which made for good camping weather. So we packed up on the Saturday and headed out to the mountains and hiked in to my favorite spot on the Chattooga River. We sat by the fire talking, went exploring, took some pictures, and laughed a lot. That night we told each other that we loved each other. The next day Chris was supposed to leave to go home, but we both called in to our jobs and got the Monday off so we could stay another day.
Over the next couple of weeks Chris kept reminding me of his vow to marry me. I’d still laugh and brush it off. But as we thought about our future together we realized we had a lot of figuring out to do as to whether he would move to Georgia or I would move to Tennessee. But one thing was certain and never required a conversation: one of us would be moving, because the worst part, and only bad part about our relationship was having to say goodbye to each other for a couple of weeks each time we were together.
So one Monday in March, after 3 months of long distance dating, we were one the phone late at night and we were making plans for my visit to Chris that coming weekend.
“We could just go to the courthouse and get married.” He said, not joking at all. I had never cared for a lavish wedding. Neither of us had the money for it and there was the logistical nightmare of having family in 2 different countries; which family will be subjected to the expense of flying over? Then if we do it that way we’l have to wait a year or two for everyone to save up. The more I thought about it, the more it became about planning a wedding for everyone else, not for us.
“Ok, let’s do it.” I said, not quite believing the words coming out of my mouth.
So on Thursday, March 16th 2017 I drove to Tipton County. The next afternoon, on St. Patrick’s Day, we hopped on Chris’ motorcycle after he finished work and we rode to the house of a very nice woman named Patricia, whom we had never met, but whom had agreed to marry us for $100. After a quick ceremony in our best jeans and helmet hair, we were officially married.
It may not be everybody’s cup of tea – but it suited us just fine. We knew from the get go that we were committed to each other and had the same ideas for what we wanted in life. It was actually a very easy decision to make, and one that neither of us regret in the slightest.
While it was difficult to break the news to our families – our mothers, in particular, who were understandably rather hurt that they hadn’t even been told of the wedding – we still don’t regret doing it our way. I think (and hope) that with some time they now understand why we did it the way we did it, and most importantly that we are happy. Which is all that should matter.
We are risk takers. It is who we are. Sometimes those risks pay off and we have been very fortunate with the way some things turn out. Sometimes those risks don’t pay off and we have certainly had more than our fair share of that. But perhaps the biggest risk of all, and one that many people seriously doubted us for, is the best risk I’ve ever taken.
I trusted my heart and, as cliche as it may sound, it steered me right. That leap of faith has brought me to a man that I never thought I would be worthy of. He is, in every way, my best friend and the love of my life. 3 years on and I still can’t ever spend too much time talking to him.
So if there’s one thing that I wish for the people that I love going forward into this new year, it’s that they have the faith in themselves and their own hearts to take a risk this year. Don’t put too much stock in playing it safe, life is boring that way. Thinking of moving to a new place? Do it. New career ideas? Do it. Thinking of buying an RV and moving into it full time? Do it. Thinking of eloping with the person you love on a motorcycle? Do it. Make 2020 a year where you don’t overthink, you just do what makes you happy.