So, as Jesse and I talked to each other we revisited our meeting on United Flight 658. That flight was on a Sunday, and I found myself thinking of staying in Idaho for a few more days. I talked with my sister, and we agreed I would stay a couple more days if I could get another flight out. When I started to look at booking a new flight, I had this distinct feeling, "No, Christine just go home when you originally planned." I didn't think much of it, but I didn't change the flight. Turns out Jesse was originally going to fly back Iowa later in the week, but he finished his business earlier than planned, so he changed his flight.
I was already settling into the window seat when Jesse walked up. He didn't say anything until after he put his bag in the overhead compartment, and then looked down at me and something along the lines of, "Looks like this is my seat." As he took his seat, he accidentally elbowed me. He didn't hurt me at all, but was so overly apologetic about it that I started laughing. And because I was laughing, he started laughing. So we started off on a good note, laughing.
I don't remember everything we talked abut, but I do remember how intently Jesse kept looking at me. Honestly, I don't think I've ever met anyone whose gaze was so intense. It was like he could see who I truly am. At times I had to look away to the window, just to give myself a break. Looking back it's interesting to me how comfortable I felt with him and that I knew I could trust him.
Jesse told me that he always had a fantasy of meeting an attractive woman on a plane. He later told me his fantasy came true when he saw me on the plane (yay!). This thrilled me to no end!
During the month of January, we burned up the airways between us talking and getting to know one another. We began sharing more details of our lives and things that were happening to each of us. We were talking one evening about some things we were each going through in our lives, and how we could help and support each other. We set the intent to pray for each other and outlined specific things we would include in our prayers. I remember having a very tangible impression that although we were on separate paths, they were beginning to merge and we were becoming a team. I had never felt this before, and it was both exciting and scary.
Jesse is very creative and came up with a couple of games we could play while talking. For instance, we played the A-B-C game. We would share something about ourselves that started with each letter of the alphabet. For example, "A" is for that I like apples and Jesse served in the Army; "K" is that I like kisses, but not Hershey's kisses and Jesse likes to be a kid and do the fun things kids do; "Q" for me is quality time and for Jesse is quality of work and taking pride in it; and "T" for both of us is the temple. This was just one fun way for us to to get to know each other.
As January came to a close, I knew I was falling in love with Jesse. Yeah, I know I had only seen this man once... What was I thinking? I even ended a couple of dating relationships, telling them I had met someone else because of how sure I felt about Jesse. I even wrote my SIL TB, who was in Japan and wouldn't tell a soul other than my brother an email telling her how I was feeling to see how it felt to tell someone in my family I was in love and thinking about getting married.
In the meantime Valentine's Day snuck up on us. Jesse and I planned a video chat, and mailed off our gifts to each other. He sent me flowers, a card, some lotion and bath salts (not the kind you smoke) and a drawing of our paths merging and us walking on the path. It is the sweetest, best Valentine I've ever received. As we gazed longingly into each others eyes, talked about nothing at all, and grinned from ear to ear through the wonders of video chat, I knew for sure that I loved this guy!
We shared our feelings for each other shortly after Valentine's Day. We had talked about love before and how we wanted it in our lives. We shared what we hoped it would be like and what we each felt we brought to the table. And then over the next couple of weeks, we started talking about getting married. Oh, and somewhere in all this we celebrated our birthdays which are two days apart in March.
So, what was I thinking? Here I was in a long distance relationship with a man I had only seen once for less than two hours, and I knew that I loved him. Somehow this was both scary and not scary all at the same time. Quite a contradiction I know, but honestly underneath my initial mix of excitement and fear was a quiet, deep calm that this was the right partner for me, and that if Jesse was who I wanted and chose all would be well. So, as I sorted through the fear and uncertainty with a lot of prayer and pondering, I began to hold onto that calm feeling more and more certain as I did that he was the right man for me. Jesse seemed to be certain right from the start, and each time I brought my doubts to the table, he listened and was reassuring. He didn't try to convince me either way. He simply let me work through what I was feeling and thinking until I made my decision.
Throughout the experience of falling in love with Jesse and deciding to marry him, I had the very distinct feeling that I was choosing someone to love and share with my life with. It's often said that you don't choose who you love, but in this case I very much chose who to love. I wasn't just being chosen, I got to choose also. All along the way, I kept feeling that Jesse was a choice and a good one, and that I was being guided to make this choice. I could have made the choice to not love Jesse, to simply be his friend, and it would have been an okay choice. When I chose to accept his love, and love him in return, I felt the goodness of this choice. And when I finally chose to marry Jesse and we talked it through, I knew it was the right choice. The peace I felt was undeniable and is still with me, as I recall this period of our courtship.
And then we started planning his first visit to Washington, DC. And finally on the last weekend in March Jesse arrived for the first time in Washington, DC. On Friday evening, I picked him up from Reagan National Airport, where we met for the second time. I had butterflies of excitement in my stomach but felt that calm deep inside that this was the right thing. It was so good to see him, and get a big hug from him right there in the terminal. And then to walk out to my car holding hands and looking at each other felt like the biggest moment of my life.
We headed out to the Jefferson Memorial (my favorite!!) where we looked out over the Tidal Basin, taking in the iconic panorama of the White House, the Washington Monument, the MLK Jr. memorial, the cherry trees with their leave and blossom buds, and the DC skyline. We even shared our first kiss in a private moment on the portico. It was so cold that night, but neither of us felt it.
We grabbed pizzas at 7th Hill and gelato from next door at Pitango, and headed back to my house to eat dinner and talk. It felt so comfortable to be with Jesse. I felt like I was talking with a longtime friend. We talked, and talked until pretty late. I then dropped him off at a friend's house who had a spare bedroom so he could sleep. I floated home and somehow feel asleep after telling my sister and housemate how things were going.
Saturday we ran over to Eastern Market for breakfast and did some food shopping for the weekend. The wind was blowing so hard and so cold, that we didn't do any walking for sightseeing, but drove the length of the National Mall instead so that we could stay warm. We spent the afternoon talking, and practicing dancing. You guys, Jesse loves to dance!!!!
That evening we met up with my friends O & M at a country bar to go dancing together. It was fun to have O meet Jesse, as she was the first person I told about him when she picked me up from the airport. It was really fun to dance and chat. We ran into several people from work, and had a fun evening! We didn't stay out too late, because Sunday was going to be a big day and we wanted to get some sleep.
We got up early for church the next morning. Jesse was a little nervous and understandably so. The Capitol Ward (congregation) is my home and family here in DC. Most of my closest friends are from this ward, and so taking Jesse to church was like taking him home to meet my family over Easter or Thanksgiving weekend. Everyone wanted to meet him!!! It was really cute, because as soon as the main service was over my girlfriends were lining to introduce themselves and meet Jesse. Poor Jesse the quiet introvert that he is handled all the attention well.
After church we headed up to the Washington, DC Mormon Temple. Another favorite spot in this city! Again it was freezing cold, but Jesse and I walked the grounds talking and taking pictures. When got to the east side of the temple underneath the spire with the angel Moroni statue, Jesse stopped walking. He pulled me in close and we looked at up at the statue and chatted some more. He then turned me around to face and took both of my hands in his, and said that he had an important question to ask me.
He looked me in the eyes, and after telling me that he loved me, he simply asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes! He then pulled a simple diamond ring from his pocket and placed it on my finger. I was all smiles as we kissed and sealed the deal.
As we pulled back from the kiss, I took Jesse's face in my hands and told him that I had a question for him too and needed his undivided attention. I then pulled a ring box out of my coat pocket and asked him to marry me. He wasn't even fazed, he smiled the biggest smile and said yes! I put the ring on this finger, and we kissed again.
I felt I was saying yes to marrying a man who looked me in the eye as his equal partner. I felt that we were on the same level with our spiritual commitment to God, the outlook we share on life and our desire to serve our church, community, and each other. It was such a good feeling!
After taking some photos, we continued our walk hand-in-hand around the temple. I took a moment to explain to Jesse that a few weeks ago I had this crazy thought that when he asked me to marry him, I should ask him to marry me. The thought didn't leave me, and as I considered what to do it felt right to ask him too. So I did! (Before meeting Jesse I had never considered actually proposing myself.) He was really pleased with my surprise proposal and the ring I chose for him. It was definitely the right choice.
We walked over to the Temple Visitors Center to warm up and look around before heading home to eat dinner. As we looked at the very intricately detailed model of the temple, a cute sister missionary came over to talk with us. She asked why we had decided to come to the temple that day. Imagine her delight when Jesse told her that we were there because he had proposed to me. She was so excited and enthusiastic in her congratulations. She even called her companion over as well and shared the news with her. We had a very sweet conversation about choosing to be married and what it means to us. I'll always remember this sister fondly.
We then headed back to my house and found my housemate LP waiting for us to arrive. I shared with her that Jesse was going to propose that Sunday while he was visiting and she was so excited. She met Jesse on his first night in town, and talked with him a little throughout the weekend. She would check in with me when Jesse wasn't around, and text me to see how things were going throughout the weekend. She even managed to talk with Jesse without me around when I was busy with something. She shared with me that she really liked him and felt like he was a good man .
LP was beside herself with excitement. It was great to come home from the temple to her joy at our joy. She made sure to take several photos of us and captured our first candlelight dinner together that Jesse ended up cooking because I wasn't feeling too well after all the excitement. She even got on the phone with my parents to tell them about Jesse when we called to tell them about our engagement.
We ended up spending a quiet Monday together resting and chatting before I took Jesse to the airport. I cried as I walked away from the security gates, because I felt so lonely and didn't know for sure when I would see Jesse again. And because I was engaged to marry the man I loved. Finally!
To be continued...