Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine that Was Fate

The picture above doesn't look like much.  But it has more meaning to me than probably anything else I own.

I wrote the letter pictured above sometime at the end of August 1984 to my now husband of almost 23 years.  If it hadn't been for this letter, I would have either ended up with someone else or single.  My children would not be here.  I keep the pieces of this letter in a plastic bag and take them out exceedingly carefully on the rate occasion that I try to put the letter back together.  Sometimes, I just want to read whatever it was that I said to make Justin hang onto it in his locker at work, reread it over and over, and eventually use the return address (which I can actually still make out) to find my house in Vienna and, well, me.

I met Justin on July 22, 1982 at freshman orientation day at (then) Mary Washington College.  I think it sounds cheesy to say this, but it really was love at first sight.  I've always been a shy person, but that day, when I saw him standing in the group of other freshmen, something told me I needed to meet that guy.  I walked over and introduced myself, something so completely out of character for me that I have trouble believing even now that I actually did it.  When he showed up in my freshman English class, I knew it was all over.  He took the seat beside me and he also took my heart.

We were eighteen years old, overly dramatic, reckless, afraid of the feelings we had for each other and what they might mean and overwhelmed that it was possible to feel that strongly about another person.  We never really got together while I was there in Fredericksburg.  He was still seriously dating his high school girlfriend and I was still dating my high school boyfriend.  We were both otherwise attached, but we couldn't deny that when we were together, it was like fireworks going off.  We spent a lot of time sneaking around campus, going through the drive through at McDonald's and eating cheeseburgers down by the Rappahannock River.  The most romantic "date" of my life was the walk we took one October night in 1982, meandering around the sidewalk outside of the old Fredericksburg cemetery, shuffling our feet through the dead leaves on the ground, feeling the breeze, looking at the stars, and just holding hands.  I like to think that was the first time he kissed me.  Sadly, my memory won't cough it up, so I just choose to think that was the night.

Then he went his way and I went mine.  I came back to Northern Virginia, lost contact with him, got engaged to someone else and started back to college at George Mason University.  Apparently, though, Justin was somewhere in the back of my mind, because in late August of 1984, after not having seen him for over a year, I wrote the letter you see above.  He received it the night before his wedding to his high school girlfriend.  Talk about your timing.

I didn't receive an answer to my letter and so I kind of put Justin out of my mind.  I was in a relationship with someone else (not the high school guy) and he would later give me a ring and ask me to marry him.  There were no fireworks in that relationship, but I believed that the one thing I needed to do in my life was to get married and have children and here was this guy who was really quite nice to me and willing to commit to that.

Then, in early November 1986, I was home from school doing some laundry and sitting in our family room with my parents.  I saw out the window someone parking their car and, as he came up the walkway, I said in astonishment and disbelief, "It's Justin!"  My mother said she's never seen anyone with the look I had on my face at that moment and I think she knew she had just seen my future husband.

Justin had kept my letter, in secret, in his locker at work.  He was taking real estate classes about five minutes away from my parents' house in late 1986 and he took the return address on my letter (which I can actually still see) and looked up where I lived.  He knocked on my parents' door that day and turned my life upside down.  I don't know why I was home at that particular moment, but I really think that fate was involved.  We just couldn't seem to forget each other.

Somehow, my letter eventually was left in the pocket of his jeans and ended up going through the washer.  What I said that would make him come looking for me in 1986, I will never know, because there's no putting it back together.  But it will forever be my most prized possession, because it brought me the man who I would marry and have three children with.  I can still make out some words - "probably" and "wondering" are the two that stand out to me.

What followed that fateful moment at my front doorstep was the most incredible, passionate, unbelievable love affair; feelings that I never thought I would have for another human being.  The fact that he returned my feelings is evident in the many letters he wrote to me at the beginning of our romance.  Because today is Valentine's Day, I spent a couple of hours reading the things we wrote to each other and it's kind of uncanny how the letters by me echo the letters from him almost word for word, at times.  It's hard to believe that two people could be so in sync.  And so in love.

I write this part of our story because it's Valentine's day.  The day you are supposed to cherish your sweetheart and let them know what they mean to you.  It's a Hallmark holiday if ever there was one, but every time February 14th rolls around, I reread the letter where he asked me if I'd like to get married on Valentine's day.  We didn't end up doing that, but I still think the cheesy holiday has special meaning because he wanted to marry me on Valentine's day.  I have written proof.

Our road to marriage and children wasn't easy.  There were lots of bumps and turns and dropoffs.  We both had other relationships we had to end, although that was done pretty quickly after that day he turned up on my doorstep looking for me.  There was the state imposed waiting period of his separation, which meant we couldn't just run away and tie the knot the way we wanted to.  But the happy ending to this story is that we did get married, April 15, 1988, and I have never, ever been sorry.  We've both changed and grown and developed emotionally over the last 23 years.  The intense passion (or hormones) that starts the relationship grows and changes and develops into a more true, lasting commitment to each other.  Justin is the one person on this earth that I know will never let me down, will be there no matter what, will put up with my crap and tell me it's crap, take care of me when I fall down, and rejoice with me when things go right.

So happy Valentine's Day, Justin.  You are my best friend, the love of my life, the one person I would have chosen over everyone else on the planet to spend eternity with.  I got so lucky when you walked up that walkway in 1986 and I will never forget it.  Thank you for being my husband.  I hope you are glad that I am your wife.


  1. Chelle - thank you for sharing your story with us and living the dream that so many of us wish would have worked out for us. May you and Justin be blessed with 24 more years of happiness and joy. Mark

  2. Thank you, Mark. I feel blessed every single day to have found someone so special to share my life with. I never forget how lucky I am!



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