Alternately titled, Girl Needs Pants.
In June of 1999, I was working as an intern at First Baptist Church in Conway, Arkansas and was slowly but surely wading into the waters of forever with Lee. Toward the end of the month, he came for a visit and during this time we met up with my family in Branson (where I learned that my future husband, Mr. Super-Athlete-Who-Can-Play-Any-Sport-Like-A-Pro, cannot, in fact, water ski. He looks like gumby when he water skis and I will confess that it brings sweet joy to my soul to know that there is one thing I can do better than him.)
As we drove back to Conway, we had the official moment when Lee laid out his intentions for our relationship. I’ll never forget what he said as we twisted and turned through the dark hills. “I just want you to know that I plan on pursuing this relationship to marriage. Are you okay with that?”
Um, yeah. I’m good with that. Totally. You’re hot. We’re good.
Some of the details of my summer in Conay are murkey. For example, I can’t remember if Lee came once or twice to visit. I know that at some point Fourth of July happened, you know – like it happens every year. And my parents came to Conway to meet Lee’s family. I can’t remember if this was the same trip as the Branson visit or a different one. I do remember that the night of July 4th, Lee was goofing around and through a fire cracker at me and it popped right at my feet. And my dad was standing right there watching.
Bad move, dude…
The other thing I remember is the obssession that Lee and I had back then with roller blading. In fact, I’m fairly certain we roller bladed the entire town of Conway at 1:00 in the morning the night before he was to return to Waco. From Texas, he would be leaving to Germany for a month to play basketball. So the night before he left, we stayed up until the wee hours talking, laughing and enjoying the energy that comes with youth and new love.
Around 3:30 that morning, we said good night to each other and went to our separate rooms. I climbed into bed exhausted but ecstatic. And not five minutes after I laid down my head I heard a little knock on the door. It should be noted that I was wearing nothing but a small t-shirt at this moment.
“Can I come in for a second?” Lee asked.
I pulled the covers up to my chin. “Okay,” I said, assuming that he just wanted to say something quickly before heading back to bed.
He walked in the room and turned on the light. Then he grabbed the desk chair and pulled it to the side of the bed and sat down, leaning forward to put his elbows on his knees. And I did not move or sit up, but stayed firmly planted beneath the covers with the blanket pulled up around my chin.
“I just wanted to tell you something before I leave tomorrow,” he began. His eyes were all serious and I sincerely wished I had asked him to wait a minute so I could have gotten dressed before he came in. “I have really been praying about this and I want you to know that I don’t take these words lightly. I fully understand their meaning and I wouldn’t say them if I didn’t mean it with all my heart.”
At this point I’m thinking, Crap! But I’m not wearing any pants!
“Kelli – I love you.”
For the few agonizing seconds that I made him sit there in silence, I ran through my options. Stick out one arm for a brief hug and thank him? Nah. Sit up and pull the blankets around my waste and say it in return? Nah – because not only was I not wearing pants, I wasn’t wearing undergarments…and the shirt was white. I was ready for bed, people!
So I said the only thing that really made sense. “Um…could you go stand in the closet for a second?”
Lee’s eyebrows furrowed. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the response he hoped for. “What?” he asked.
“Just for a second. Go stand in the closet.”
He stood up and walked slowly to the closet. Poor guy. I could see the worry in his eyes. I leapt out of bed and got dressed as quickly as I could, then told him it was okay to come out now. He opened the door and stepped out and I grinned.
“I love you too,” I said. And we hugged. We did not kiss – not yet. I wrote about how long it took my chivalrous husband to kiss me here (and about how terribly I tempted him).
“What was with the closet?” Lee asked as we embraced.
“Well…” I said, “I wasn’t wearing any pants.”
And that, folks, is the day my husband told me he loved me for the first time…