How I Met Your Father

I never thought I’d meet my future husband in a grocery store. I certainly never thought I’d meet him at a time when I had no makeup on, sporting wet hair and a high school gym class shirt. I was only 19 at the time, though, so I guess I hadn’t had much time, relatively speaking, to think about how I would meet my future husband… your father.

My second year of college at the University of Missouri, I moved into an apartment with 3 girls I’d never met. It was a giant leap in the direction of independence, one that required feeding myself, and not relying on campus cafeterias.

(I would loose about 10lbs of my freshman fifteen that year because, as it turns out, when you’re solely responsible for feeding yourself, you can’t afford frequent trips to the all you can eat frozen yogurt bar.)

On my first trip to fetch “groceries” (mainly Totinos Party Pizzas) at a nearby, very over-priced grocery store, your father checked me out.

Er… I mean, he checked my groceries out.

I was smitten. He was adorable. He was tan, and muscular, and had an amazing smile. We chatted a bit, small talk, and then I left.

I referred to him as my “grocery store boy.” I ran into him a few times that fall semester. I saw him a couple times on campus from a distance, and he came into the sports bar where I worked a few times. I never had the chance to talk to him more than a quick “Hey! How’s it going? Yeah… I always work Saturdays.… See you soon?”

Oh, how I adored my grocery store boy. My friends all knew him as such. “Have you seen your grocery store boy, lately?” they’d ask.

I didn’t find out his real name until a few months after our first encounter. Now kids, this was back before Facebook. I don’t even think people were really Google-able at that point. I looked him up in the student directory.

A BOOK WITH PAPER PAGES. Can you even imagine?!

5 months after that first exchange in the grocery store, on an evening I was particularly hating life and hating working at a sports bar on Karaoke night, my life changed forever.

“Ding!”

I sighed from the kitchen of the bar, shoving back my plate of house fries and wiping my hands on my apron. That sound meant I just got a table.

Damn, I really want to get cut early and get the hell out of here before I’m subjected to one more version of  a Hank Williams Jr song.

As I walked into the bar, coasters in hand, I locked eyes with him, Scott, “grocery store boy.” OHMAHGAWD.

I think my heart leapt into my throat. I smoothed my hair, adjusted my shirt, and proceeded to get their drink order: a couple pitchers of beer, and one water. He was there with 3 guy friends.

Then I ran back into the kitchen, retrieved my cell phone (quite the chunky thing, looking back), and called a BFF.

“My grocery store boy is HERE! He is at my TABLE! I’m going to talk to him. Like, I’m really going to go out of my way to have a conversation,” I talked myself through it with her. I didn’t even need her to say anything. I just needed a sounding board.

This is why texting was invented, I think. That’s something I wouldn’t even know how to do until 2 years later.

The 2 other waitresses on that night noticed my excitement. “Eeek! It’s your grocery store boy!! Go, go talk to him! I’ll take your other tables for the rest of the night.”

And so your father and I talked, and flirted, and smiled. I kept refilling his glass of water and brought maybe another 3 pitchers of beer to their table before we closed.

“So… uh… could I maybe… get your number?” he asked as I handed the check over.

“I don’t give my number to guys who’ve been drinking here,” I instinctually replied, while simultaneously thinking:

What the hell are you saying? Give him your number! 

But it was true, I didn’t give my number to guys at the end of the night, especially after bringing their table 5 pitchers of beer.

“But I haven’t been drinking! I’ve had nothing but water! You’ve been serving me water,” he gestured toward his cup.

Yes, on a rare night, your father actually drank nothing but water at a bar because he wasn’t feeling well. Feeling silly, I wrote my number down on a guest check, folded it, passed it over the top of the bar table and smiled.

He still hadn’t called me when I ran into him at the gym the next day. And then he pretended to not see me, and walked past as I waited in line for my kickboxing class. For a minute, my heart sank. Then I noticed his friend jab him in the ribs and shove him my direction. He walked back and said hi. He tried to play if off like he wasn’t paying attention, didn’t see me there.

Later, I learned he was really thrown off by what to do. He wasn’t planning to call me for 2 days, trying to play it cool, and the “man rules” didn’t specify what to do if he saw the girl he was supposed to call 2 days after collecting her number if he ran into her at the gym in the meantime.

Your father. That’s so him. 

The next day, he finally called. We talked for well over an hour. We went out to dinner (Applebees) and a movie (insert worlds worst action movie here, so terrible I’ve forgotten the name). That was nearly 11 years ago, on January 31st, 2001.

One of the first pictures of us together, taken at the bar where we met.

We dated through the end of college. I moved to Chicago to be with him after graduation, and then on to Washington D.C.

We were broke.

We once collected all the change we could gather, poured it into a Coinstar machine, and used that money to buy bread and sandwich fixings so we could eat for the week. We never went on fancy vacations together. Instead, we learned where we could have the best “cheap” dates, like breakfast and window shopping at Ikea in Schaumburg, IL, or the free seats at The Muny Theater in St. Louis.

On October 30th, 2005, after we both completed our first marathon, your father got down on one very tired, achey, bended knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes.

Ewww! Mom and dad are kissing!

On October 8th, 2006, we said “I do.”

Credit Tyler Schmitt

This happy ending brought to you by the power of stalking, knowing what you want in your heart and making it (him) yours. Here’s to growing old with my “grocery store boy.”

 

 

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