love story: leading up to this [part five]

during the crazy that is wedding week, i thought i'd share the story of how Ben and i met and fell in love. our love story, if you will.
these are scheduled posts because i'm not crazy enough to try to blog and get married at the same time.
don't you worry.
if you'd like to follow along with wedding week in real life time, as it happens, i'll be  the bride tweeting and instagram-ing away at @wildchild_jack.
[you can find the beginning parts of our love story here].
happy reading!

so Ben was home and life was so wonderful. he had to be on his base in Niagara Falls for a while, but 90 miles away was much better than the thousands from here to Texas. we searched and searched and found him a blue Chevy pick up to drive back and forth in and that truck stole both of our hearts. he was still on orders for 60 days i think, so this period of having him partially home lasted until basically the end of my semester. he wasn't totally in my arms, but i could at least see him on the weekends and that was enough for me, for now.

there was one day soon after he got home that he called me when i was in the middle of lunch with my friends in the dining hall. it was so loud, but i answered anyways, and soon realized that this was an important conversation, so i rushed outside and paced around the flagpole as Ben explained to me that there was a volunteer deployment coming up in May. "it's only for 5 months" he said. "but i just got you back" i said. i felt like him going meant he didn't care enough about me to stay and spend the next summer with me and he felt like him going meant he cared enough about me to give up our summer together and instead make money to support us. we went back and forth, not really arguing, but talking things through, trying to decide the best situation for us. we had a few days to decide, but he was still up on base, so we exchanged many phone calls about this until we came to the conclusion that yes, taking a 5 month deployment to Kyrgyzstan is the best thing he can do at this point.

we made that decision and then pushed it to the back of our minds because it was only October and he had just gotten home. we were still in the celebratory stage! i didn't want to get back into the dreading/mourning stage just yet.

so for the next few months, we celebrated. October was the corn maize, November was my birthday, and December was, of course, Christmas. January meant the beginning of a new semester and Ben started up at Roberts again, after missing the fall semester because of boot camp. his friends were glad to have him back, i was glad to have him back consistently, and we fell into a routine again: classes, work, dinner, homework, and fun late at night and on weekends. it wasn't anything crazy, but it was our normal and i loved it. in February, we went on trips to visit Ben's old family friends, to see an Avett Brother's concert, and down to Texas to visit his mom's side of the family. March meant more school work and just hanging out at home and April meant getting ready for Ben to leave again. 

April meant as many date nights and motorcycle rides as we could fit in. it meant trips to Niagara Falls and late nights sharing secrets and taking as many pictures as i could get. then May came and it was time to say our final goodbyes, pack him up and take him to the airport on the 9th. his parents and i took him and we were allowed to go through security and wait with him at the gate, thank God, so we made our way into there and stopped for some fast food by his door. Ben and i sat, holding hands with one hand and enjoying our curly fries with the other. we all went back to the gate and sat around, talking, joking around, taking some last minute pictures and trying to pretend like it wasn't going to be as awful as we all thought it would be. 

when it was time for Ben to board with first class, as a military serviceman, i got up and waited in line with him, holding on to him for as long as i possibly could. there were tears streaming down my face as we waited and those tears had made it down to my lips by the time we had to kiss goodbye. i remember it was a very salty kiss goodbye. he promised to get in touch as soon as he could, and with tears in his eyes too, we hugged each other one last time and he headed through the gate, down the hallway and into the plane. that was the second time i cried in an airport bathroom.

back in the middle of winter, when it really sunk in that Ben would be gone for the summer, i decided to apply to study abroad in France and fulfill one of the dreams i'd always had. i got into a program to study on the French Riviera for eight weeks, in June and July, and i knew that that was how i was going to survive and thrive while Ben was gone. he'd be able to tell our babies someday about the summer he spent deployed in Kyrgyzstan and i'd be able to tell them stories of the summer i spent studying on the French Riviera. so after Ben left in May, i worked at school for a few weeks, got all packed and ready and set off on June 3 for an adventure of my own.

it was an amazing summer. i lived in a quaint village in the south of France called Antibes, just a short train ride away from the big city of Nice. i'd go to class for 3 1/2 hours every morning and then spend my afternoons either exploring on little day trips with my study abroad group or with my best friend, Emily. and when we weren't exploring, we were on the beach. that summer, i was the most tan i had ever been and probably will ever be for the rest of my life. and ditto about the amount of gelato and Speculoos i consumed. what sucked while i was there was the time difference between Ben and i, because as i was waking up, he was already at work, and when i came home in the evening, he was out playing poker with his friends or already in bed. the stress of not being able to talk much got to us sometimes and resulted in big, dumb blow out fights, but the good thing about being thousands of miles apart is that you have to work on your communication skills. they have to get better or you fall apart.

i got back home after eight long, but wonderful weeks away, and was so ready for Ben to be home. i was angry that he wouldn't be at the airport picking me up and angry that i'd have to be home without him again. i took the month before school to catch up on sleep and spend time with my family. those were the things i missed the most about home when i was in France, besides the obvious missing Ben. [that, and being able to walk around my house in my underwear, actually]

then September came and it was time to move back to Roberts for my last year of college. i was living with Lacey this year, and though we were both a little apprehensive beforehand about living together as such good friends, it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me. i did not handle the next two months very well. i was beyond ready for Ben to come home, but the [shitty] Air Force kept changing his return date. our schedules still conflicted all the time, so we didn't talk as much as either of us would have liked, and to be frank, it sucked. but Lacey let me complain all i wanted and she helped me count down and she got drunk with me when all i wanted was to make it better. then finally, FINALLY, at the end of October, after days and days of taking rings off of my paper chain countdown, it was time for him to come home! [you can read about that here if you'd like].

we had a wonderful airport reunion that involved homemade signs and me dancing around with nerves, Ben's sister got married the next day, and then Ben was home for one more glorious day. on Monday, he had to go back to his Niagara Falls base again and be on orders for a while longer, so we did the weekend thing again for a few weeks, begrudgingly. but again, we celebrated him being home, and we slowly fell into a routine. November was my awesome 21st birthday and a trip to visit his Texas family, which now included one sister and brother-in-law. December was again, Christmas, and then right at the beginning of the new year, on January 5, i was in New York for my senior trip and he surprised me on a bridge in Central Park and proposed!!!

i knew it was going to happen, but i didn't know. we'd been talking about getting married this summer, so i assumed he knew that meant he'd have to propose sometime before the spring, but as Christmas came and went without any ring or any talk of a ring, i thought that maybe we weren't on the exact same page that i thought. i was going to wait until after the semester had started and if he hadn't said or done anything by then, i was going to start a conversation about it and see if he was still thinking what i was thinking. but then, there i was, walking through Central Park with my best friend, trying to find some damn bridge that she wanted to see and my boyfriend was standing there on it. as soon as i saw him, i started hoping that this meant a proposal was in the very near future, and when he said those sweet things to me and got down on one knee, i couldn't help but dance around.

i've been giddy since i fell in love with this boy, and today [TODAY!!!] he's promising that i'll always have a reason to be.

[i know that this post was incredibly long already, so stay tuned for one more love story post this afternoon, right around ETA [estimated time of AISLE!!!]].

corn maize time right after he got home
i took so many pictures when he came home.
and so many before he left too.
our little trip to the Falls
one last picture together pre-deployment
this was what life was for almost 6 months.
but he finally came home! and his sister got married!
and then one day, he was waiting for me on the bridge.

and we took pictures with my awkward post-engaged hand.


Niken said...

i don't mind the length of the post ;)
i enjoy reading it

Hooks said...

i actually teared up at the part about ben leaving. i know what i felt as a sister, and i can only imagine how much worse it was for you...i would be devastated without lee for 6 months!!! if he ever joins the military, i'll kill him. ;)

Alana said...

I actually got teary at the end of this one! I love that you went to France and had your own adventure while he was gone. Your kids will love hearing about it one day!