When did you know you loved me? I asked last night.
I’m one of these cheesy wives that often whispers, “Tell me something beautiful” just because I like to hear him talk. *About me, of course.*
Usually he doesn’t answer things like this the way I imagine he would–he just says a vague time frame but nothing specific. Sometimes he’ll even make a joke.
But last night he fessed up.
‘When I gave you the book’, he answered.
I remembered the exact moment too. We were just work colleagues, friends that made fun of each other and gave each other funny looks across the showroom floor. But one afternoon he left the store and returned with a book from Barnes and Noble that he wanted me to read. I finished the last page when I was a thousand miles away in a new town, missing him. Always loving him from a distance. And knowing what the book meant with the little sticky note inside that needed no further explanation. It still sits on my shelf– a prized possession.
He never has to wonder when I first loved him because it’s a story that grows tired. He just knows the answer. It was right away–as soon as he walked in to my training class, blue eyes severe and his almost-arrogant charming smile locking on me when I answered a question. He never asks when I first knew because he already knows.
But I realized today, this Valentine’s Day–that although that was the first time I KNEW. There have been so many series of moments where I knew again and again and again in louder, deeper, more meaningful ways than that first time.
I knew at breakfast so many years ago–when I was visiting home again and he wanted to see me before I left.
I knew when he asked me on a date for the first time and my heart nearly exploded. I mean, come on, what girl can say that their dreamboat asked THEM out? I can.
I knew when he’d call me just to check in or just to hear my voice. I knew when he kissed me for the first time over a candle that nearly caught his tie on fire.
I knew when we would stay up late sharing stories we’d never shared with anyone else.
I knew when he gave things up and changed the things that he didn’t feel was good enough for me.
I knew when his daughter starting calling me mama.
I knew on each of our hikes. Every sunset we watched. Every backpacked trip and ferry ride. Every muddy, snowy, rainy, sweltering hot adventure that is now a small tack on a map in our bedroom–egging us on to do more through the years.
I knew I loved him when he proposed on a sandy beach in Seattle, handing over a strong IPA and squinting against an evening sun as I said Of Course!
I knew when he cried during our first fight, and our second–and third. Fighting for me to stay when life got hard, trials were frequent, and I could easily give up. I knew in those moments.
I knew I loved him when we said yes on a rock in the middle of a river and when we rode a giant duck on the water on our honeymoon right after watching the sun rise. I knew when we tossed sand dollars into the waves, making wishes like my Grandma had taught me and he told me with a saltwatery kiss that he wished for a baby.
I knew right here–in this small moment.
I knew when I got the positive on the pregnancy test and when he held me after finding out, shaking in excitement. I knew when we held hands under an ultrasound and named him at a Garth Brooks concert.
I knew when our baby came into this world and he watched me with the kind of admiration and adoration any woman would kill to find.
I knew when he became a dad to my son.
I knew during the late nights with a crying baby and during the moments he hunched over a bassinet so that I could get some sleep.
I knew during the moments when I have both him and River in my hands, reminders of God’s gentle mercies and the fact that he does actually hear us when we pray.
I knew during all the times he worked extra late to make extra money and the times he brought sunflowers home–my favorite–to say sorry when he hurt my feelings.
I knew I loved him when he’d dance with me in the kitchen and make beautiful meals for me and hand me a glass of wine after a long day at work. I knew during all of our silliness, all of our playing, all of our dorkiness.
I knew when he made a big deal out of each Mother’s Day, constructing a card with my stepdaughter and making sure the once-hated holiday is now a nod to me in a positive way.
I knew when he would respect wishes he didn’t necessarily understand and all the times he’d do things without prompt just because he knows me that well.
I knew when he took me to my father’s gravesite every December to let me visit and cry and I knew when he told my dad hi with a touch of his hand on stone, thanking him for his daughter.
I knew all the times he looked at me when he didn’t think I was looking, all the times he called me beautiful, all the moments he would hold my hand and kiss my forehead and wink at me like he used to back when I was just a mattress salesperson at a temporary job in a studio apartment on Evergreen.
I knew when he took me out to dinner on New Year’s Eve just so I could show off my new dress, sick as a dog and needing to just lay down.
I know all the time. All the little moments that pass so quickly it’s as if they didn’t happen at all. All the little words said that he soon forgets but I treasure like little gifts in a jewelry box. All the little teeny bits of Jeff that no one knows except for me.
When did I know I loved him?
March 18th five years ago…
And a million, trillion times for a million trillion reasons since then.
Happy Valentine’s Day.