On Friday morning, I'll probably be dashing about between our bedroom and the kids' bedrooms, trying to supervise the getting-ready-for-school process, and Chris will interrupt my chaos to remind me that it's our nineth wedding anniversary. My kids might tease me, thinking that I had forgotten - but I haven't! I'll have to tell them that I consider the story of me and their dad as starting much, much earlier.
I absolutely remember the first time that I met him, in the Tory lecture theatres at the U of A in 1995. We were both enrolled in Legal Relations 301, which was a required class for their business degree program. He usually sat a few rows ahead of me (I'm a people-watcher, which is how I noticed this in a lecture theatre that held a few hundred students) with a couple of his friends, but this one day in September or October, the spot to the left of me was one of the few vacant ones left. He sat down, his right hand setting his bookbag down at his feet and the left occupied with not tipping his take-away cup of coffee. The first thing he ever said to me was a friendly comment about how he was blown away by how other people could manage to balance so many things in their arms at once: mobile phones, coffee cups, briefcases, small children, etc. If I recall correctly, the lecture that day was on tort law. Our professor told a few hilarious stories about nonsensical lawsuits, like how some guy wanted to sue his next-door neighbour for stealing his psychic energies, and I remember the guy with the coffee beside me commenting that I was laughing way too much. Maybe I was, but his eyes were laughing when he said that to me.
If we ended up sitting next to each other in Legal Relations 301 again that semester, it wasn't more than one other time. But that didn't matter - once I started looking for him, I realized that we actually had a couple other classes in common and we'd run into each other at the campus train station a lot. Because my people skills are rather awkward, it took a couple of weeks for me to manage to introduce myself, but I did, on the LRT on an afternoon when we ended up sitting across from each other. And then I learned his name, too (strangely enough, I had suspected the entire time that his name would be Chris).
I'm not certain how many other lectures or weeks passed before I had to admit to myself that I was becoming rather smitten with this guy. He had soft-looking curly hair, eyes that reminded me of the colour of iced tea, and we'd have the best conversations; I'd never met a guy before who loved Broadway musicals as much as I did. Those five-or-ten minute casual chats were usually the highlight of my day.
I also noticed that he was very friendly with a lot of other girls in the Faculty of Business. If anything, it was nice to have confirmation that he was actually into girls. I assumed that he was socially very busy.
We met up a couple of times over the summer break, after he had returned from a holiday in NYC (which he spun as a solo trip by himself when speaking about it to me, but the truth came out later). First we saw the musical The Who's Tommy together (and went out for a very nice dessert afterwards), and later in August we saw some show that I don't remember at the Edmonton Fringe. Chris was actually reminiscing about this outing last weekend - according to his memory, we walked all the way from Old Strathcona to where I caught the bus home at Edmonton Centre and I didn't say a single word the entire time. I can't see that being true, but I honestly don't remember. Maybe I was consumed with wondering why he was following me halfway home? Regardless, it was actually very thoughtful of him to go on this forty-minute hike to the bus stop with me at eleven o'clock at night.
I think that the last class that we had together was Decision Analysis in the fall semester of 1996 (this was also the only class we had together in which he received a higher grade than I did). What I remember the most about our interactions that year would be running into Chris on Mondays, listening to him recount the perceived awesomeness of whatever he and his friends had done on Saturday nights, and then say to me, "Laura, you should have come along!" Well, he should have asked me to, then. It got very annoying.
The academic year ended, I went to work at a government job over the break, continued to write hopefully amusing and regular emails to Chris so that he wouldn't forget me over the summer, and had a brief workplace flirtation with the third boy that I'd ever had a crush on (Ritchie, a geek who left poems that he'd written on my desk). In the fall, I was off on another workterm, so I didn't see Chris again until his last semester of classes before he graduated. Even then, I didn't see him much. We had no classes together, and the only thing that he seemed to be capable of talking about when I'd run into him on campus was the huge drinking party that he was in the process of planning (which he'd probably call a "conference" if he was writing this). I think that we did manage to see a couple of plays at the Citadel Theatre together. Anyways, I thought that we had a good friendship and I missed his company.
Chris finished his degree in June of 1998, and went to work in one of those professional offices in downtown Edmonton. We met up once that summer, to see Saving Private Ryan together. If memory serves me correctly, he scooted off after the film was over, sheepishly saying that he was expected home by an un-named someone (I think that he denies this now).
I went back to class in September and starting tailoring my courseload to head to graduate school in a year's time. At some point, I stopped receiving emails from Chris and I stopped sending them as frequently. The crush that I'd been secretly carrying around for three years was relegated to a less-used drawer in the filing cabinet in my brain. I was too busy to actively pine away when I had the GMAT to prepare for, a challenging courseload, and I even had a bit of a social life to nuture.
In May of 1999, I accepted a spot in a Master's degree program at the University of British Columbia, and started harrassing my old friend Chris via email again (oh, the things we did before text messaging was invented). I wanted to get together one more time before moving to Vancouver. The timing was rather opportune - he told me that he was moving to a small town in rural Alberta. We met for lunch at the Hardware Grill after the last final exam I was proctoring for one of my professors. My memory has forgotten what I ordered, but I do remember that Chris told me a story involving vomit and his allergy to pecans.
The really awesome thing about his move to the small town is that there must not have been too much to do there, because I heard from him all the time! I kind of felt like I finally might have had his undivided attention, after nearly five years. Our friendship was a lifeline for me - I was struggling and unhappy in Vancouver for many reasons. In the spring of 2000, we started planning to meet up for a holiday in London and Paris (this would have the third trip to London that I'd planned, but the first one to be succesful), and things finally came together for us as a twosome when we were abroad that June.
I returned to UBC and hurried to finish up my Master's thesis so that I could move back to Alberta at the end of the year, and Chris turned down a job transfer to the happening metropolis that is Cornach, Saskatchewan and moved to Calgary to work for the company he's still working for today. We became engaged in the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan in October 2001, and we dressed up and signed the legal paperwork in Oban, Scotland in 2002. And that's why we're here together today, and I am regularly thankful that there was that empty seat beside me in Legal Relations 301 on that autumn day sixteen years ago.