Young, fresh-faced and filled to the brim with bubbling enthusiasm for my future career, I had no idea what to expect on the first day of spring quarter, my junior year. My first official education class had made its way on my schedule, and I was thrilled to have finally checked off my core classes. The doorway through which I would step to become a teacher—a dream I’d had since my earliest memory.
The professor, a 6’4’’ giant of a man with a bald head and the largest mouth I’d ever beheld sauntered in, gave an introductory speech, the words of which I hung onto like a rope leading to the top of a mountain. Before instruction began, he asked the class to pair off and introduce ourselves. Impatient to get this party started, I tapped my pencil on my desk, looked around, and considered this activity one more hoop to jump through before the meat of what I had signed up for truly began.
I glanced around the room as people paired off and began chatting, and albeit, unknowingly, looked into the twinkling brown eyes of the boy sitting in front of me—my happily ever after. We introduced ourselves, came up with cutesy rhymes to help the class remember our names—Jeromy can’t jump. Amanda wants an A. Cringy, I know—and threw our heads back and laughed. Eventually, after giggling our way through the initial assignment, we sat back down, each very eager to soak up the words of our instructor.
Cupid’s arrow didn’t pierce our hearts on that day, but seeds of friendship embedded themselves deep into the soil of our souls. Over coffee-fueled study sessions, day trips to Savannah filled with out-of-tune singing and lots of laughter, and long walks between classes in which we engaged in the journey of finding ourselves, trust led to transparency, and soon our mutual like for one another landed somewhere in between just and more than friends. All wasn’t right in our tumultuous collegiate worlds, but we were in this journey together. Life was good.
Then, my world turned topsy-turvy when I received the news of my parents’ tragic death in a fatal car accident. Fog and poor vehicular lighting had caused their premature deaths. But where I stood, upon receiving the news, it was a blue-sky, crisp late-September morning. Nothing matched, nothing made sense, and I was broken.
The pillars of my world—gone in the blink of an eye. Many people—my best friend, room mates, cousins, classmates, even my ex-boyfriend—gathered around to comfort and offer platitudes. But, my heart only screamed for one person. And in an instant, he was there. I once again looked into those brown eyes, this time somber, reflecting the pain he held in his heart on my behalf. Jeromy held me on that day, and assured me all would be right once again. He communicated with my professors, made endless phone calls to financial aid, and followed me home to mourn a couple he’d never met. Just to be there.
And there he was—beside me through the fall-out of what came next, a witness to the painful decisions no twenty-year-old should ever have to make, and within an arm’s distance as I stared at the red Georgia clay that had become my parents’ shroud. My heart became numb that day, as did the hearts of my two younger siblings, and I was sure we’d never laugh again.
Twenty-four hours later, under the stars of a South Georgia sky, surrounded by sentinel-like pine trees, Jeromy confessed his love for me.
“I love you, too.” It was a fact. But one I didn’t know what to do with. And neither did he. Our foundation was friendship. This new development was unexpected and the timing couldn’t have been worse.
There were complications on both sides and the road forward—bumpy, with dips and ruts neither of us could have imagined—knocked us around and shook us to the core. But he helped me on the journey to healing, and gradually my heart began to feel again.
Less than a year later, on Easter Sunday, he dropped to one knee with a couple of dozen eager elementary-aged egg hunters as witnesses, and professed his love once again. He asked a question that needed an answer, and I said yes.
Over twenty years, two children, four degrees, and a couple of careers later, we have learned how to dance through the peaks and valleys of life. Mountain top experiences characterized by exhilarating twirls, dramatic dips, and magical kisses flit across our timeline like lightning bugs. Then, the desperate clinging together while traveling through the shadows as family members said their permanent good-byes, the most difficult of all being my youngest sibling who died of cancer at the tender age of thirty-four.
However, when asked when our marriage has been most challenged doesn’t fall into the highs or the lows. It’s the times in between, when the monotonous day to day tempts us to dance solo instead of together. We vowed before God to love. It’s a choice we make every day. But to like—that’s more challenging and requires effort and intentionality.
I’m dating again—dating my husband. Laughing as we have all these years. Leaning on a friendship that trumps the butterflies of falling in love and the emotional ups and downs of the dramatic.
And just as I felt on the brink of what comes next that first day of my junior year, I feel the very same way as a forty-three year old with two teenage children. My eyes dance around our home and meet those brown eyes once again. So many unspoken words pass between us—then we laugh.
Amanda Williams is a forty-year old wife and mother of two who can still swing her pony tail and display just a tad of sass. She is also a Jesus loving girl who realizes she is nothing without the One who saved her. Amanda has two degrees specializing in serving students with special needs and is currently working in the field of Leadership Development. She is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, and publisher who loves serving beside her husband at her local place of worship, First Baptist Church of Ocala.