In the early days of October 2020, things were going pretty well in the Firefly household. My full-time job was stable, my side gig was steadily becoming my future career, my clients were hitting their fitness goals, I was saving quite a bit of money, I had settled into my new house, I was in the early stages of adopting a Boston Terrier, I had started dating again and my parents were coming to visit me.
We sat by a window at the local Aubrey’s, drinking water and eating the bread appetizer when I pulled up a photo of Katie — a selfie she had sent me from a night out with her friends to celebrate a birthday. I studied the photo and remembered how she had invited me out to join her and her friends at Chesapeake’s the night it was taken. I nervously fished through my closet for the sharpest casual outfit I could put together, drove 30 minutes to get downtown, found parking then walked nearly a quarter mile in the rain to the restaurant only to find out that she was at the West Knoxville Chesapeake’s, not the downtown one. Figuring she was trolling me and was somewhere completely different laughing at me, I tucked my tail and walked back to my car as it rained even harder. She’d later tell me she was glad for the confusion that night due to some shenanigans that involved a trip to my least favorite bar on the planet (she didn’t know I hated it at that point). She also swore she wasn’t trolling me and I believed her enough to leave our first date on the calendar.
Our first date. Wow.
I spun my phone around on the table and pushed it across the way to show my mom. “This is the woman I’m taking out next weekend,” I told her.
I was over an hour late to our first date thanks to a wreck on the interstate. I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, convinced she’d think I was standing her up. Yet she waited for me and welcomed me with a warm embrace and a reassurance that she wasn’t upset, that everything was okay. We shared some intimate details about our personal lives as we sat across the table from each other, fish tacos, a cheeseburger and a couple of beers separating us. There were no awkward silences, much laughter and rarely a moment when we weren’t staring into each others’ eyes like a scene from the Max on Saved by the Bell. The evening would continue with a kiss in the parking lot, strangers giving her flowers in Market Square, bourbon on a rooftop and heavy metal music videos. Not just the perfect first date — it was the perfect date, full stop.
It was the beginning of what one can only refer to as a whirlwind romance or an amorous fairytale. Our second date was the very next night — dinner at my place with a couple of friends. You could say we were “a thing” rather quickly and over the course of the next eight months, we went on more adventures than a lot of couples experience in their lifetime. Halloween parties, stairwell photo shoots, being catcalled as we walked in the rain then hiking with the pups. There was our first quinoa/chicken bowl (my favorite dish now), Friendsgiving, Korean BBQ, and Harry Potter marathons. “Happy B-Day” was written in red bell peppers over the enchiladas she made me, we had a shared birthday weekend in Asheville, enjoyed Christmas crepes and a snowy holiday with my family sledding on the farm. We shared our goals with each other on New Year’s Day, I created a very special “Love Letter” dinner, had Valentine’s Day reservations at the Vault and we were catcalled on the streets two more times that night. We did cartwheels in the back yard on the first spring-like day, had a magical weekend in the mountains, enjoyed some now-famous Unicorn Grits, jammed out in the studio together and visited a tattoo/horror show in Nashville complete with a stay at a church-turned-hotel. I loved our hammock cuddles in the spring, our first cookout with friends, our incredible trip to Atlanta, driving through Houston like we knew where we even were and celebrating her sister’s wedding. We took a selfie in front of a “Metal Only” sign, and had a bomb movie date that ended with video games, a photo booth and a very large order of popcorn.
There were mini cheesecakes, charcuterie boards, turkey burgers with poached eggs and bananas covered with hippy-dippy nut butter. There was bacon-wrapped pork loin with stuffed mushrooms, creamy tortellini soup, a bechamel-topped lasagna and a cannoli cake. I can’t forget the venison backstrap, the famous family chicken and dumplings, hash brown casserole and fried fish tacos. I remember the creamy spinach-stuffed chicken and the truffle-and-mushroom pizza, the grilled tuna sandwiches, “Nature’s Candy”, InstantPot barbacoa and bbq shrimp avocado toast. There are so, so, so, so many others but the point is — we know how to cook and we express our love through food so we’re always eating well.
In May we had a Memorial Day cookout for our close friends and her dad. I prepared my own ground beef mixture and grilled some legendary bacon-cheddar burgers before asking for her father’s blessing on our engagement.
And in June, I proposed.
Moments later, she said yes.
It was the perfect evening; it was the perfect moment. I’d share the details here but that special moment in time was ours and will always be. A special moment that we only shared with each other, just like all the times we shuffle down the hall while the other works in their office; just like the obvious creepy glances we take at each other then quickly turn our heads when the other “notices”; just like every homemade meal in front of Jeopardy; just like every margarita shared by the fire pit on a Friday afternoon; just like every morning-breath kiss. Ours. Ours forever.
I love you, Katie, and I cannot wait to be your husband!
Here are some celebratory photos we took last weekend in Charleston, three weeks after the engagement.