My first encounter with Adam was slightly awkward.
I walked into church late one Sunday morning. Sacrament meeting had just ended. I hadn’t made it three feet into the building when Shane, a man I barely knew, yelled out “Hey! Mellissa! There you are!” He gestured for me to follow him, but didn’t wait for me to comply, just grabbed my arm and started leading me into the chapel. Like I said, I barely knew this guy. I knew that he was married to Dusty (one of my former youth leaders), I knew that he was the ward clerk, and I had no idea why he was taking me anywhere. I was afraid that I must be in trouble for something that I didn’t realize I had done.
He pulled me through the crowd of ward members and up to the front of the chapel, where Dusty was standing with a TALL blonde guy that I hadn’t ever seen before.
“Dusty! I found her!” called Shane.
Dusty rushed over and grabbed me from Shane, pushing me toward the tall stranger until I was standing uncomfortably close to him.
“Mellissa, this is Adam,” she said. And then she walked away. She later told me she was so relieved that Adam and I had finally met that she didn’t think past introducing us.
Adam and I stumbled our way through awkward introductions. I found out that he was Shane’s brother, that he had been home from his mission for about five months, that he lived in St. George and was only visiting our ward that day. And then I shook his hand, said ‘nice to meet you’, and went to Sunday School.
Later, I ran into Adam in the hallway in between classes. We shared another short, uncomfortable conversation, both of us a little self-conscious after our strange introduction. But I’ll never forget the feeling that I had as I looked up into his face during those few moments. It wasn’t love at first sight - nothing so grandiose. It was a feeling that I can’t really explain. A nudging of the spirit, maybe, like something half-remembered. A feeling that said ‘This person is important. Pay attention.’
But I was not the sort of girl to ask for a phone number, I was much too shy. I didn’t expect to see him again after I left the church that day.
Surprise! He called me later that afternoon. Dusty had given him my number, had told him that I would be disappointed if he didn't call me. (very clever, Dusty!) We chatted easily over the phone, a first for me. I invited him to a devotional on the temple grounds. We became friends.
The situation was not ideal. My parents did not necessarily approve of my spending too much time with a young man who was so much older than I was. I was still a month away from my eighteenth birthday. Adam was nearly twenty-two, a recently returned missionary. Growing up in an LDS community in Utah you come to expect certain things from young men of a certain age. And everyone knew that a recently returned missionary had only one thing on his mind. Marriage.
I knew that Adam was interested in me. But I wasn‘t interested in marriage.
One day, shortly after my eighteenth birthday, I met him at the mall for Orange Julius and window shopping. I expressed interest in a $70 wristwatch and he offered to buy it for me as a birthday gift.
“That seems a little expensive for a gift from a friend.” I said. He agreed that perhaps it was, but that he still wanted to buy it for me. As a friend.
It made me uncomfortable. “I think we need to talk,” I said.
I told him that I wasn’t interested in a relationship. I told him I was too young for him. I told him not to pursue me. I told him that he was a great guy, that we could be friends.
“That’s all I want,” he said, “I just want to be your friend.”
And he was. He was the most genuine friend that I had ever had. He never asked anything of me. He was there whenever I needed him. He never made me feel as if he was waiting for anything, or expecting anything. He was just THERE. He was always there for me, and he never asked for anything in return.
It scared me, a little. I didn’t know how to react to someone like him, so over the course of the next two months I tried to push him away. Repeatedly. But he never changed, and he never pushed back.
Eventually, I found myself staying up until two a.m. to call him when he got off work. (He worked the graveyard shift, and kept strange hours.) I found myself calling him whenever I had a few minutes to spare, meeting him for quick lunches, attending his Singles Ward sacrament meeting after attending my own Family Ward. I invited him to family functions.
There is one day that stands out in my mind. I think it was the turning point, the day that I finally started to realize that I was in love with Adam. I was depressed, and needed someone to talk to. Adam was the first person that came to mind. I called him, and we spent that entire day together.
We talked. We went for a drive, explored roads that we had never driven down before. We went to an art gallery. I blathered about technique and mediums and style and Adam told me that he loved listening to me talk about something so passionately. We sat in the lobby for what felt like hours, and talked and talked and talked. He took me to a park that I had never been to before, and we played tag on the playground equipment. He made a show of pretending to feed the swans and geese in a nearby pond . I thought he was funny and charming. We parked on Airport Road and waited for the planes to fly over us. We watched the sunset together.
In the middle of the day my mom called me. She told me that she had given my number to the nephew of one of her coworkers. He was a recently returned missionary. She was setting me up on a blind date. He would be calling me sometime soon.Twenty minutes later my phone rang. I ignored the call and turned my cell phone off. I had realized that I didn’t want to spend my time with anyone but Adam. I wondered what that meant.
Two days later we held hands for the first time. A few days after that - a kiss. I’ll never forget the feeling of fireworks, the electricity of that moment. It sounds so cliché, but I swear: Fireworks. And the first words out of his mouth afterwards? “I find you extremely attractive”. Priceless.
We had another conversation that week, again at the mall. ( I don't know what it is about that place, but it sparked some serious discussions.)
“Something has changed,” I told him. “I can’t be casual about this anymore. I don’t want to date other people. I don’t want to be ’just friends’anymore. If we’re doing this then I need to know that you’re serious about it.” I was so terrified to speak those words. I knew that they needed to be said, that I needed to know where things were headed, but I expected him to cut and run, expected him to explain that he wasn‘t really looking for a relationship, that we were just hanging out. Guy's always run from commitment, right? That's what I'd been told. I expected our friendship to end there. Instead, he hugged me. A big, bone-crushing hug that lifted me off of my feet.
“Me, too.” he said, “You don’t know how happy I am to hear you say that.”
Our first kiss had been on a Sunday afternoon. The very next Sunday afternoon, after church, we sprawled on a blanket together in the shade of a tree on the temple grounds. We held hands. He cleared his throat three times in quick succession, obviously nervous. Finally, the words came.
“Mellissa, I have to say that I’ve fallen madly in love with you.”
“I know,” I said. “ I love you, too.” What a silly way to respond, right? ‘I know’. But, by this time I already knew that I was going to marry him. It was indisputable fact. I wondered if he knew it yet.
It didn’t take long to find out. A week later he made it clear that he felt the same. “I want to be with you forever,” he said, “for eternity. Would you be okay with that?”
It wasn’t an official marriage proposal. We were sitting in my cluttered car, listening to the radio. He wasn’t down on one knee, he didn’t have a ring, we didn’t phone up our friends and family and tell them we were engaged. Those things didn’t come until much later. After all, we had only known each other for three short months. But, to me, this is the moment that really counts. Because from that point on we knew that we were working toward something together.
Eleven months and three weeks after that day we were sealed together in the Salt Lake Temple. On this day Seven years ago, I married my very best friend. Happy Anniversary, Babe.
Maybe it seems foolish to you, that a teenage girl should marry a man four years older than herself and start a family right away. I often get comments along that vein from acquaintances and even family members. But I know that I couldn't have made any better decision, couldn't possibly have married a better man. This was the right choice for me, and Adam proves it to me again every single day. My life is amazing, and it just keeps getting better.
I am certainly not trying to say that marrying young is a good choice for everyone. I just know that it was a good choice for me.