Yesterday marked the five year anniversary of me flying out to California to be with Courtney. I packed my suitcase, flew to LA, and never looked back. It doesn’t seem like five years at all, though. I remember everything so vividly from that day and even the night before.

Courtney and I were on Skype all night (for those readers who don’t know – Courtney and I were in a long distance relationship at first), and we were both so happy. We were both grinning from ear to ear for the duration of our unconventional date. We were happy because 24 hours from that time, we’d be together physically. We were happy because this was our last Skype date (for a while, at least). Courtney kept telling me about all the fun things she couldn’t wait to show me in California and all the people she wanted to introduce me to. I just couldn’t wait to look into her eyes for real, without there being a screen in the way. I wanted to hear her laugh for myself, not just through my laptop speakers. It was probably about 4 AM my time (1 AM for Courtney) when we said our good nights and I attempted to get some sleep. I knew I wouldn’t be able to, though, I was far too excited. I rested my head on my pillow and, still smiling uncontrollably, attempted to fall asleep.

The next thing I knew, my alarm was going off. It was roughly 7 in the morning. Given the fact that I had just slept for a maximum of three hours, I didn’t feel tired in the slightest. I woke up just as excited and energized as I had fallen asleep. I quickly threw on my clothes that I had set out the night before and made my way downstairs for breakfast. I consumed 2 cups of coffee with my cereal then went back to my room to make sure I had everything packed. Confident that everything was in order, I was ready to go. My parents drove me to the airport. It was a cold, dull, slightly rainy day but I didn’t care. The commute to the airport didn’t take long at all for a Saturday; or maybe it did, it just didn’t feel that way. I was on such an adrenaline and caffeine fueled rush that I felt invincible. Nothing could have distracted me, nothing could have gone wrong that day. All I knew was that I wanted to be with my girl.

We got to the airport and my parents accompanied me inside, through security, and to the gate where we waited with all the other passengers; people going home, people going on vacation, and two or three musicians with guitar cases at their feet who, I can only imagine, were heading out west to make it big. Before long, the crowd started getting smaller as boarding was being announced zone by zone. I was in zone four. When they got to about zone two, my heart started racing and thumping in my chest. I looked at my parents; we were all emotional. This was it. After all this waiting, all this planning, I was finally going to see Courtney and finally meet her family (I had only ever been introduced to Courtney’s family via video chat).

We are now boarding passengers seated in zone four. Zone four passengers can board at this time. The voice on the loud speaker beckoned another movement from the now-smaller crowd of people, and it was my turn to join them. I hugged my parents tightly. We said good bye and they wished me good luck. As I was in line I kept looking back. They were still there, smiling, happy for me. I looked back one last time before walking down the hallway to the plane. Now I was on my own, my cross-country adventure was on to the next stage. Now I just had five hours of waiting to do before landing in Los Angeles. Anticipation ran through my body the whole time I was on the plane. I was sitting there with my headphones in wondering what Courtney was doing at that exact moment. Later on that day, she would be picking me up in Bakersfield where she lived. When the food and beverage cart came around, I ordered an orange juice and some nuts. I wasn’t particularly hungry, I just wanted something else to do with my hands to keep my nerves at bay other than air-drumming on the foldout table in front of me. My music of choice on the plane was Attack Attack!’s album This Means War. After getting me through my whole day and listening to it back to back to back, this album has a special place in my heart now.

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Another way of passing the time was by constantly watching the TV screen in the aisle. Not to see which rerun of Seinfeld they were undoubtedly showing, but to see the little plane icon moving across the map leaving a little blue trail behind it to indicate how much distance we’d covered. Each time this screen came on and I saw the plane creeping closer to California, I got more and more excited and a little more nervous. The only thing I was nervous about, though, was meeting Courtney’s parents. Before they were my in-laws, I was so worried about being accepted and making a good impression. Courtney and her family are close, like me and my family, so it was super important for me to fit in.  I would soon learn that all my worrying was for nothing.

I think I must have dozed off for a power nap 20 minutes before we began descending into LAX because I remember closing my eyes, letting my music come to a finish, and sitting listening to the loud, steady sound of the engine. The next thing I remembered, air hostesses were making their way up and down the aisle, making sure everyone’s seat was upright and tables folded up, the usual pre-landing routine. I wrapped up my headphones and placed them in my pocket and looked out of the window over the land below me. I had never seen the west coast from this high up before. I had driven to the Grand Canyon before on a road trip, but this was much more magnificent. Seeing the different terrain and landscapes was so neat to me. I had been glancing out of the window the whole time, but now I was really paying attention. It seemed to take forever for the plane to land and as we were taxiing to our arrival gate, I remember wishing that I got to see Courtney then. I still had an hour before catching my bus from LA to Bakersfield. It wasn’t all bad, though. I turned my phone on to find I had several voicemails from an adorable, nervous girlfriend. I also had several texts from her and Facebook timeline posts to read through. The grinning began again.

I let the crowd go ahead of me when the plane had stopped moving; I was in no immediate rush. I mean, I was, but I couldn’t get to Courtney any faster than I already was. I finally departed and followed a man with a guitar case on his back through the crowds and into the busy airport. If I thought Atlanta airport was busy, hot damn! LAX is ridiculous. I went to the bathroom before making my way to baggage claim. I grabbed my suitcase and headed outside. I still had quite a bit of time before my next transport arrived but I needed fresh air and didn’t want to be stuck in a busy airport any longer than necessary. I found the right bus stop and took a seat. I was alone. It felt kind of nice to be alone. I felt like after going non-stop from the time I got up, it was nice to just take a breather. After five minutes, though, I was over it. I was texting Courtney and that made the time fly by. I checked the time and looked around me, alarmed that I was still the only one at the bus stop. Had I missed the bus? Was I at the wrong terminal? I was in a slight panic trying to figure out what my back up plan would be, when my mind was put at ease. Another passenger arrived at the bus stop and with one word, it was all good. “Bakersfield?” “Yup,” I replied. That was the end of our conversation.

The bus showed up minutes later as though our questioning had summoned it. I was expecting a coach or something, but before me sat a huge charter bus. The bus ride wouldn’t be that bad after all. The driver loaded our suitcases into the cargo hold for us as the two of us boarded the bus and chose our preferred seats. Other than us, there were maybe five other passengers aboard the bus. Once I had sat and got comfy, the bus left the airport. This was the final leg of my cross-country quest and I was so at peace and excited to see Courtney soon. Once we were on the highway and moving at a good pace, I called Courtney. I’d missed her voice so much. We talked for the whole duration of my ride and she kept asking me what I could see out of the window. She got more and more excited as I described landmarks that were closer and closer to where she was. Eventually it was dark so I couldn’t see much other than lit up Starbucks and other restaurants on the side of the highway. Eventually I saw the best road sign I’d ever seen. It read “Welcome to Bakersfield” in large writing. I informed Courtney and we both reached the pinnacle of our excitement and anticipation so far. She hung up so she could drive to the bus depot and meet me. We pulled in and came to a stop. This time was different, though. You better believe I was the first one off this time. I went inside to collect my luggage then walked back outside to wait for Courtney.

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The same man I had met at the airport was standing outside too on his phone. Other than that, everything was quiet. Before long at all, Courtney showed up. She had parked her car and all I saw was this angel walking hurriedly towards me – my angel. I stood in awe. Finally we could be together after so much waiting. She looked stunning, her smile making me fall in love with her all over again. She ran over to me and threw her arms around me. We held each other as time stood still around us. I still remember the way she smelled. She smelled so beautiful, she felt so warm, and the butterflies in both our tummies were singing the same song as we stood there, embracing each other in silence. We then greeted each other and just couldn’t take our eyes off each other. I got lost in her sparkling eyes, and I’ve never found my way out. I’m completely okay with that. We finally decided to move and we headed to Courtney’s car. The way Courtney smelled is still my favorite smell ever, but the way her car smelled is my second. I got in and it smelled so fresh and clean. I can’t smell that scent any more without instantly being reminded of that night.

From the bus depot, we went on our first date: Chilis’. I know, don’t judge. We had already planned it out and decided we’d go on a real, much nicer date when I didn’t smell like plane, airport, and bus and had fresh clothes to wear. I remember there was a 20 minute wait at the restaurant, but I didn’t care. We waited outside by Courtney’s car, holding hands and talking. The sound of her voice was and is sweet, blissful music to my ears. She could’ve been telling me she wanted me to get back on the bus and leave and I’d be content with her voice and the way she was looking at me. Our buzzer finally lit up and it was our turn to be seated.  I still remember what we ordered. I remember Courtney was still too nervous to eat, so she had about three bites before pushing her food around her plate for an hour. I was the opposite. My nerves made me down my food in minutes. I also ordered a beer to calm my nerves. That was gone pretty quickly as well. “Are you ready?” Courtney asked me when we were done with our meals. She was referring to me meeting her family. I looked at her as confidently as I could. “Let’s do it!” Courtney called her parents on the short commute to let them know I was incoming.

When we pulled up outside Courtney’s house, I felt the most nervous I’d been all day. We embraced in a big hug again and I followed Courtney to the front door, my luggage in tow. To my relief, the door was opened to such a warm welcome. Courtney’s mum, Jennifer, was the first one to greet me. She gave me a big hug and welcomed me. Next I met Courtney’s dad, Aaron. He gave me a firm handshake and a big, friendly smile. I did it! The hardest part was over. Courtney’s brother and sister were quiet at first, studying me as I came into their home. Courtney’s baby sister, Presley, didn’t hesitate at all, though. She took my hand and said “Come here, I need to show you something,” as she led me into her play room. This was a huge relief to me as she had always been quiet when I saw her on Skype, and Courtney told me it would probably take her a few days to warm up to me. I was so happy that she immediately accepted me and wanted to play with me.

Once Courtney had stolen me back from Presley, we went upstairs into Courtney’s room. Her mum brought me a nice, hot cup of coffee after making sure she had made it right. She asked me question after question to make sure she made me the best coffee. It was so endearing to see her trying so hard to please me. Courtney and I sat on her bed, and that’s when Hayden, the older of Courtney’s younger sisters, gained her confidence. Her first words to me were “Why are you wearing your shoes?” I couldn’t think of a response so Courtney answered for me. After that came a series of other open-ended questions from a curious seven year old. I didn’t mind at all. I was an open book when it came to everyone getting to know me. For the rest of the evening, we hung out in Courtney’s room watching Tangled with Presley and Hayden. They eventually went off to bed and we were finally alone. This is all I had wanted all day; to have some alone time with the love of my life, my soulmate. It was on her bed that we shared our first kiss. Our lips met and I was immediately in heaven. Her lips were so soft on mine. This was the single moment I had waited my whole life for. It was even more perfect than I could have ever dreamed of. Our hearts beat in unison as we shared this long, passionate kiss (as tempting as it was to break the rule, Courtney insisted that our first kiss wouldn’t be at a bus stop!).

The next morning I woke up to more cuddles from Courtney, more questions from Hayden, more play time with Presley, and more delicious coffee from Jennifer. I sat in the kitchen talking to Aaron over breakfast and was surprised how calm I felt. I think it’s because I was so warmly welcomed and accepted. The bonds between me and Courtney and between me and Courtney’s family have only gotten stronger through the years. Courtney and I will be celebrating our third year of marriage this spring, and we have two beautiful daughters together. We are back in Georgia now and nothing can be more perfect than this adventure we’re on together; there’s no one I’d rather spend my life with. No one else excites, interests, motivates, supports, pushes, or cares for me the way Courtney does. No one is as smart, loyal, fun, beautiful, cute, nurturing, patient, kind, dedicated, hardworking, or as perfect as Courtney. We’ve shared so many adventures and memories together and this is just the beginning. We have millions more memories to make.

 

 

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